Automattic is one of the largest fully distributed companies in the world. It is most well known for WordPress.com and the contributions to the opensource platform WordPress. They currently have over 1300 employees and are growing quickly.
In March of 2020, I heard Matt talk about the future of work on Sam Harris’ podcast which I would highly recommend. (Links in resources)
The part which stayed with me was his break down on the five levels of autonomous organizations and how organizations progress through the levels.
I will quickly go through the levels which you can read about in more detail from Matt’s own blog where he goes through them in detail.
Level 1 – Can’t be away from the office for more than a few days
At this level, the company has no infrastructure in place to promote distributed work. The assumption is that all work needs to be done in the office. Constraints like VPN or in-person discussions with no online presence make it nearly impossible to work outside of the office.
Level 2 – Basic tools in place without any supporting structure
Most companies find themselves at this point where they have tools like Zoom/Slack/Teams. However, everything needs people online at the same time. Very little effort has been put to support any asynchronous work.
Level 3 – Investing in processes and tools to promote async work
At this level, companies have begun to start putting in processes that support async processes. A proper wiki/documentation culture is in place and people have the option to not be in every meeting and still know what happened. Companies such as HOV find themselves with a foot in this level and another one in Level 4.
Level 4 – Completely embracing async processes as the norm
Companies at this level can hire from anywhere in the world. If the company has invested heavily in handoff processes you could theoretically be working 24 hours a day with people from all around the world. There is deep trust with the people you work with and complete transparency as to who is responsible for what.
Level 5 – Nirvana
In Matt’s framework, this is the aspirational level. Where your company would consistently perform better than any in-person organization could. Where everyone at the company would have a rich life at and outside work.
I was reflecting on where Identifi sits in the framework today. It is squarely in taking organizations from Level 2 and 3 and getting them to Level 4 ideally or a high level 3.
In the episodes linked below Matt talks about a lot of custom software that they run internally to have enabled them to scale to Level 4. I believe that is where the opportunity for Identifi is and the product we are building addresses many of the pain points companies will have with the progression.
Matt’s original article outlining his framework. It goes into more detail on each of the levels and provides some good links to resources for you to read up more on.
This is a far-ranging discussion on the future of work. Matt has a front-row seat to this new world and talks about many trends he sees coming.
Shane Parish recently had Matt on his podcast and it was a great discussion where he speaks about the levels as well as the drawbacks of distributed work. I particularly enjoyed this discussion and there are some great takeaways that I will document later.