How to build a company – Qhuba Effectuation

July 29, 2011

Today is the last day of my holiday. I have collected enough sand in clothes and shoes, taken enough pictures, read enough and thought a lot. For me holiday is not only a period of more time for the family, but more than anything else: read, think and write time. Due to the limited bandwidth on the Belgium coast, the favourite summer hide-out of my wife and five kids, I have followed the news mostly through RSS feeds on Google Reader. This is an incredibly efficient way to keep yourself informed about what is going on the world, in the business community, but also to acquire new insights in many subjects that interest you. I have subscriptions to The Economist, Harvard Business Review, Financieel Dagblad, Financial Times, CIO Magazine, CFO Magazine, Business Insider, Computable, Emerce, MT, Lifehacker, Lifehacking, New York Times, Reuters, Time Magazine, Twitter, Linkedin and many more. This combined with the feeds on keywords (the same keywords that are the tags of this blog, plus some others) generate more than a thousand news items each day. That sounds like a lot, but an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon are enough to scan, select and mark the real interesting ones for further reading.

In an earlier blog I wrote about Effectuation. At the time I had started reading the book of Thomas Blekman called Corporate Effectuation. It started nice, basically explaining the theories of Saras Sarasvathy of Carnegy Mellon University on how her research of successful entrepreneurs uncovered five basic principles these people shared. Her 2001 publication “Causation and Effectuation: Toward a theoretical shift from economic inevitability to entrepreneurial contingency” was the start of a whole series of publications on the subject.

The second half of Blekman’s book tries to match the principles to initiatives in large corporations, such as HPO (High Performance Organisation), Lean Six Sigma and other frameworks. He finishes with a CEBP, a modular Corporate Effectuation Business Programme. That to me is contrary to the essence of the principles described by Sarasvathy. Canning, packing and labeling a sellable methods, frameworks and solution suggest that the world is predictable. Have a solution and find the problem that it will solve. Was that not causation?

Still a good read. If you want to read the essence only, best go for the original papers.

Today on Twitter, Paulo Coelho: Face reality. And unwilled changes will happen. How true, and although I am sure Mr. Coelho meant changes in your personal life, I would imagine the same principles are at work in the lives of happy people, as in the businesses of successful effectuators. Or maybe that is the whole secret: successful business people are just people. Not just people ate home and business people ate work. You will see that the principles are probably applicable at a higher percentage of decisions people take every day in their private lives than on the decision they take  in their professional capacity.

An analogy for effectuation is how Columbus discovered Amerika when looking for India. Unexpected events are opportunities, not threats. You can spot them, pick them up and start running, turn away from them, or do nothing. Just read a blog from Seth Godin: either capture everything in a process, and just show up for work, or confront your fear of being stupid and try something new.

Back to the five principles, and being curious and competitive, see how we are doing:

1.Of course you have a strategy, and so do we, but most goals emerge by imagining courses of action which start from available means of who I am, what I know, and who I know. This is now often called the “Bird-in hand-principle”. (“What do I have?” versus “What do I need?”). This is, indeed, where we started, but don’t most startups? You think about what drives you, what your passions are and what it is that you do best. You try to be honest about your limitations mistakes we had made in the past. We all had a burning desire to prove that a practical approach towards strategy execution, portfolio management and benefits management, and that people with experience were the key, instead of the frameworks and processes. We did not want to be, or work with consultants, but with executors, implementors, changers and innovators.

2.Attitude toward outsiders: Share what you have with committed players, in many roles (candidates, associates, clients, partners), but always with the intention of “shared rewards partnerships”. This “Crazy Quilt principle” of build a network of self-selected stakeholders is the essence of what we do. So much so that we now ask our clients to tell us what our reward should be. We call this Client Value Pricing. But in this network of stakeholders we do not only want to make clients successful by providing capable people to support in strategy execution, we also want to be a platform for professional and personal growth of all that participate.

