A theory – The five levels of autonomy
In our last blog, a Change of routine – part one (link to the first blog) we described a scenario where a team of remote colleagues used a collaboration tool to create, edit, and finalize a slide deck without the need to email various versions and copies of the file, and all within the time it took to conduct their hour-long meeting.
According to Matt Mullenweg, the scenario described above is level three of a five-level system of autonomy. Matt is one of the founders of WordPress, and in 2005 he founded Automattic, a publishing organization behind companies and platforms such as WordPress, WooCommerce, and Tumblr, among many others. Automattic employees are spread all over the world and have found a workflow that has allowed them to become an extremely productive and efficient organization. They refer to their workforce as ‘distributed’ as opposed to remote. According to Matt, these are the five levels of autonomy:
- Level 0: Not applicable – Refers to such organizations as mentioned above that cannot be distributed and must work face to face.
- Level 1: Unprepared – This applies to organizations that have no concrete approach to remote work. It’s possible to dial into meetings, but nothing has been installed deliberately to support a work-from-home option.
- Level 2: Somewhat enabled – Companies have found a way to get by and recreated their office lives from home. It’s a little chaotic, but they’ve made it work. Workflow is synchronous; meetings still occur in real-time as they did in the office.
- Level 3: Fully enabled and remote first – Platforms like MS Teams and G Suite are fully embraced. Employees have dedicated audio and video hardware, and home offices have all the creature comforts required to operate remotely indefinitely.
- Level 4: Fully asynchronous – Real-time meetings are kept to a minimum, and the focus is on the work. These organizations feel more like meritocracies, and it starts to feel like work is completed 24 hrs a day because people can work any time they want to. Trust and integrity are huge factors at this level.
- Level 5: Effortlessly effective – These organizations are completing better work remotely than in person, with clear definitions of mastery, purpose, and autonomy. A balance has been found between being high-functioning and maintaining a high level of health and wellness.
See more details on these levels on Matt’s site.
Companies that successfully adopt digital technology through IT services and support make sure to address two crucial elements; their digital strategy directly aligns with their corporate strategy, and instills a strong, shared customer-centric philosophy across all their business units. Matt recognized this roadmap was the foundation of corporate culture. It’s time for organizations to think through concepts like this and create a roadmap that allows them to work easily and effectively in a remote-first, distributed fashion.