Implementing self-management in your organization is challenging because there isn’t a single approach that works for everyone: organizations must experiment to find out what works and what doesn’t. Through experimentation, Buffer’s team identified five guidelines crucial to their self-management:
- Leaders as mentors. One-on-one mentoring meetings work well. And these meetings aren’t performance updates; employees work together to overcome challenges, get advice, and brainstorm.
- Long-term teams over task forces. Their large variety of task forces got overwhelming, so they went back to long-term teams. Co-founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne emphasizes that this type of structure isn’t the same as hierarchy.
- Emphasis on goals and measures. When going Teal, they completely stopped using performance metrics. However, they didn’t get a lot of growth on their blogs and social media, so they went back to setting goals and having clear metrics.
- Accountability is actually fun. It’s how they consistently ship cool stuff. They use Buffer HQ so their team could see everyone’s goals and progress.
- Wholeness. Buffer found the concept of "wholeness" valuable as they grew in empathy. It comes from Reinventing Organizations, where Frederic Laloux wrote, “...Our community will be richest if we let all members contribute in their distinctive way.”
The beauty of Buffer’s self-management journey is that it’s unfinished:
“We’re just what we want to be… It’s great that we’ve set ourselves up to do the experiments, and we probably will do more in the future.”
– Joel Gascoigne, Buffer CoFounder
Takeaway: If you're trying to implement self-management on your team, remember one size does not fit all. Adopt an attitude of experimentation to figure out what works and what doesn’t.