3.Attitude toward unexpected events: Surprise is good. Someone wrote “Imaginative re-thinking of possibilities transforms the unexpected into innovation and new opportunities”. That’s a lot of syllables, but probably a good way to describe the Lemonade principle. If you come across lemons making lemonade is a good option. Embrace surprises every day. And we had to: our company started operating at the beginning of a worldwide economic recession. The need for the kind of services we provide might not directly be affected by the economic situation, but obviously there is a correlation between corporate investment budgets and the demand and price level of strategy execution services. We focused on assignment with more or less immediate benefits for the clients, and tried to make them measurable. At the labour market is changing. More and more highly qualified professionals become independent contractors with entrepreneurial ambitions. This is an opportunity that we embraced, too, and the whole structure and style of our business was created to appeal to ambitions and skills of these talented people.

4.The Affordable Loss Principle is how you look at of risk and resources: Pursue promising opportunities without investing more resources than stakeholders can afford to lose. Limit downside potential. The structure of our business is a partnership, where initially we had no employees, not offices, hardly any overhead. The risks were shared with partners, who could afford to have an income that might be a fraction of what they used to earn in their corporate roles. Of course now, three years later, and getting close to €10M turnover, our risk profile has changed, and we employ, invest and think accordingly.

5.Pilot-in-the-plane principle; The future comes from what people do. ”Rely on human agency as prime driver of opportunity rather than on technical or economic systems and trends. There cannot be such a thing a just showing up for work, and trusting that the processes, the frameworks and the technology take care of the rest. For prove, watch this video.

All nice and good, and to some extend we recognize all these elements. Problem is, there are many more. For us it all starts with words like: Best people, practical knowledge, corporate success, but also words like expert peer network, autonomy, mastery, and making contributions. I haven’t managed to stick all of those in a framework, but if anyone has good idea, let us hear it.

Meanwhile – again on my RSS feed – Chris Brogan suggest we start listening to our taxi drivers, of we want to know about success in business; Matthew Toren taught us something about the basics of bootstrapping in marketing and Seth Godin – there he is again – about creating myths  instead of just brands.

So we grow and we learn everyday, and it’s fun! Don’t tell my wife, but I am not unhappy the holiday is over.

How to build a company – Client Value Pricing

July 26, 2011

All companies in our industry want to add value. We all want to be associated with the top-line, that is, with successful strategy execution, with growth, with success. Our clients’ success, reflected in our own. No one wants to be part of the overhead, a cost, only influencing the bottom-line. When you help executives implement strategies, or run their projects, when you strengthen their organisation with new talent or bring focus and energy that lead to desired change, surely you deliver value. And surely those benefits can be measured. Benefits management is a well-developed science. Impressive books have been written about it, most notably by Elizabeth Daniel and John Ward, both from Cranfield School of Management (they published a book in 2006 called Benefits Management), and by Gerald L. Bradley (Benefit Realisation Management).

Benefits Management aims to make sure that desired business change has been clearly defined, is measurable, and that there is a water-tight business case for investment – and ultimately to ensure that the change or outcome is actually achieved. The benefits realisation management methodology fits closely with existing programme and project management approaches such as MSP and Prince 2, and we are using it and it is typically the kind of knowledge we are gladly sharing with our clients.

This is all useful, but for interaction with our customers value is almost a sanity factor. If people connect and interact, based one shared worldviews, ideas and interests of course there is a value. Ideally for both. And that is where it gets difficult. A result of the interaction might be a transaction and usually those transactions are based on time spent, or based on the realisation of pre-defined results. They are always measured in dollars or euros. Sometimes there is a fixed price, but this fixed price is then an agreed amount based on expected time spent (as calculated by one party) and desirable results (for the other party).

