Matt Mullenweg: insights into a networked organization
The blogging platform WordPress is ten years old today! I was lucky to see co-founder Matt Mullenweg at the Activate conference last year:
This was interesting from our perspective at Global Integration, because the organization he describes is an extreme version of the matrix – a truly networked organization.
One year ago, WordPress.com had 341 million monthly users. Yet it boasted at the time just 120 staff. The organization has no real headquarters, but aims to employ the best people around the World – 25 countries, 90 cities or thereabouts. It doesn’t matter who they are in terms of gender, colour etc – even interviews happen by text chat. All that matters is the individual’s results. Even the leadership team is distributed – founder Mike Little was based in the UK, Mullenweg in the USA.
How can just 120 people manage such a large organization? Mullenweg describes a very open, distributed, meritocracy, based on people doing the things that really matter. The WordPress eco-system works in part because others have taken the core and added plugins and designs to enhance the site – people who have a relationship with but don’t work for WordPress.
His view of meetings concurs with ours: too many are unnecessary – so they just don’t have scheduled meetings, meeting remotely when they need to. They communicate via internal communications tools, and people comment on and check work online. They love Google hangouts, and are happy with bi-weekly/occasional discussions between groups. Code updates, consequently, are shipped to the site around 60 times a day. That’s a fantastic level of productivity.
Teams have leads who co-ordinate rather than formal managers. Mullenweg finds it easier to communicate direction using blog posts containing screen shots or videos, which all of the team can read, or to simply liaise with team leaders and trust them to communicate information through.
Getting to know each other on teams because it’s missing when you don’t work together – he notes that it’s important to know what the person communicating is like. Teams can, however, meet wherever in the World they want to when they need to, and the costs of this are offset against the savings on office space.
Mullenweg claims WordPress can select staff on the basis of skill. His talent pool has expanded, and he describes excluding anyone from working with you on the basis of location as both “morally odious” and “statistically dumb”.
It’s an interesting case study, and as a very 21st century company, we defy anyone to suggest that matrix working, and virtual working, are dead. Mullenweg describes this way of remote working as the future of work. We couldn’t agree more!
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