The organisations of tomorrow are already here

Jos De Blok

The organisations of tomorrow are already here

Last week I had the privilege of participating in a conference here in Stockholm, a conference about leadership, alternative solutions to hierarchic organisations, and an agile way of working.

There were several interesting speakers participating, among others James Priest who teaches organisations how to come to decisions in a non-hierarchic way – sociocracy and Meri Williams, the technician who has created agile teams in huge organisations and has become an expert in how to lead a team in a non-hierarchic way. The person I was the most curious about though, was Jos de Blok from the Netherlands, who built from the start a flat organisation with 9500 nurses – who are completely self-organised.

The conference had over 120 curious participants from different organisations and it was obvious from the very beginning that there was no need of convincing anybody about the advantages of a flat organisation and because of that the conversations and discussions held a very advanced and interesting level instead of arguing “pro and cons”.
Jos de Blok was the key note speaker, and he told us how to go about building a health care organisation with only 7 % in overhead-costs and completely out of managers. It was exciting to hear and amusing as well as he delivered several fantastic one liners to his audience!

It is difficult to reproduce the content of a conference, but I would still like to share with you some of the “statements” made that day. The main organiser of the conference, Agile People has promised to share their video takings as well.

Meri Williamson on workplaces:

  • “Am I respected and rewarded here? Can I be myself and succeed here? I call this inclusion”
  • “I choose to believe that people come to work wanting to be brilliant!”


James Priest on the agile way of working:

  • “You can’t mandate agile principles and practices into an organisation. You can only invite the people to join”


And Jos de Blok:

  • “Never mix two leadership paradigms. If you believe one is better, use it all the way”
  • “I don’t think we need management, I think we need organisational talent”
  • “I blog, we see what the comments from our people are – and when we see direction emerge, we make that the policy”
  • “We introduced the Omaha system focusing on outcomes rather than on hours spent. This is now the standard in the whole of Holland”
  • “We realized we could reduce complexity for nurses with IT. So we started an IT company. In order not to bother the nurses”.
  • “The clients need to be in control. In healthcare it’s easy but wrong to take over control from patients”
  • “No strategic notes. No policy notes. If you don’t do it. You won’t miss it. Try it! Nobody is asking for it”.


Jos de Blok on why he avoids hierarchic organisations:

  • “If someone is telling you what to do at home, what’s your reaction?”
  • “Pay for results and you get results. Pay for hours and you get hours.”
  • “It’s not getting rid to management, it’s getting rid of managers”


The funniest moment by far was when excellent moderator Tommie Cau asked Jos de Blok the following:

– So it’s a three step process? (Tommie)
– … I never think in linear processes. (Jos)
– Oh, sorry, I’m a consultant! (Tommie)

Karin Tenelius
CEO, Tuff leadership training

agile organisation
The panel: James Priest, Karin Tenelius, Maria Furumo, Meri Williams and Jos de Blok