This does not always make sense. Sometimes people do things just because they are fun, or seem important. Sometimes people want to give and share, and expect nothing back in the short term (as with open source initiatives), and sometimes it might make more sense to ask clients to evaluate the benefits and value of our efforts afterwards (and decide themselves what we can invoice). We could call this Client Value Pricing of PWYW (Pay What You Want). There are many advantages to this way of working with clients (one of them is that you work with people, not for people), but also risks.

There are many examples. Well known ones are freeware software in the early days, where the programmers would kindly ask for donations (not always in the form of cash; I saw requests for pizza’s, too), but also in the Music business it was tried by different artists. Most famous is the Radiohead album In Rainbows. The results were not too bad, although there was a lot of free-loading. For a band that normally gets around 30% of revenues it was definitely a business model worth considering, and more than anything else Radiohead wanted to make a statement in a rapidly changing industry.

The example of the Berlin bar that has worked with pay what you want for a long time is famous, too. Weinerei Frarosa‘s business is thriving.

In The Netherlands, Martijn Aslander is in demand as a speaker for his ideas on the networksociety, information sharing and innovation. He is guaranteed to inspire, and always leaves it up to his clients to determine the value of what he shared with them. We had him as a guest on one of our WhatsQooking events, and decided that we would pay him partly in cash, and – since he is more interested in access than in assets – partly by connecting him to people in our network.

Tom van Bokhoven, owner of Greenclaim, a company that helps travellers claim refunds from airlines when flights have been delayed or cancelled, cites the reciprocity principle of Roberto Cialdini as his reason to start working with Client Value Pricing.

In fact Cialdini has defined six “weapons of influence” as he calls them:

  • Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor.
  • Commitment and Consistency – If people commit to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as part of their worldview.
  • Social Proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing.
  • Authority – People will tend to follow authority figures.
  • Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like.
  • Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand.

All of these principles play a role in business, in social networking, in the creation of tribes. In our network, we work with people, and clients in our case are people, not companies, based on trust and based on shared characteristics. Call it DNA if you want. We defined that DNA as URUC: Unconventional (as in autonomous, self directive, responsible), Reliable (as in trustworthy and capable), Uncompromising (determined to be relevant and make a contribution) and Connected (to a network of peers). In such a network Client Value Pricing will work, if only to determine where our value lies, with whom we should work, and to see if we are delivering the value that we think we are.

So yes, we are challenging our clients to determine the price of our services themselves, afterwards. Especially in the field of Search and Recruitment, where years of building a network of candidates, following them and coaching them enables us to match a person to a clients needs, and where the hours spent on a search assignment have nothing to do with the value of that match, or the value of that person to the company he is going to work for, this seems the right approach.

But also for training, for mentoring, coaching and counseling, let someone else decide what benefits we delivered, and what price can be associated with those benefits.

Again, a bit scary, but we will learn a lot. I will write another blog about our experiences, and am interested in what others have done in this field.

Is it a good idea to ask clients to evaluate the benefits and value of our efforts afterwards (and decide themselves what they pay)


How to build a company – Wasted Marketing Money

July 21, 2011

Marketing is important to a newly established company. Eager to succeed, ready to spread the gospel, we went through all the steps – of old style marketing. Although we always had a clear picture of what kind of business we wanted to be in (partly thanks to a session with Bob Bloom, former Chairman and CEO of Publicis Worldwide, the global marketing services company), with whom we wanted to work, and how we wanted to operate and grow this business, even what our portfolio of services would look like, we had difficulty marketing it.

Once more, we went through the vision-mission-promise to clients-positioning statement-pitch exercise, and commissioned all the basis materials we thought were part of the deal: the corporate image and the logo, the flyers and the binders, the website and the pictures. It did not feel good, though. The multi-(or many-) syllable statements did not feel like our own but like gobbledygook and restraint us, the folders gathered dust in drawers, and the newsletters we postponed month after month.

