Crisp DNA

The inner workings of a rather different consulting company

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Board of directors

Being a Swedish company, we are required to have a board of directors. In most companies, the board is appointed by the owners to represent them so that the management group, headed by the CEO, runs the company according to the directives from the owners and the board.

At Crisp, this works a little differently. First of all, we invite all Crispers to become owners after 2 years, and second, we hold a yearly election of the board members where all Crispers (owners or not) have the right to vote. Since we have gotten rid of the CEO role, and since we have very autonomous consultants, there is really quite little to manage.

What does the board do?

The board have monthly board meetings. The most important responsibilities are to make sure the financial aspect of Crisp is OK and that the Crispers and the office team are happy. The meetings are open for any Crispers to attend if they wish.

Managing the finances involves keeping an eye on the liquidity to be able to do day-to-day business and to aim for a zero result at the end of the fiscal year. See Economic Model for details.

If there is any Crisper with a low score on Happiness Index, a board members takes it upon themselves to call that person and to try and find out what can be done to make the Crisper happier.

This is the template for our monthly board meetings.

  1. Election of meeting secretary, chairman and attestant
  2. Schedule next meeting
  3. Information round
  4. Walk-through of previous protocol and action points
  5. Walk-through of economy
  6. Walk-through of Happiness Index
    • The board creates action points to call any Crispers that have a low score on Happiness Index.
  7. Important calendar events
  8. Are there any blockers for the office?
  9. Free topics
    • Topic suggestions on post-it notes
    • Prioritization
    • Work through the topics

How do we elect the board?

We elect the board annually at the Crisp Unconference in the fall. Our board consists of four people

  1. Chairman
  2. Board member 1
  3. Board member 2
  4. Board alternate

The current election process

Before the election starts, Crispers who volunteer to run for the board of directors put their name up for consideration on a dedicated wall somewhere. Often, there is some flattering going on to encourage people to volunteer. We usually end up with two or three candidates for the Chairman position, and some additional Crispers volunteering to make up the rest of the board.

When it is time for the election, all Crispers gather in a big circle. One of the Unconference facilitators manages the election process, where we elect one member at a time, in the order listed above, using closed voting and relative majority.

For each position on the board:

  1. Any Crisper may nominate any Crisper.
  2. Nominees who accept the nomination are given the opportunity to offer a short motivation for why to vote for them.
  3. Each Crisper casts a vote by writing the name of their favourite candidate on a piece of paper, and putting it in a basket in the middle of the circle.
  4. When everyone has voted, 2-3 people count the votes in front of the group. The candidate with the largest number of votes is announced the winner without further ado.

We repeat this process until all four positions are filled.

Since we vote for one position at a time, we have the possibility to vote for a strong team. Let’s say the chairman is an intuitive agile coach, then, maybe, people will vote for a thoughtful programmer in the next round to balance the team. Past practice that has emerged, the board usually consist of one from our office staff, one programmer and one agile coach.

History and future direction

This process has evolved from trying lots of different ones, here are two examples of former processes:

  • One man nomination committee that talked to everyone to hear their opinion and then put together a suggestion that always got elected.
    • pros: put together a team.
    • cons: lack of transparency, didn’t scale
  • Closed vote, the 3 people with most votes became the board.
    • pros: easy and fair, scales
    • cons: still lack of transparency, not possible to vote for a team only individuals, not all different views would get represented

We are currently looking to change how we elect the board to one based on the Sociocracy election process to get more reasoning about the composition and feedback to the nominated people.