In the Pub­lic In­ter­est

METROPOLE - Vienna in English - - CONTENTS - By Jan­ima Nam

Democ­racy re­quires par­tic­i­pa­tion. We looked at how a soft­ware de­vel­oper, a univer­sity pro­fes­sor, a mu­seum di­rec­tor and the vice-di­rec­tor of par­lia­men­tary ad­min­is­tra­tion en­able the body politic to work smoothly.

Chief In­for­ma­tion Of­fi­cer, Ju­mio Soft­ware De­vel­op­ment, Vienna

“In a democ­racy, a leader is re-elected for another term if he works in the in­ter­est of the peo­ple. Here, if I make stupid de­ci­sions, peo­ple would jump ship. In that sense, I’m elected 365 days a year.”

How many soft­ware de­vel­op­ers does it take to change a light bulb? Ac­cord­ing to Alexey Grubauer, 45, that de­pends on the or­ga­ni­za­tional struc­ture and how many lay­ers of man­age­ment a de­ci­sion has to pass through. In his ex­pe­ri­ence, a flat, demo­cratic struc­ture is best. Grubauer worked as a free­lancer in the IT field un­til he landed his first full-time cor­po­rate job in 2008, where he found it dif­fi­cult to fit in. “It was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment. As an ‘em­ployee’ with a ‘boss’, peo­ple needed to have fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives and wanted to climb ca­reer lad­ders. This to­tally didn’t fit my mind­set,” he re­called. At another com­pany, he in­tro­duced the “scrum” ap­proach on a project, which or­ga­nizes peo­ple into self-suf­fi­cient teams with­out the in­ef­fi­cient bu­reau­cratic layer of mid­dle man­age­ment. Af­ter a change in man­age­ment at that com­pany, Grubauer was re­cruited by the Aus­trian sub­sidiary of Ju­mio, a Sil­i­con Val­ley-based startup, in 2011. When the par­ent then had to go through a re­struc­tur­ing in 2015, Grubauer jumped at the chance to im­ple­ment what he had learned, re­mov­ing the line man­agers and set­ting up “boats,” in­de­pen­dent project teams. “In a sense, I turned the or­ga­ni­za­tion of our branch around, but by 90 de­grees,” Grubauer said. “So I don’t sit at the top of the chain of com­mand, rather here at the side, where my job is to fa­cil­i­tate and cre­ate the best work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.” In this way, team mem­bers don’t look to a leader or man­ager who “has all the an­swers,” rather they solve prob­lems them­selves. This way, he taps into peo­ple’s “in­trin­sic mo­ti­va­tion – ig­nit­ing a fire in their minds so they want to make an im­pact.” This demo­cratic ap­proach to the com­pany struc­ture ap­plies to ev­ery­thing from hir­ing and fir­ing, which each “boat” does for it­self, to salaries, which are based on mod­els that the em­ploy­ees help de­velop. For Grubauer, this col­lab­o­ra­tive way of work­ing can be ap­plied to ev­ery­thing. “Even re­plac­ing a light bulb should not just be some­thing that’s passed off to some­one else,” he said, look­ing up at the light fix­ture. Notic­ing that it had no bulb, we both had to laugh.

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