At some point we noticed, much too late, but we noticed, that we did not get the response we expected: we had walked directly into the trap of marketer, web developer and hosting partner.
Our site dictated what we could communicate, about ourselves. Despite all the beautiful pitches about social media integration, web2.0 and such, we could not interact with our network. All we could do was broadcast how good we were. It felt like hullaballoo marketing. A digital flyer, trying to create attention.
Similarly we were trapped by our webhoster/developer MarsId who, despite pretending to be an open source focussed, networking company were of the old-fashioned kind: “give us specs, and we try to build it, pay us per hour and we will tell you afterwards how many hours we used”. Flexibility: impossible. Blogs? Not working, twitter integration: don’t know how. In the end, when we were looking for an alternative they came up with the good old copyright scam. Pay us more or die. We paid.

Meanwhile our marketer was writing leaflets and sending press releases, none of which ever resulted in an article about us. Why do we have to talk to the press? We have to communicate with our tribe: our partners, our associates, our staff, our friends, our customers and all the people who have the same drive and interest as we have, including our competitors.

Several things did work for us. LinkedIn was and is an important channel to connect and share. Links to articles we published on our site never failed to generate attention and reactions. WhatsQooking events were a success. Cooking with clients and partners, with a chef, with speakers on subjects that interest us, always led to interesting and fun evenings. Obviously, what worked best was our face-to-face meetings with people. We had numerous meetings, with people who did or did not share our enthusiasm, which led to more meetings which led to new partners entering our partnership, to customers hiring us to work with them, to associates joining our network, and to many new friends, sharing their ideas and, in some instances, making us equally enthusiastic about their businesses, ideas and ideals. But you can only have so many meetings each week.

Luckily we are avid readers of blogs and enthusiastic watchers of TED.

We came across a 2009 talk from Simon Sinek. His story about “Why” changed our view on Marketing drastically. Everything seemed to fall into place. We wanted to communicate about our why, our how, and then our what, we were convinced interaction was more important than transaction, and we started to think about overhauling our internet presence.
People like David Meerman Scott convinced us that we had to think like publishers, and share our content, our connections with anyone who is interested. David was a speaker at the European Growth Summit, where we were the guests of Kees de Jong.

David encourages companies to think like publishers, create news releases rather than press releases, and develop content based on your organisations’ purpose, your business goals. Of course to some extent, we had this content, but in the form of articles and white-papers, training material and tools. All the expertise anyone could need on Programme and Portfolio Management, on Benefits Management and Strategy Execution is available. That is not the kind of thought leadership we are talking about here, though. At least, it is not all of it. We became convinced that we had to share, with a level of transparency, authenticity and openness that scared us, all of what interests and moves us. All that goes well and that goes wrong. As we would with our best friends and a bottle of wine.

It is free, but scary. It is a lot of work, but fun. We will give away, and maybe scare away, but it fits us like a glove. This is how we want to work. We will try to have no secrets, write about the Why, the What, the How, sometimes the Who. We will learn from and work with those people who understand what we stand for: a network of experts who tie their success to the success of others; clients, partners, staff and candidates alike. We will provide value, knowledge and connections without sending an invoice. And we will stop buying attention by advertising, AdWords campaigns or airtime at events. Instead, we will earn it by our content, our successful projects, the success of our clients.

The “bug and beg interruption marketing” is out of the door. Permission marketing is more fun.We meet so many remarkable people, who share our worldview and who want to work with us. There are so many ideas to be shared, people to talk to, new developments and opportunities to be discovered. And besides: I always wanted to be a journalist and photographer.

How to build a company – Network DNA

July 19, 2011

Yesterday I was back in The Netherlands for one day. I had scheduled a couple of meetings, and it turned out to be just the kind of day we were hoping to have several times a week when we decided to start a network enterprise.

