Our #NoEmployees experiment

Leftover drops by Steve Wall http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevewall/305101458/

We imagined what the ideal work environment would be for us.

We, the Flowa crew, imagined what the ideal work environment would be like for us.

Here is what we came up with:

  • What if I, my peers, my manager and the owner of my company all agreed on what are the most important things for me to do right now?
  • What if my peers would be the only ones to negotiate with where to use our time and company’s money on?
  • What if I would be free to choose the tools as I see fit together with my colleagues?
  • What if I could choose what customers and products I work on, on what kind of contractual terms and with whom?

Then we tried to think how to get there. And we think we have found a model worth trying.

Icons by Andres Magnusson, Icomatic and Tamiko Young of The Noun Project
image: Icons by Andres Magnusson, Icomatic and Tamiko Young of The Noun Project

#NoEmployees means no separated manager or employee roles.


We call it #NoEmployees, because we do not want to be employees. We don’t need employers; and we don’t need the management they have hired. We want to be just fellows working together.

What does that mean in practice?

Shared ownership and access to ownership for every fellow

That means that if the organization we are creating, Flowa in this case, needs to be owned by all of us, more or less equally as peers. Additionally, we need to make that ownership accessible to all those we wish to include in our organization. That means hiring no employees in the future either. Instead of that, if we want to grow our fellowship, we need to invite new fellows.

Shared work

Icons by Luis Prado and Icomatic of The Noun Project
image: Icons by Luis Prado and Icomatic of The Noun Project

#NoEmployees also means no specialized owner roles.

We also need to agree that being a fellow means taking part in the work we do together. We might need some ground rules for shifting the ownership from fellows not wishing to continue working in our fellowship. Otherwise they would cease to be fellows and start being just owners. And that would mean that the other fellows would become their employees.

In practice, this means that we negotiate together, which large scale things we work on next. Everyone is free to do whatever he/she likes, but our focus together is getting the current big thing done. We spend quite a lot of time communicating our needs, goals and negotiating on priorities. That contributes to mutual trust and allows better decisions.


To stay honest and to show others the required rigor to do #NoEmployees we need to be transparent about our practices and principles regarding #NoEmployees. We do not want organizations to jump on board on #NoEmployees just to score points in the eyes of their prospective employees. Total transparency is needed regarding the principles above and how we carry them out in practice to demonstrate to the public that we are really doing this. That this is not just an answer in the corporate buzzword bingo.

How do you like it?

So, that is the first version of our #NoEmployees experiment. How do you like it? Do you have questions or comments? Please leave your questions and comments below.

NoEmployees and No owners logos are composed of the following Noun Project icons:

Antti Kirjavainen is an experienced coach and a linchpin. Antti is full of energy and has many interests – he is a knowledge work management thinker, product development coach, a Licensed Management 3.0 facilitator well as an active member of Agile Finland Ry, Agile4HR Finland and Agile Lean Europe network.

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