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Examples of 21st C. Companies

"The 21st Century is when it all changes.  You've got to be ready."  -- Capt'n Jack Harkness

What does a 21st Century company look like?  Here's some principles, some templates, some examples.  I believe the 21st century will see a movement toward companies being good social citizens (not money focused) these movements are already starting and we are only 14 years into this century.  Movements such as Conscious Capitalism, Sustainability, Triple Bottom Line, Lean/Agile, etc.

I intend to work for one of these new breed of companies before the decade is done.

A look at the No Manager movement at Treehouse a learning company focused on learning...

No Managers: Why We Removed Bosses at Treehouse

How to communicate in a #NoManager company

Kotter's 21st C Org Model

Here's what John Kotter said about this issue of mutating a traditional company into a modern company in his 2013 video Accelerate! The Evolution of the 21st Century Organization.  "Here's the bad news:  How many organizations have succeeded in doing that?  About 0.001% - seriously."

Accelerate! The Evolution of the 21st Century Organization

A group in the Europe has formed to make work more fun they are Corporate Rebels.
Only two years into our corporate jobs, we had become frustrated with the way our organizations were run. Like most people (87% of employees are disengaged!), we worked in uninspiring workplaces characterized by inertia, bureaucracy, and a lack of motivation. We believe these organizations, which are mostly based on outdated structures, are doomed to fail in today’s rapidly changing environment.
Born out of personal frustration, we quit our jobs, started Corporate Rebels and set out to find the world’s most progressive organizations. From well-known examples such as Spotify, Google, and Patagonia to lesser-known organizations that organize work in radically different ways. By visiting these pioneers we learn about many alternative ways of working that fully unleash the potential of employees.
By doing this, we have created a movement of like-minded individuals and organizations who are ready to make a positive change in the way they work. Join the community by subscribing to our newsletter above or by joining the Slack community through here. To get in touch with us directly, see our contact details here.

See their Bucket List of companies and founders to interview about creating company culture.

David Gray is launching a new learning institution.
See his invitation: Introducing the School of the Possible and watch the overview video of his 21st C. Connected Company.

These 21st-century learning institutions look, feel, and operate differently than their industrial-age forbears. Like their predecessors, their purpose is to explore areas of opportunity and discover insights that can help society get unstuck and move more quickly and smoothly through the shift. The insights and methods they teach are the skills that individuals and organizations will need to survive and thrive in the 21st century.
But unlike their industrial-age ancestors, these “new schools” are rethought, restructured, and redesigned for the digital age, which means they are optimized to discover and teach the theories, methods, skills, tools and practices of the digital age.
I’m happy and proud to announce that the ranks of the new digital schools will soon increase their number by one. Several colleagues and I are launching the School of the Possible, to formalize and pursue a research and development agenda that has been emerging since the early 1960s, and that I have been focusing on since I started my design consultancy, XPLANE, in 1993.
The School of the Possible is a self-funded, fully independent research and development lab.
Positive Business Conference - May 2015 - Univ. of Michigan

Culture is the buzz word, but what does this mean?  Stanford Business School's Charles O'Reilly explains the current understanding (studies) of the relation of culture to business values.

Tom Gardner's re:Work talk in Nov, 2014 about company culture.  Four ideas on how the Motley Fool creates their culture.  How would you do on his pop quiz - name your companies core values?

The Container Store's CEO tells his story in the new book Uncontainable.

Conscious Capitalism 

-- Principles:  Higher Purpose, Conscious Leadership, Stakeholder Orientation, Conscious Culture
Examples:  Whole Foods,  The Container Store, Zappos, Southwest Airlines,

"In 1994, Interface® Founder Ray Anderson challenged us to pursue a bold new vision "Be the first company that, by its deeds, shows the entire world what sustainability is in all its dimensions: people, process, product, place and profits - and in doing so, become restorative through the power of influence" The Interface journey toward sustainability has been a momentous shift in the way we operate our business and see the world.