At eight I met Hjalmar van der Schaaf, who shared the ideas behind his new company 17rabbits. He is building apps for companies, outsourcing some of the work to Eastern europe. We discussed the apps business and concluded that although building apps is probably something that can soon be done by many people in many places (like building websites; currently mostly done by hobbyists) his forte is creating apps: from concept to execution and integration. They are now actively approaching clients with ideas, such as a small but focussed utility, for whom they are developing a metering app that helps the customers send their meter readings to the supplier, meanwhile giving them more insight in potential savings. Connecting customers is probably the biggest value of apps. If they recognise this, Hjalmar and 17rabbits could be winners.

When Dennis van Alphen walked in we discussed his thesis. He is researching network companies like Qhuba, and he is working with Thomas Blekman, who wrote a book about Effectuation. Based on the original research and publications of Saras Sarasvathy at Carnegie Mellon University, his book is full of real examples of how Entrepreneurs that are successful do not think in terms of causation (striving for control by selecting means to reach a defined goal, based on data from the past, and assumptions about the future) but in terms of possibilities and curiosity: based on given starting point such as Who am I, What do I want and Why, What capabilities do I have and Who do I know, they transform the uncertainties into opportunities and have flexibility as an integral part of their strategies. Sarasvathy called this Effectuation.


Although I have read only a few chapters of the book, it sounds so familiar and is so close to what we are trying to do every day, that I wish I had written this book. Instead, I will spend the rest of the day reading it on the beach, and probably writing about it later this week. Meanwhile we all are eagerly awaiting what Dennis will produce. If his research and writing are done with the same diligence and hard work he has demonstrated while running our Mid Office, high expectations are set.

The third meeting was with HM, the Chief Financial Officer and Managing Director of one of the Netherlands most successful industrial enterprises. Active in more than one hundred countries (and paying taxes in fifty-three) they have managed to maintain a level of pragmatism, entrepreneurial spirit and focus on people that is rarely seen in companies this size, but often seen in private companies, especially those that have not moved to the big cities, but risk is a day-to-day reality for HM, on many levels. Currently the company has projects and assets stuck in Middle Eastern countries, due to political instability, it has a constant risk of staff in many countries making decisions that might prove to have negative effects, and obviously foreign exchange rate is a continuous challenge. Instead of trying to capture all these risks in model, creating a false sense of security by making them measurable, and mitigating them through processes and procedures HM works on the basis of trust, allowing mistakes, but insisting on learning from them and on the basis of playing close on the ball and adapting where necessary. Sounds familiar? Of course, the foreign exchanged risks is hedged, on insistence of the banks. The same banks that trade foreign currencies, thus creating the risk. The same banks that, without having a real product, make a profit from the hedging service. These kinds of schemes drive HM to madness. Don’t get him started on how only forty percent of people create something that is new and valuable, such as products or services, and the rest maintains schemes that only take: banks, the tax departments, lawyers, accountants, insurance companies. In fact: do get him started. He knows what he is talking about. Working in a global setting, he also has strong opinions and feelings about globalisation, work ethics and education. Although seemingly controversial, they make a lot of sense, because they stem from practical experiences from working with Dutch managers, Indian application designers, Chinese engineers. And the good part, of something needs to be done in his eyes, he actually does it, and currently plays a role in the Dutch education system in the area where his company is located.

The fourth meeting, in our office in Utrecht was with Edwin Kalischnig. Edwin, formerly with Philips and Oracle, now an entrepreneur in the field of RFId and NFC solutions addresses his issue of not yet having enough clients for this innovative technology (although he has a launching customer), has decided to put his capabilities to use and look for interim assignments. He can help companies to make innovation a driving force in their strategy.

Meanwhile I received calls and e-mails from Daphne Reurslag, a ling time friend who works for Successfactors (who have created a SaaS platform for Strategy Execution), connecting me to the HR Director of a large utility who has questions about a SAP HR project, from a former airline CIO, to introduce a candidate, and from Kees Engel, the CEO of Quion, for a catch-up meeting. Kees by the way is a guy with unexpected interests: he collects guitars and hotrods.

