It really is extreme. Extreme people with extreme skills, doing stuff people wouldn’t think possible.” Adrian was half proud, half nervous as he walked through the doors of the most mythical company in town – aptly called Xtreme. Unpretentious, an almost anonymous location. But inside, a nerd’s heaven.


The interview was nothing like he had imagined. And very far from any interview he had experienced before. He was to pitch right in on a project for a week. And then his team mates were to decide if they wanted to let him on board. He had to impress them, ha had to be extreme. “Impress people like Claes, Florian, Maria and Michael. Damn, I have to be on top of my game here, cuz those guys are freakin legends in the open source world.” But so was Adrian. He had run several projects that has gotten good traction on Github, and that was precisely why Florian had asked him to come and show off his awesome. But Adrian was never the bragging, arrogant type. Shy and humble, submerged in an intense interest for developing the next coolest thing – he so wanted to work with these guys.

Getting on board meant to actually own an equal piece of the company and share the responsibilities, decisions, salary, perks and work with everybody else at Xtreme. And it meant getting to work with the top notch developers in the world, doing stuff that really matters. No wonder Adrian was tense.

But the week went surprisingly well. His team mates were including and helpful and he got plenty of opportunity to show his skill set. He worked on a technically challenging and interesting project that would prove extremely valuable for a customer building rescue helicopters.

He got to see the organization up close. Or rather, the lack thereof. Without any executives or hierarchy, the company was light, quick and ultra-dynamic. “But how do you make important decisions, like moving the company to new premises?” he had asked. “It’s like in this village called Endesh in North Tanzania“, Florian replied, “they get together and decide.” “All of them?” “Yeah all of them. All of us.

But don’t you need executives?” Adrian looked somewhat puzzled. “Why?” Florian inquired. “What would you need an executive for? Do you need to be told what to do? Or what not to do? Or do you need someone else to motivate you to do your best? Because if you need those things, we don’t need you.” Adrian got the drift and answered “Well, I sure haven’t needed any of that to get me this far. The bosses I’ve had have more often than not been in my way, deciding on stuff they really don’t know and without the hands-on knowledge required to make the right choices. All while they think they know best.” Florian smiled. “Then we’re on the same page here. There is no set process, formal way or exact procedure for what we do. We have the best guys in our field, we get shit done, learn, and get even more shit done. It’s a continual evolution.

11 thoughts on “Xtreme

  1. Has this system been tried with companies that aren’t nerds or “freakin legends” and “top notch” in their field?

  2. Hi Geir, it’s been too long! I’ve breen lurking here occasionally, but now I find unemployment stimulates the urge to write πŸ™‚
    An organization of totally commited freaking legends can be destroyed by hierachies, processes etc, this may indeed be the chief obstacle for many organizations dealing primarily with creative work. In most organizations though, some (like me) chafe at most any structure, others find the mere idea of questioning a structure threatening – and they actively seek out roles with strict boundaries and well defined routines and processes. Am I (always) right? Are they (always) wrong? πŸ™‚
    Another point – formal and informal structures. In the art and music worlds, there have been many organizations of the type you sketch out here. I’ve been a part of some and have observed a lot of them – and what soon becomes apparent is that there is a hierarcy, there are processes – they’re just not formalized. The unwritten rules often end up being used by destructive players to undermine any challenge to their place in the informal hierarchy. This is basically the liberal/radical defence of bureaucracy – it creates a level playing field and thereby enables social mobility etc.

    1. Hi Jo. The idea presented here tries to mitigate the destructive side you mention by a 100% shared ownership model. I believe that would be the better way to go πŸ™‚

      1. well, the organizations I’m talking about usually have common ownerships, or a strong feeling of common ownership, and yet they are still susceptible to all the usual management bullshyte ☺

  3. A useful tool for such a company is the TOPS model. The Technology of Participation from the Institute of Cultural Affairs.

    It worked AGAIN last week.

    It actually is a form a group processing that uses a focusing question and a facilitation methodology to get to optimal results.

    The facilitator is typically one outside the group with no vested interest in the answer who helps the group discover for itself options and actions they may not have thought of.

    Some of my best friends are masters of it. My wife is an expert in it. I’ve never heard of a session that has gone bad. Every time people join, share ideas, explore them in a flexible process to achieve intelligent consensus and then come up with an action plan nobody expects and then raves about afterward.

    1. People also can use in-house facilitation. The methodology does remove a lot of bias. Lots of organizations are sending people to Tops to be the orgs facilitator.

      This is something you may find quite helpful to study.

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