Examples:  Interface Global, Apple (Environmental Responsibility Report)


Want to participate in a study - want to assess your business on it's values?  Try the B Impact Assessment.
Conscious Capitalism is teaming up with B Lab to provide our members the B Impact Assessment, a free tool to measure your company’s consciousness and compare it against thousands of other businesses!

Statistical Quality Control (SQC) techniques
Isn't it time to finish the transformation Deming started?  An article on the move toward a new mindset of management by Tripp Babbit.  Deming is responsible for the post war revival of the Japanese manufacturing industry. A move away from the Tayloristic view of management.  Yet most MBA programs still have this 19th century mindset embedded in their teachings.  One of the best books written that moves the world forward is Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo.  Also see his new tool chest of knowledge about managing a 21st Century company:  Management 3.0 Workout by Jurgen Appelo.

See Also: Esko Kilpi's article on Productivity Revolutions - Medium. An interesting view of Taylor the socialist and troublemaker.  And a prediction that "technological augmentation" is going be the next revolution in productivity for the knowledge worker.

Triple Bottom Line

The Triple Bottom Line incorporates the notion of sustainability into business decisions. The TBL is an accounting framework with three dimensions: social, environmental (or ecological) and financial.  Commonly referred to as People, Planet, Profit.

Menlo Innovation is a company that has invested in it's culture and people.  Read their story in Joy Inc.

Sharing Intellectual Property for the benefit of the Industry

Boston Beer shares key knowledge with competitors.
Why Samuel Adams Supports Its Competitors by Leigh Buchanan
Founder Jim Koch explains why he gives money, materials, and advice to other craft brewers.

Tesla shares their patents with anyone in the industry.


Beyond the Holacracy Hype in Aug/Sep 2016 HBR by Bernstein et al.  A fair look at modern organizational patterns and some of their strengths and differences with traditional org methods.

Zappo's move to Holacracy will it blend?  Is it a good move?  Can one mandate a cultural change such as this?  Yes, one can mandate the change, and some would say this is what you would get:
210 ZAPPOS EMPLOYEES RESPOND TO HOLACRACY ULTIMATUM: WE'RE OUT.  But do the math, that's 86% of employees that are aligned to the strategic transformation and engaged.  When have you had such strong acceptance of a strategic mission in corporate America?
Beyond the Holacracy Hype - HBR July 2016
Here's Why You Should Care About Holacracy by Adam Pisoni, co-founder and former CTO of Yammer. He is also a founder of, a new movement dedicated to helping companies become more agile, adaptive and empowering.
Another great article on Zappo's Holacracy - Making Sense of Zappos' War on Managers by HBR Gianpiero Petriglieri.
Thanks For All of Your Concern, But…An Inside Perspective on the Changes at
How a Radical Shift to "Self-Management" left Zappos Reeling - Fortune
Why isn't Holacracy working at Zappos - Zappos is struggling with Holacracy because humans aren’t designed to operate like software by Aimee Groth is the author of The Kingdom of Happiness: Inside Tony Hsieh’s Zapponian Utopia.

The Self-Management Institute 

Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux
"The way we manage organizations seems increasingly out of date. Survey after survey shows that a majority of employees feel disengaged from their companies. The epidemic of organizational disillusionment goes way beyond Corporate America-teachers, doctors, and nurses are leaving their professions in record numbers because the way we run schools and hospitals kills their vocation. Government agencies and nonprofits have a noble purpose, but working for these entities often feels soulless and lifeless just the same. All these organizations suffer from power games played at the top and powerlessness at lower levels, from infighting and bureaucracy, from endless meetings and a seemingly never-ending succession of change and cost-cutting programs.
We need more enlightened leaders, but we need something more: enlightened organizational structures and practices. But is there even such a thing? Can we conceive of enlightened organizations? "

See a video overview of Laloux's Culture Model by Peter Green

Morning Star - Self-Managing Organization "In this fascinating conversation, Work Revolution co-founder Josh Allan Dykstra interviews Doug Kirkpatrick from the Morning Star Self-Management Institute."

