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This article provides an introduction to the adaptive, human-centered way of working we at B Lab call “ownership culture.” Ownership culture is sometimes called “self-organizing” or “self-management” in other organizations, books, and articles. 

Please keep in mind that this article is not exhaustive; the POps team is happy to answer questions and provide support to teams for any information not covered by this article. Please reach out to us with any questions by opening a new ticket - ticket responses are added to the FAQs section below on a regular basis. 

Ownership Culture at B Lab

What is Ownership Culture?

What is “ownership culture” at B Lab? It refers to the sense of ownership each of us holds for our mission, our work, and our learning/development. It refers to the fact that we each feel a sense of responsibility to that mission, to making the decisions and generating the continuous improvement necessary to get us there. 

Ownership culture is rooted in the idea that because workplaces are complex systems, the relationships and interactions among workers and other components are more important than the individual components themselves. 

Ownership culture is also deeply informed by the concept of people positivity: the idea that our co-workers are internally motivated, enjoy working and contributing, and don’t require carrots and sticks to perform at their best. People positivity expects co-workers to be highly accountable and intentionally collaborative. Putting relationship ahead of tasks in our interactions and fostering psychological safety at work are both signs of people positivity. 

The Ten Principles of Ownership Culture

  1. Purpose-Driven: A well-articulated and inspiring purpose brings together and aligns all stakeholders.
  2. Trust: We seek to establish trusting relationships, and to repair trust when it is strained. We work to foster a sense of “psychological safety” throughout the team.
  3. Wholeness: This shows up two ways. We strive for authenticity by bringing our whole selves to work, and we think and act holistically, employing systems thinking rather than reductionism.
  4. Autonomy: A belief that people and teams should have the freedom to decide what they work on and how they accomplish their work.
  5. Distributed Authority and Accountability: Moving decision-making closer to the edges of the organization increases speed and generates more innovation. With this authority comes accountability, which is practiced through “working out loud.”
  6. Consent: Important in two ways: decisions are made by consent rather than consensus; and everyone has a right to consent regarding their own work and deadlines.
  7. Experimentation and Iteration: As human beings, we’re not very good at predicting the future. So instead of predict-and-control, we shift to sense-and-respond behaviors. We create lots of ‘safe to try’ experiments with feedback loops, and we iterate our way into the future.
  8. Transparency: We don’t need to protect people from sensitive information, rather we need to trust them with that information so they can make better decisions every day.
  9. Learning: Every decision (i.e. every experiment) is an opportunity for individual and organizational learning; so we observe, measure, review and discuss our successes and our mistakes.
  10. Equity: A strong sense of fairness and the removal of privileges supports inclusion and creates balance around opportunity and rewards.

Internal Ownership Culture Resources

The following resources have been carefully curated to help you learn more about and practice ownership culture at B Lab.

External Ownership Culture Resources

If you want to learn more about Ownership Culture here are some resources to check out. Note that outside of B Lab this way of organizing businesses is typically called Self-Management or Self-Organizing. So if you are looking for information on this content on the internet, you will have better results with those terms than searching for "Ownership Culture."

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