So I met with a potential partner, a professional on the payroll, a client, a candidate or associate, external partner with a client opportunity all friends. All Qhubans in our definition. So what do all these people have in common? They share characteristics that we call the Qhuba DNA. They do what they find important, they have a sense of purpose. We call them URUC: Unconventional, Reliable, Uncompromising and Connected. Unconventional is good. it means that someone has his own way of looking at the world, and realises that his views may differ from what convention, or the procedure prescribes. Reliability is a sanity factors, but not always found where you expect it. Reliable people are transparent, they like to share, and have no hidden agendas. This does not imply that they can or will not take political decision, but if they do, they do it with a purpose, not out of self-interest. Uncompromising may sound inflexible. What we mean is, uncompromising to principles that guide their professional and personal life. That do not pursue lost causes, they do not try to win just for the sake of winning. They are prepared not to do things or to stop doing things, or making things, or selling that are not right, or just plain wrong. If it looks like shit and it smells like shit, it usually is shit. And they all understand the value and fun of being connected, of knowing people, of finding peers, of doing things together, of sharing ideas, enthusiasm, knowledge, opportunities.

They are our tribe.

I have made a follow-up appointment with Hjalmar, scheduled a meeting with Kees, promised HM to invite him to our WhatsQooking events, and offered to work with him on finding talent for his organisation and share experiences on global rollouts, I will introduce Edwin and the other candidate to our recruiters, and connected the Utility HR Director to Peter Rappange , who runs our PPM practice and has many years experience a SAP HR programme manager. And now, before anything else, I will see what we still have in the kitchen and in the fridge, cook a meal for wife and kids, definitely bake a chocolate pie, and then read that book. That is effectuation, too.

How to build a company – Individualism, Collectivism or Tribalism

July 15, 2011

A company like ours, like many others, is based on a shared believe, a shared purpose, a shared DNA maybe even, shared interests and a place or a platform to meet, to work together, to communicate.

When we started we thought about what we had in common, why we would want to say goodbye to well paid corporate careers  would make us happy. We came to the conclusion that all of us were URUC: Unconventional, Reliable, Uncompromising and Connected. These characteristics we thought made us fit to start something together. The first year we had only two KPIs to measure our success:

  • did we feel at least three or four times a week, when driving home, feel to unstoppable urge to grab the phone, call each other and start rambling “Did you know what I did today”. Or to ask a question, ask for help or share a name and number of someone we should talk to.
  • was the bill of our monthly “first Thursday piss-up”  higher than the month before? If we operate in a network of like-minded people, at least we should be able to get them to gather at our own bar and have a drink together. If not what kind of movement did we start.
Creating and maintaining this cohesion – not only between the professionals who joined us, but also between the larger group of people, with whom we feel we also have a lot in common, such as clients, candidates, partners takes a lot of effort and not always easy if only because, although we are connected through shared interests and ideas, we also al have different ambitions and desires. Where I found we differ most is in our horizon: Some have short terms goals and ambitions, some longer term. The shorter term, the more autonomy, the longer term the more unity. There is no need for alignment. We just focussed on what we had in common.

Recently we had a workshop about work2.0. When writing a blog about this I did some research on one of the Speakers, Willem de Jager, of the E-work Foundation. This foundation started in the ’90s as an offspring from a project of the Dutch Ministry of Transport to prevent traffic jams and gridlock. Now they are very vocal advocated of work2.0. Of course by now new drivers to implement this e-working have been added such as reductio of cost and pollution, as well as increased productivity of staff. This in itself is probably more wishful thinking than an evidence-based reality, but what surprised me was that this perceived benefit was directly linked not to collaboration or a result-focussed employer-employee relation, but to the notion of Individualism:

I have to quote de Jager: “Around seven years ago, we lived in the West with the idea that our knowledge was light-years ahead of economies in for example Southeast Asia . There was some complacency about China having an economy the size of a country like Italy. (…) Now the knowledge gap is dwindling. Within a few years, our economies are overtaken by the BRIC countries.” And here it comes: “Our strength has always resided in individualism versus collectivism, in trade and entrepreneurship.The Vikings began in 900 with discovery, we knew the Hanseatic cities, the colonial powers and so on. The industrialization of the 19th century was a trend. From then were encapsulated and enterprising people started their services in exchange for a salary. We live in 2010 still with the consequences. The current system makes business very difficult. The essence of e-working to me is freeing people from their 20th century shackles. It offers new possibilities and opportunities for entrepreneurial-minded people inside and outside organizations.”