Semco Partners, a Brazilian company best known for its radical form of industrial democracy and corporate re-engineering.Ricardo Semler: How to run a company with (almost) no rules

Organization to Investigate:
  • Interface Global
  • Menlo Innovation
  • W.L. Gore
  • Morning Star
  • Whole Foods
  • Wikipedia
  • Patagonia
  • Semco Partners
  • The Container Store
  • Zappos
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
  • Alcoholics Anonymous

Excerpt on the Back Story of 21st Century Companies from - The Learning Consortium for the Creative Economy 2015 Report 
In the twentieth century, the management principles of hierarchical bureaucracy helped organizations meet the demand for mass-market products and services and generate unprecedented material prosperity for many. But then the world changed. Deregulation, globalization, and new technology, particularly the Internet, transformed everything. Power in the marketplace shifted from seller to buyer. The old ways of getting things done became less and less effective. Firms had difficulty making money and their life expectancies declined. 
Some firms responded by applying existing management principles more energetically. They tightened management control. They downsized. They reorganized. They delayered. They empowered their staff. They launched innovation initiatives. They reengineered processes. They launched sales and marketing campaigns. They acquired new companies. They shed businesses that weren’t doing well. They focused tightly on maximizing shareholder value. They gave the top executives stock-based compensation in an effort to make them more entrepreneurial. These fixes sometimes led to short-term gains, but they didn’t solve the underlying problem. Deeper change was needed. The principles of twentieth-century management itself had become obsolete. 
Another set of organizations, and parts thereof, began doing something different. They developed and implemented a different leadership mindset, with a set of goals, principles, and values that were better suited to the emerging marketplace of the twenty-first century. The resulting ways of organizing, creating, marketing, making, selling, and delivering products and services don’t look or feel much like their predecessors. The workplaces they create look and feel different. They are highly interactive. These organizations are not just tinkering with the principles that were once successful but are now increasingly irrelevant and ineffective. These organizations have been creating something fundamentally different.
The leadership mindset visible in the organizations visited by the LC reflects a recognition that the big, lumbering twentieth-century bureaucracies are too slow and clumsy for the marketplace of the twenty-first century, in which fickle but powerful customers are in charge. Now, “predictable” and “reliable” performance isn’t good enough anymore. For true success, the organization has to deliver experiences that delight customers — a much more difficult undertaking, and something that can’t be accomplished without embracing different goals, principles, and values. 
The leadership principles that were observed in these site visits are not a random collection of fixes. They fit together as a mutually reinforcing set of management patterns. Once an organization or unit embraces the leadership mindset, and pursues it consistently over a period of time, it affects everything in the organization — the way it plans, the way it manages, the way people work. Everything is different. It changes the game fundamentally. 

Audie Cornish speaks with former Vice President Al Gore about the new edition of his book, The Assault On Reason.
Well, others have noted a free press is the immune system
of representative democracy. And as I wrote 10 years ago, American democracy is in grave danger from the changes in the environment in which ideas either live and spread or wither and die. I think that the trends that I wrote about 10 years ago have continued and worsened, and the hoped-for remedies that can come from online discourse have been slow to mature. I remain optimistic that ultimately free speech and a free press where individuals have access to the dialogue will have a self-correcting quality. -- Al Gore
Excerpt from NPR interview with Al Gore by Audie Cornish March 14, 2017. Heard on  All Things Considered.

See Also:
No, really! Agile really is the Goal by Tim Snyder
"An agile enterprise is one that has achieved a level of operational excellence that enables it to make changes at the same pace that it discovers a need for them." -- Tim Snyder
Heros of Leadership (slideshare) by Niels Pflaeging
Why we cannot learn a damn thing from Toyota or Semco by Niels Pflaeging
End of nations: Is there an alternative to countries? Nation states cause some of our biggest problems, from civil war to climate inaction. Science suggests there are better ways to run a planet.Embracing Agile - HBR - Rigby, Sutherland, Takeuchi

Learning Consortium For The Creative Economy Steve Denning - Forbes
5 Things Successful 21st Century Companies Are Doing Differently
Companies Without Managers Do Better By Every Metric by Chuck Blakeman
Why Self-Management Will Soon Replace Management by Josh Allan Dykstra
HBR: First, Let's Fire All the Managers by Gary Hamel - an article about Morning Star and self organization. (a PDF)
Forbes: The Copernican Revolution In Management by Steve Denning


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Exercise:: Definition of Ready & Done

Assuming you are on a Scrum/Agile software development team, then one of the first 'working agreements' you have created with your team is a 'Definition of Done' - right?

