‘How are you still friends after 10 years in business together?!’
Our organisational structure doesn’t fit into the traditional business model which is based in hierarchical structures and decision making. Soundcastle is co-run by all members of the organisation, with one of our core values being ‘All voices are equally heard and valued.’ We are very fortunate to have an amazing team and board who believe in the model of collective decision making and the power that this has on ensuring everyone is empowered, heard and celebrated.
So! How does it actually work?
The second thing people often ask us is ‘That all sounds great, but how do you get anything done?!’ It’s really important to stress here that collective decision making isn’t about making every decision together! (Although I must admit that in the early days – that’s exactly what happened as we clustered around a laptop with big dreams and zero business skills!) Over the years we have experimented with a huge range of approaches to collective leadership – we’ve juggled roles/ job titles/ responsibilities and the main thing I have learnt from that is to keep playing and keep communicating. We’ve never tried to fit directly into anyone else’s model and have always developed based on trust, instinct and respect.
So who gets the final say?
When it comes to decision making at Soundcastle – we have developed a sensitive approach to presenting ideas and responding to them. Our creative and organisational practice is based on the ‘Yes and’ approach of always amplifying one another’s ideas. When it comes to the ‘final say’ it really is a shared moment (unless it’s a legal or safeguarding matter, in which case our policies and procedures win!).
So is time wasted in going back and forth?
No! Time is spent going back and forth and that is what embeds everyone’s voices in the heart of the organisation. Yes it can be messy and time consuming but it’s also beautiful and essential. Each member of the team has an area that they specialise in or steward and then a ‘second’ who supports their stewarding. To steward an area of the business doesn’t mean you have to achieve everything yourself, it just gives you the capacity and voice to steer it forward and to keep everyone focussed.
Do you ever wish you had a manager?
Sometimes I have wished that but it’s usually a sign that it’s time to find a new element of our model to ensure we’re being best supported. We’ve recently introduced the idea of ‘Sprints’ which come from agile leadership – meaning that we work on a two week workflow and are better in touch with one another’s priorities and capacity. We’re also fortunate to have a brilliant board of trustees who support us and are at the end of the phone when needed.
Would you recommend this kind of leadership to other organisations?
Yes! And we do support others in exploring their development and decision making structures. It isn’t as textbook as traditional leadership but it makes space for connection, human experience and playfulness and with those at the heart of a company, I think you can only thrive!