I work for a company called Go Free Range which is unusual in that it's a cooperative of developers each with an equal stake in the company. The company is run on a very democratic basis - we have no CEO, no managers - in fact no bosses at all!
While this has a lot of advantages (e.g. nobody telling you to do disagreeable things), it also has potential difficulties. One of the more obvious difficulties we face is that of making decisions.
Our democratic vision for the company means that decisions have to be reached by consensus. This can often be pretty time consuming and it's easy to become frustrated at a perceived lack of progress, but I believe that on average we end up with better decisions and (probably more importantly) decisions that everyone has agreed. In the words of Winston Churchill:
Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
Randomness to the rescue
About 18 months ago, we realised that deciding who was going to do a particular administrative chore was taking up too much of our time and was distracting us from more interesting things. The most obvious solution would have been a rota, but instead my colleague, James Adam, wrote a Ruby script which selected one of us at random to take responsibility for invoicing our clients and announce this selection via an email to everyone.
While this sounds like a simple idea, it's actually had a major impact on our company. We now have thirteen different recurring tasks which are assigned this way. One of the most visible effects has been the company week-notes. We've now written up notes for over 60 consecutive weeks, which I think is no mean feat. It's also helped streamline many of our repetitive administrative chores and freed us up to spend more of our time and energy on the more fun and creative aspects of our work.
The Ruby script has now evolved into a web application called Harmonia. We started to think that others might find it useful and so we've decided to open it up for others to use. If you think it might be of interest, then please sign up now, so we can send you an invitation. We'd love you to take it for a spin and give us your feedback.