The NMH Virus – Inoculate Your Organization

Gallup just published an article in their Business Journal titled “The No-Managers Organizational Approach Doesn’t Work” that describes the failed attempts by Zappos and Gallup to implement a “No-Manager Holacracy” (NMH) approach in their respective organizations.  The report states:

“A no-manager approach, holacracy is characterized by a fluid organizational structure in which teams are self-organized and individuals have high autonomy and authority to make decisions at a local level. According to, holacracy is a “new way of running an organization that removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles, which can then be executed autonomously, without a micromanaging boss”

According to the report, 14% of Zappos employees left within weeks of the implementation of the “No-Manager Holacracy” approach.  Why did they leave?  Gallup linked this result to the fact that their research indicates that only 2% of employees are “engaged” when they are ignored by their managers. 

The “No-Manager Holacracy” removes appointed leaders from the organization structure.  The proponents of this approach claim that employees will be happier and more enthusiastic about their work.  In reality, the opposite is true.

Over the years we have encountered proponents of “self-directed” and “self-managed” teams who claim the same benefits as the proponents of the “No Manager Holacracy”.  In nearly every instance they are individuals who are engaged in the academic world and have limited leadership experience.  Their views of management in many cases were developed from their experiences as members of teams with managers who were weak leaders.

Successful organizations, companies and enterprises are comprised of teams which are focused on accomplishing specific things that allow the entity to fulfill its purpose and achieve its goals.  An organization that allows itself to embrace the diseased culture of “No-Manager Holacracy” (the NMH virus) sets the stage for chaos as the many teams throughout the organization lose their shared focus and become like packs of wolves fighting for survival while protecting their individual territories.

The antidote for the NMH virus is a culture in which leaders are inoculated with an in-depth understanding of their innate talents upon which their leadership skills are developed.  They must then embrace a core value that their highest priority as a leader is to help each member of their team become the best possible version of themselves while each carries out the actions necessary to fulfil the team’s purpose and achieve its goals as established by the organization.  This prescription yields high levels of engagement.

If you are a team leader or forming teams consider our previous blogs as prescriptions to avoid the NMH virus.  However, remember that treatment must start at the top of the organization to be effective.


About Thomas Samson

Trusted advisor of executive and senior management team leaders who are focused on developing a dynamics teamwork culture that is focused on delivering sustainable results through collaboration, individual commitments and personal accountability. Tom may be contacted by email at
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