close Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn
2 mins

Cultural Transformation: From Holacracy to Empowerment

In 2017, we published this article about Blinkist’s way of work and organizational structure, including our adaptations of holacracy. Since then, the world has experienced a solar eclipse, Brexit, a global pandemic and so many other events. One thing is certain: things have changed, non-stop.
by Mertcan Uzun | May 4 2021

As the world changed, so did Blinkist. We have reflected on and evaluated ourselves, the way we work and also underwent a cultural transformation.

We are no longer a holacracy – nor are we a traditional organisation. Our transformation goes way further. It goes to, what we proudly call, empowerment.

Let’s talk a bit about the background.

In 2017, when Blinkist had around 60 team members, we developed the Blinkist Operating System (BOS) as “our way of organizing the company structure and operations”. We initially defined it as a “set framework of values, guiding principles, and processes”, backed up by four core aspects:

1. self-organization
2. personal development
3. transparency
4. distributed authority

In early 2018, we updated some processes. Since then, we haven’t worked on our operating system while our headcount has grown 135% to more than 140 people.

There were some issues we started facing.

  • We lacked clarity in our day-to-day work on who makes final decisions and how.
  • Our planning & alignment process lacked clarity, including decision-making authority.
  • We had plenty of different organizational forms without clear purpose and governance structures.
  • The number of requests for leadership support, moderated sessions, and retention processes exponentially increased.

We knew change was necessary.

In order to address the root causes of the pain points listed above, we needed to bring our purpose back into focus and increase the scope of our operating system. This way we would lay the foundations to provide clarity, ensure purpose-driven collaboration, and thus increase our organizational effectiveness (doing the right things) and efficiency (doing things right).

The Foundation of How we Work today: Empowerment at Blinkist 💪

At Blinkist, we foster empowerment in order to achieve better results faster by leveraging everyone’s knowledge, perspective, and ideas.

What is empowerment? Every Blinkist team member fills at least one, often multiple roles. And we expect every person to drive action and decision-making within the scope of those roles, regardless of level, function or length of service.

We want those who are closest to our challenges and opportunities to create value, in pursuit of our company goals. We believe this encourages innovation, creativity, mutual trust, high engagement, accountability, and commitment; allowing us to act quickly and adapt whenever necessary.

Effective empowerment requires a strong purpose and clear alignment – we need to pull in the same direction to achieve great things. Empowerment requires leaders to be involved in their team’s work: to coach, to guide, to inspire, and also to provide clear direction, to define what’s in scope vs. out-of-scope, to ensure decision-making clarity, and to course-correct when needed.

With empowerment comes responsibility. You are trusted to identify stakeholders whose work your decisions impact, to weigh and consider their feedback, to address stakeholder objections, and create consent (not consensus) before moving forward. Empowerment and accountability go hand in hand.

And, this is how we work at Blinkist!

Change is inevitable and culture is dynamic; it shifts and develops with the team. But with a strong foundation of empowerment at our core, we can ride the waves that come our way – and even have some fun.

Facebook Twitter Tumblr Instagram LinkedIn Flickr Email Print