Now I am confused: is e-working, entrepreneurship, new organizational forms such as the Network Organisations supposed to push us back to the time of the Vikings and Colonies? For me How we work is a consequence of Why we do the things we do. We believe in working together with peers, sharing knowledge, ideas, contacts, access. Most companies are organised in the same way the military is. Pyramid shaped organisations with strict lines of command, and a workforce that is, same as in the army a collective with rules and procedures, and limited room freedom. Individualism is not the answer. CEOs are usually fairly individualistic, even narcistic. Antoinette Rijsenbil has done some interesting research about this amongst S&P500 CEOs. Her conclusions: this behavior might lead to undesirable decisions, even fraud. We have all seen the modern-day pirates on Wall Street (weren’t the Vikings not in essence Pirates, too?).

Our answer is the network. The expert-network, the network-company. Still there needs to be a structure, and leadership, but these can be adapted to the crowd we want to work with.

Seth Godin calls this “Tribes”, and he has written a book about it. 

Seth Godin defines a tribe as a group of people, with a shared interest, a way to communicate, and some form of leadership. Were I used to define Leadership as “VICTIM” (Vision, Inspiration, Connection, Traction, Interest, Momentum, Success), Seth Godin states: “Everyone is now also a leader”. Or: can be, because most of us are stuck acting like managers or employees, embracing factories instead of tribes. In his terms, factories are those places or organisations that crank out a product or a service, make the output measurable, and try to reduce costs. Places where your boss tells you what to do and how to do it. In these places there are no motivated people working together, and no excited clients waiting to get in. Factories can appear safe and comfortable, especially for those climbing in the hierarchy, until (The Peter Principle) everyone ends up in a job he can’t handle. Or in Seth Godin’s words: “in every organisation everyone rises to the level at which they become paralyzed with fear.”

Management is for factories, but since you can only manage activities, not people, tribes need leadership. His thesis:

  • Everyone in an organisation is expected to lead
  • It is easier than ever to change things
  • The marketplace is rewarding organisation and individuals who change things and create remarkable products and services
  • It is engaging, thrilling, profitable and fun
  • There is a tribe of fellow employees, customer, investors, believers, hobbyist or readers waiting for you to connect them to one another
So what should  a leader do? What are we trying to accomplish: we want to transform the shared interests into goals, provide support and tools for members to connect, communicate and flourish and we try to find the levers for our tribe to grow. Our challenge – or obligation –  is to activate all existing and potential Qhubans, which include our friends, our clients, our candidates, our staff, our associates, our partners, and make sure they in turn can be the leaders they choose to be.

The Qhuba Clubhouse

Meanwhile the amount of people coming to the monthly drinks-and-snacks events (as well as our What’s Qooking events) rise month after month, so that is a good sign. Shared interests can also include an interest in food and wine, apparently. Come to think of it, if having a place to work together, to connect with the people we care about is a crucial factor, we should probably share this place, too. Anyone who feels connected to Qhuba is invited to participate in our clubhouse, and together turn it into a real network cafe. More about that shortly.

How to build a company – Work2.0

July 13, 2011

The easiest way to implement “the New Way of Working”, “Work2.0” or however we call the modern, web-enabled, collaborative, flexible work environment is to start from scratch. The easiest way to start from scratch is to begin with a purpose (the Why, or the Plan), than start thinking about the How, than the What. Office space, flexibility, result-oriented working all fall in place. Usually a startup grows from home or from the garage. In our case, in a converted horse stable.

