Say goodbye to the CEO for good

Jimmy Janlén says workers are more motivated at CEO-less tech consulting firm Crisp, because they are all in charge.
Employees of Swedish CEO-less company, Crisp. (Crisp)

How important is it for a company to have a Chief Executive Officer?

Not so much.

That's the view of Crisp, a Swedish software consulting firm. They got rid of their CEO four years ago, and they're not the only one. Numerous companies have been turning toward non-hierarchical, leaderless structures.

Jimmy Janlén is a consultant at Crisp. They used to elect a CEO every second year, until one day they asked themselves: "What if we elected no CEO? What impact would that have?"

They were used to having a self-organizing structure, and decided that many of the CEO's responsibilities could be distributed amongst the staff. "It was a very simple vote," Jimmy says. 
Jimmy Janlen (Crisp)

With 40 staff members, how do they go about making big decisions without a CEO?

"This is our home, so we have to take care of it together," he says.

Small decisions can be made by anyone, whereas bigger decisions are made together at bi-annual meetings.

Crisp still has a board that's legally in charge of keeping track of finances.

"We rely on them to keep track of our economy, but most important, we have something called a happiness index," Jimmy explains. "We don't measure success in terms of profit, we measure success in how happy members of Crisp are."

What are the advantages of not having a CEO?

"Things move faster. There's more people who have the authority or feel the responsibility to make decisions when needed to," says Jimmy. "It has also distributed the sense of ownership, so more people feel committed to making this place work better."

It's worth noting that Crisp is not a profit-maximizing company. Jimmy acknowledges that it might not work for every company, but he has seen a lot of startups inspired by their model.

"It has slowly been proven that not every decision has to run through a hierarchy of power," he says.

How does Crisp function with no CEO or bosses? Here's a link to their open-source model.


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