With no hierarchy and no titles, there’s no career ladder to climb at Morning Star. That doesn’t mean everyone is equal. In any area of expertise, some colleagues are recognized as more competent than others, and these differences are reflected in compensation levels. While there’s internal competition, the rivalry is focused on who can contribute the most rather than who gets a plum job. To get ahead an employee must master new skills or discover new ways of serving colleagues. “Around here, there’s no such thing as a promotion,” says Ron Caoua, an IT specialist. “What strengthens my résumé is more responsibility—not a bigger title.”
Moving up is about competency and reputation, not the office you hold.”
At the core of Morning Star’s eccentric yet effective management model is a simple idea: freedom. “If people are free, they will be drawn to what they really like as opposed to being pushed toward what they have been told to like,” says Rufer. “So they will personally do better; they’ll be more enthused to do things.”
Morning Star is a collection of naturally dynamic hierarchies. There isn’t one formal hierarchy; there are many informal ones. On any issue some colleagues will have a bigger say than others will, depending on their expertise and willingness to help. These are hierarchies of influence, not position, and they’re built from the bottom up. At Morning Star one accumulates authority by demonstrating expertise, helping peers, and adding value. Stop doing those things, and your influence wanes—as will your pay.