At Alan, we've chosen to do away with the title of manager, even though we believe in "management".
The most successful teams all have one thing in common: trust. It was this observation that guided the development of our corporate culture. At Alan's inception, we established five core values describing how we work together, and of these, two in particular - distributed responsibility and radical transparency - didn't work well with a traditional view of vertical hierarchy.
However, while Alaners don't have a manager to define their objectives, set deadlines, validate their vacations and evaluate them at the end of the cycle, they are not left to their own devices. They even benefit from a unique coaching system.
While the idea of dissociating operational managers and individual coaches may be disconcerting to some, this decision honors one of our core values: "the personal growth of each Alaner is a priority". Still not clear? We explain in more detail.
It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do.
"We recruit smart people so they can tell us what to do." That's how Steve Jobs envisioned recruiting at Apple, and it's a vision we share at Alan.
At Alan, our first obsession is our members. We aspire to revolutionize the healthcare system, giving everyone access to preventive, personalized and holistic medicine. To achieve this, we must offer the best products and services to our members and customers.
This project is extremely ambitious, and to achieve it we have to set ourselves bold targets while maintaining exceptionally high standards. What we call "fearless ambition".
This is only possible by assembling a team working together to make choices contrary to the norm and achieve the impossible. So we don't seek consensus with an endless chain of validation, because we want to make the best possible decisions and iterate quickly. So we've put in place an approach and organization that encourages individual and collective risk-taking.
In general, managers impose their decisions on their teams. He has the final say on projects, decides on deadlines, assigns projects to this or that person... In our view, as well as taking away responsibility, this model hinders the development of employees and generates decision-making that is sometimes out of touch with reality.
That's why, from the outset, Alan's team has been built on the principle of trust and without managers. We trust our people to make the best decisions.
This trust-based model is built on two foundations:
1. Distributed responsibility
At Alan, all our employees are autonomous, and initiative naturally falls to those closest to the situation. In other words, the people with the most context make the decisions, whatever their level of seniority.
2. Radical transparency
To make the best decisions, it goes without saying that you need to be as well-informed as possible: context, issues, precedents, risks, and so on. By making information public and accessible, we make it easier for everyone to contribute, and thus to collaborate and make (good) decisions. No knowledge is lost or hidden: everything is centralized and at your fingertips. Every piece of knowledge helps us to grow and learn, both individually and collectively.
Strategy is defined collectively, and everyone translates it into individual objectives, without the need for a manager.
Alan's objectives are not defined by a minority, but collectively. To this end, the long-term strategy is shared throughout the company and updated every quarter. Each "crew" then adapts this strategy into objectives. As each Alaner is a member of a crew, it is his or her responsibility to decide, week by week, which projects he or she will work on to achieve the set objectives.
All crews have a "crew lead", i.e. an Alaner who monitors projects, sets the tempo and ensures that objectives are met. However, the crew lead does not define individual objectives or deadlines. Nor is he or she the only person to assess an Alaner's performance. All our performance evaluations are carried out in a cooperative manner. He is an operational manager, without the hierarchical side.
We like to use frameworks to help us work faster.
Framing a project or a discussion helps us make better decisions. Frameworks are tools for working, not for thinking. They are there to help us gain in speed and organization. In this way, we frame our thinking about problems and decision-making in a very simple architecture: objectives, context, proposal, questions. This enables all Alaners to structure their thinking and communicate it as effectively as possible. This structure allows us to go one level further, while teaching more junior people to break down a problem.
We are convinced that teamwork produces better results than individual work.
Working without a manager doesn't mean working alone - quite the contrary! We always make our decisions publicly, on Slack or Github, which allows everyone to intervene and positively challenge the arguments. We describe our decision-making process in this article.
This way of working encourages our employees to be ambitious and creative, without fear of failure, because the trust placed in each individual creates a feeling of psychological security. However, to keep track of our employees and help them progress, it is essential to have internal contacts. This is why we have created our own coaching system.
How do you support the progress of each Alaner if there is no manager? Each Alaner is accompanied by a coach from the moment he or she joins Alan.
The coach's main objective can be summed up in two points: the coachee's personal and professional commitment and growth. He helps the coachee to progress while remaining in tune with his professional ambitions. He ensures motivation and capitalizes on strengths while working on areas for improvement. He has four main missions:
➡️ Conveying our leadership principles and culture : He ensures that the fundamentals are understood and embodied by the coachee, with a view to developing Alan's future leaders.
➡️ Maximizing impact and performance : Although he doesn't work with his coachee on a daily basis, he knows how to identify his strengths and seeks to maximize them to help the company achieve its objectives. He doesn't hesitate to celebrate successes and point out areas for improvement.
➡️ Supporting and guiding career development : Coaches take an interest in their coachee's long-term aspirations, proactively discussing their ambitions and working out with them how best to achieve them.
➡️ Increasing commitment: The coach must create a space of psychological security, conducive to exchanges in complete confidence. He assesses his coachee's level of well-being and helps him to find meaning and recognition in his work. In short, he's not a traditional manager: his mission is to help his coachee become the best version of himself.
In concrete terms, to implement this coaching effectively, the coach needs to devote 1:1 time to the coachee (45 minutes, every two weeks, for example). He must also take the time to read the performance objectives and acquire a 360° view of the coachee 's work (by talking to the crew lead, analyzing feedback, etc.).
Because being a coach is a big responsibility, we train and support our coaches proactively via our "Coaching Academy" (an online learning platform), through a "Coach Forum" where anyone can get help with specific cases and, of course, through coaching itself! In fact, each coach is a coachee in his or her own right. The aim? To enable each coach to deal with all types of situations, even the most difficult, by developing a certain posture:
✅ The coach builds a relationship of trust: He is non-judgmental and empathetic with his coachee. This bond of trust is essential, as the coach must be able to address failures as well as successes, not hesitate to ask open-ended questions and help the coachee to take a step back from his daily life. He or she is also willing to show vulnerability to create an environment of psychological safety.
✅ He is an active listener : he knows how to detect verbal and non-verbal signs. A good coach knows that solving a problem often requires in-depth reflection. He must therefore ask open-ended questions that encourage the coachee to think about his situation from different angles.
✅ He challenges the coachee in a positive way: He encourages his coachee to take initiative and be creative in achieving his goals. He encourages the coachee to take responsibility and build self-confidence. He also knows how to identify warning signals and have difficult discussions when necessary.
⛔️ The coach does not monitor the coachee 's day-to-day operational work : The coach does not provide "technical" assistance. However, he/she is required to keep in touch with the coachee 's "Crew Lead" to help him/her progress.
⛔️ He is not a manager (in the traditional, hierarchical sense of the term) : He does not impose objectives, deadlines or missions on his coachee. However, he can advise him on prioritizing his tasks and defining clear objectives.
⛔ He is not a blind protector : The coach remains objective and lucid about the coachee's areas for improvement. His role is not to defend him. In the event of difficulties, he must share his feedback transparently and sympathetically, even if it may be difficult to hear.
⛔️ He does not impose his ways of doing things : He must not arbitrarily impose a way of doing things. His role is to point his coachee in the right direction, to guide him in the right direction to achieve the desired result. Much more than an operational model, our coaching system enables us to assess and foster the motivation, commitment and progress of our Alaners. To help you understand how we conduct our coaching sessions, we're working on an upcoming toolkit, so stay tuned...