How ISAO works ~Super Flat Organization


My name is Keiji Nakamura, CEO/Managing Director here at ISAO.
Since this is my first post in ISAB, I’d like to explain how our company works in organization point of view.
As of October 1st, ISAO is operating under the ‘Super Flat Organization l: 0 management, 0 hierarchy, maximize team power!

What is Super Flat ?

In a Super Flat organization, any employee has the opportunity to join and contribute to any project in the company.
Unlike a traditional organization where participation is limited by team and position title.
It is very flexible system. Projects are formed when necessary and dissolved when it’s over.
As we have been flexible in terms of assignment even before this system started, we used to many transfer notice during a year.
Now we no longer need those notices thanks to Super Flat System.

What’s in a Name?

This kind of decision to adopt a new organizational structure is a big one.
Its name also carries importance, so we polled all employees to see what they wanted to call “going flat”.
We used Goalous, a corporate SNS service we designed, to discuss names:

We’ve got a lot of ideas, then voted by everyone to decide the name.

What to Expect

It goes without saying that one of the first results from going flat will be more efficient management across the organization.

What reduces productivity of the company ?

We thought that hierarchy does.

In hierarchy organization, when we need decision, we report to direct boss for approval. Then he reports to higher boss. This repeats several times until we get final approval.

Can we be fast ? Can the decision be high quality ?

With the Super-Flat system, middle management related tasks usually confined to directors are removed.
So we were able to reduce redundant or excess work and the high production costs they lead to.

Furthermore, by promoting collaborations between groups that were traditionally further apart, new challenges and opportunities began to emerge.

Challenge makes our future, so without these opportunities to grow and evolve an organization can’t help but fall behind.
So we need to create as many opportunities for challenges across the company as possible.

Why Fuss Over Challenges?

When I was brought on board in 2010, ISAO was at a crossroads. It was a loss-leader heading into more and more red.

While we had a staff full of talent and ability,
but the organizational structure at the time didn’t lend itself to gathering and utilizing this strength.

All industries move quickly, especially IT sector has been described as movingin dog years, or even mouse years (even faster!). As time passes at this rate, we must focus on fostering a sense of community within the company and continue to improve upon our core competencies.

As a result of adopting the Super-Flat organization system, we were successful to turn around.

This is in no small part due to the increased investment in new services like Goalous

This success is not the result of my will as a manager calling the shots, telling others what to do.
Instead it’s thanks to everyone in the organization participating and contributing.
That understanding of this organization style challenged us, and pushed us towards success.

ISAO is somewhat influenced by the teachings of Satsuma, which form the basis of our concept of challenges.
As an organization, I feel many of us here relate to these ideals.

“The Order of Person”, Teachings of Satsuma

  1. Those who challenge, and succeed
  2. Those who challenge, and failed
  3. Those who don’t challenge, but help others’ challenges
  4. Those who do nothing
  5. Those who do nothing, only criticize others

Many company evaluate No.5 person higher than No.2, but it never encourage employees to challenges.

It’s wrong way.
Employees would become more conservative.

Make them challenge.
Accept failure !

Hey…aren’t you the CEO? That’s not flat!

While ISAO is a public company, and requires a Managing Director/CEO role, even I participate in many projects as a member while another person lead the project.

There is no manager in Super-Flat.

Instead, there are many people acting as leaders for our various projects.

And most of times, they are self-recommended.

Can “Zero Hierarchy” really be achieved?

“Seems a little far fetched…”

Actually, we’ve heard this sentiment from many people (even inside the company here!).

But ISAO really did it!

We made it happen by adhering to just one law, one driving force:
Mission, Vision, Spirit.

ISAO’s Mission – Why are we here?

To create and spread enjoyment.

ISAO’s Vision – What do we aim for?

To create services that move hundreds of millions of people

ISAO’s Spirit – Our Values

  • Challenge what’s new out there.
  • Be open, be authentic.
  • Honor yourself, love what you do.
  • See the unseen.
  • Trust your team.

The above are all published in our corporate Code of Conduct and respected by everyone here.

We here at ISAO aim to be a world-class company, embracing the values and work ethic of a new era!

With our eyes towards the world, we’re a visionary company out to make work fun!