The Qhuba Boardroom2.0

The Qhuba Boardroom2.0

We did not want to own an IT infrastructure, so we outsourced everything from Day 1. Everyone could pick his own device, arrange his own internet access, and share applications, files, collaboration tools online. After one year we began hiring some staff, and needed a place for them to work physically together. We hired a room and a meeting room at a law firm upgraded the internet connection and that was that. At the moment, with fifty people, we share eight workspaces, we have a meeting room for interviews and a boardroom for sixteen. I bet when we have a hundred people, we won’t need more than this.

We have  a clearly defined strategy, we have goals, we have people responsible for those goals, and we all go to work. Whenever, however and wherever we want. Work2.0 is a reality for us.

How different is this for most of our clients. They usually have more workspaces than staff, they cringe for reduction, a greener footprint, increased productivity, and more collaboration and innovation.

Recently we organised and hosted an open discussion about this New Way of Working (or Het Nieuwe Werken) as most companies call it, with participant from companies such as Alliander, KLM, KPN. Not having any ready made solution for their challenges, the first question we asked was to share what they expected to take away from the discussion, as well as to indicate which discipline they represented in their company. Of course, for each participant the definition of NWW and the reasons for their companies to embark in a NWW project were different, so we agreed

  • to try to come to a shared understanding of what work2.0 really stands for
  • to get an insight in the real goals and gains of implementing work2.0

The common denominator for starting a work2.0 transition seemed to be to radically decrease to number of workspaces and office space (and save money), and meanwhile to unleash the full potential of the Human Capital of the company. The Dutch Government believes that the New Way of Working can “give a positive impulse to stimulation of entrepreneurial behavior, innovation and competitiveness in a globalizing economy”. Read if we want to beat the Chinese we have to change the way we work. No doubt logistical challenges (traffic, gridlock) and environmental considerations (COx, pollution, noise) have also played a role.

Willem de Jager

Willem de Jager

Willem de Jager (from the Government sponsored Teleworkforum) gave us a historical perspective and some hands-on insights.
The starting point for this should be:



  • a discussion about the goal of someone’s job: why does this job exists and what do you think you need to accomplish in relation to the company’s strategy. Once this has been established, the resource should be free to
  • decide what he needs to accomplish that
  • who he needs
  • the employee and his manager should agree on how the result is measured, and what relation there should be between the goals he aims for and the way he is compensated
  • Where and when he works to accomplish his goals can than be up to the individual employee.

As long as employees are rewarded purely based on time (as in: based on the fact that they spend forty hours a week in the office), it makes very little sense to force the employee to spend this time in a location of his choice. In this case the only benefit can be a reduction of office space, but there are a lot of potentially negative effects, such as decreased productivity, employers liability for work related injury at home, et cetera.

Whereas most employment contracts are a balance between authority and instruction, it is dangerous to give up authority over place and time. This should be agreed, on a temporary basis, outside the employment contract.

Conclusions: Work2.0 has many potential benefits, but is first and foremost a change in management culture. Once staff is not hired based on time (presence), but on the basis of goals (output), or even contribution or change (outcome) in relation to an agreed strategy the positive effects have a good chance of outweighing the costs and disruptive effects.

Work2.0 is a daily reality for independent contractors, who are contracted based on results, even though they are sometimes compensated on a time basis.

If part of the transition in to create office spaces with the same quality of environment as people are used to at home, all the better. Employees will be motivated to come to the office and spend time with colleagues, but they will choose to work from other locations or from home when this make more economic sense. interaction with co-workers is important, not only for the company, but also for society. Forty percent of all office workers have dated a colleague, and thirty-one percent have married a colleague.

The nett result can be: happy motivated people, more productive time, less pollution, less office space.

If the research was correct, with fifty people, we some twenty should be dating, and we expect seven marriages. I would be surprised…