Abzoid Handbook

This document speaks to the core values at Abzu, explains briefly our self-managing philosophy, and describes the foundational processes we practice at our company.

This is the list of the “most important” things to know when joining us.

This handbook will not help you with day-to-day practicalities like how to handle purchases and receipts, where to find contracts, or how to hire a new colleague, etc. If you need that sort of information, ask an Abzoid.

Abzu

Abzu was born from the desire to challenge the fundamental assumptions of contemporary, black box AI. Abzu’s pioneering artificial intelligence, the QLattice®, accelerates analysis and insights through transparent and explainable models.

We are focused on creating the best environment possible where people have integrity, a strong sense of responsibility, and collaborate in creative and inspiring ways. We believe and trust in people, their high potential, and inestimable value.

Self-management

Self-management means trusting each employee to autonomously exercise responsibility, accountability, and transparency for tasks in their domain. This description of self-management mirrors our views on artificial intelligence and characterizes what we believe to be the foundation for complex systems.

Instead of a “top-down” hierarchy built of managers and direct-reports, self-managing organizations are built from roles. In making decisions, everyone’s voice  has the same weight, but this does not mean that self-managing organizations have a flat hierarchy.

In short: your job title does not give you power; rather, your responsibility in the company does.

To Abzu, self-management means: 

  • Making a concerted effort to take on responsibility.
  • Specific roles can be broadened in time, and likewise broad roles can become more specific.
  • Complete transparency. In order for self-management to work, you need to have all information available to you. We share all information in Abzu, which basically means: if you need something, ask. 
  • Knowing the level of your contribution and setting your own wage.

To Abzu, self-management does not mean: 

  • Equality. It’s a misconception that a self-managing organization is completely equal. We attribute everyone equal value, but we each differ in the contributions we make to Abzu. Think of these as natural hierarchies that may come and go instead of traditional power hierarchies.
  • Consensus. Everyone should not be involved in all decisions and agree on the course of action.

Processes

Self-management has structures, processes, and rules. In Abzu, we strive to only have the processes needed, but all documented processes  strengthen “power with” vs. “power over”.

There are two key processes that we want to describe in detail for Abzu as a self-managing company.

Advice

How we take decisions

The advice process captures the locality of self-management. This means that more decisions are taken at the individual and team level rather than at the company level.

In making decisions, everyone has the same power, but broader roles may be included in more decision processes.

At the very basic level, the advice process means communicating your proposal for change to the people that you think will be affected by it. The advice process is quick and easy to use, and only a few considerations are needed:

  • The bigger the consequence of the decision, the more people (and from a more representative cross section) you should involve.
  • Seek out expert opinions.
  • Don’t seek consensus; seek a good, sound decision.
  • Consider how hard it is to reverse the effects of your decision.
  • Remember that you are only getting advice. Advice can be disregarded, and it is fully in your right to do so.
  • You choose who to involve in the advice process. This means that you are entrusted to look for valuable inputs. Be sure to challenge your normal “echo chamber” in the process!

Conflict resolution

How we handle conflicts

We encourage a culture where tensions or conflicts are brought to the surface. This means that we handle conflict as a way to reach understanding, inspire creativity, and learn about our differences. 

At Abzu, we have the following process for people in conflict: 

  • First, they sit together and try to sort it out privately.
  • If they can’t find a solution agreeable to both, they nominate a colleague they trust to act as a mediator. The mediator doesn’t impose a decision. Rather, he or she supports the participants in coming to their own solution.
  • If mediation fails, a panel of topic-relevant colleagues is convened. Again, the panel does not impose a solution, but supports the participants in coming to their own solution.

Feedback

A healthy self-managing organization thrives on feedback. Feedback is intended to affirm good decisions and methods, but also to constructively suggest what could be done better. Feedback also helps you navigate and understand what you contribute and how you collaborate with others. It should never be used to put someone down or assert dominance. 

We have not yet found the best method for our feedback process. We think a big reason behind this is that the giving and receiving of feedback is a very personal experience. What is right for one person might not be received well by another. Our realization is that feedback is important, and we are working to define a process. 

We think that:

  • Feedback can be a quick remark at the end of a meeting or a longer discussion with one of your colleagues. 
  • We encourage partaking in feedback often, but recognize that there will be dry spells.
  • Giving well-meant feedback is always a step in the right direction.

Learning is power!Resources

To find out more about self-management, go read “Reinventing Organizations” by Frederic Laloux, or check out the Reinventing Organizations Wiki.