Oh - you don't have a definition of what aspects a user story that is done will exhibit. Well then, you need to create a list of attributes of a done story. One way to do this would be to Google 'definition of done' ... here let me do that for you: Then you could just use someone else's definition - there DONE!

But that would be cheating -- right? It is not the artifact - the list of done criteria, that is important for your team - it is the act of doing it for themselves, it is that shared understanding of having a debate over some of the gray areas that create a true working agreement. If some of the team believes that a story being done means that there can be no bugs found in the code - but some believe that there can be some minor issues - well, then yo…

Do You Put “CSM” After Your Name?

I’ve noticed a new trend—people have been gaining titles. When I was younger, only doctors had initials (like MD) after their names. I always figured that was because society held doctors, and sometime priests (OFM) in such high regard that we wanted to point out their higher learning. I hope it was to encourage others to apply themselves in school and become doctors also. Could it have been boastful?

The Wikipedia describes these “post-nominal initials”:
Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, are letters placed after the name of a person to indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honor. An individual may use several different sets of post-nominal letters. The order in which these are listed after a name is based on the order of precedence and category of the order. That’s good enough for me.
So I ask you: is the use of CSM or CSP an appropriate use of post-nominal initials?
If your not an agilista, you may wonder …

David's notes on "Drive"

- "The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us" by Dan Pink.

Amazon book order
What I notice first and really like is the subtle implication in the shadow of the "i" in Drive is a person taking one step in a running motion.  This brings to mind the old saying - "there is no I in TEAM".  There is however a ME in TEAM, and there is an I in DRIVE.  And when one talks about motivating a team or an individual - it all starts with - what's in it for me.


Pink starts with an early experiment with monkeys on problem solving.  Seems the monkeys were much better problem solver's than the scientist thought they should be.  This 1949 experiment is explained as the early understanding of motivation.  At the time there were two main drivers of motivation:  biological & external influences.  Harry F. Harlow defines the third drive in a novel theory:  "The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward" (p 3).  This is Dan Pink's M…

Situational Leadership II Model & Theory

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought the technique needed to move forward was one thing, yet the person leading (your leader) assumed something else was what was needed?  Did you feel misaligned, unheard, marginalized?  Would you believe that 54% of all leaders only use ONE style of leadership - regardless of the situation?  Does that one style of leading work well for the many levels of development we see on a team?

Perhaps your team should investigate one of the most widely used leadership models in the world ("used to train over 5 million managers in the world’s most respected organizations").  And it's not just for the leaders.  The training is most effective when everyone receives the training and uses the model.  The use of a ubiquitous language on your team is a collaboration accelerator.  When everyone is using the same mental model, speaking the same vernacular hours of frustration and discussion may be curtailed, and alignment achieved, outcomes …

Definition of Done - the Ty varaint

Every time I meet Ty Crockett at an event he shakes my hand and mentions how many people he's helped to understand their team's Definition of Done or Ready using the card deck I create some years back.  He's not bragging (but he should be) he's thanking me.  But the fun thing is that Ty has evolved a better practice than I did.  Maybe it's the repetition and small variations that has lead to the improvement.  Yeah - I think that's it.

I may get this wrong ... but Ty's variation goes some thing like this...

Start with a big board. Divided into 3 sections.  Introduce the concept of Brainstorming... Add dividers to talk about how to organize the outputs of the brainstorm. 
I usually print out DoD cards but do not show them to the team until we have a discussion on the types of things they need to consider. For example: Here is a section out of the PSM course that I always ask teams to consider…

They create their own cards and ideas (on sticky notes). Ty brings out…