Detox, delegate, hack your culture

Humanocracy, the book by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini, presents the research and the practices that help build organizations that foster freedom and responsibility. Here’s part 5 on how to detox, delegate, and hack your culture.

Positive leadership means serving your teams with a focus on what goes well and helping them achive “positive deviance” or high performance. The principles from Humanocracy are a big help for all leaders who want to develop a positive, productive culture.
My Positive Culture Academy says what Hamel says: Just start! Don’t wait for bureaucrats to dismantle bureaucracy…


It begins with owning your part in perpetuating the bureaucracy (and the culture) and taking corrective action. This means actively committing to human agency, dignity, and growth. Getting “woke” means more than bashing the system; it means transforming it to respect our humanity again. Hamel and Zanini offer great Detox questions. Some examples are:
Did I subtly undermine a rival?
Did I hold on to power when I should have shared it?
Did I fake enthusiasm for one of my boss’s ideas?
Did I unfairly deflect blame or claim credit?
and there’s more! I suggest you read Humanocracy.
Next, find yourself a few partners that you trust and ask for their support while you improve your behaviors.


Hamel and Zanini suggest to delegate more as well. For instance, give your team members more power. Just ask them: What am I doing that feels like an interference or adds no value? What am I doing that you could do better?
Next, you can facilitate the team’s direction setting and strategy – and let them decide on priorities as well. Ask team members what they want to learn and support and coach them.
Give team members time to liaise with other teams or send them to your meetings in your place… Be courageous and let go!
There are many more examples in the book: all detox and delegation steps that leaders can take within an existing hierarchy.

Hack the culture

It’s easy to think that someone else should take the lead in busting bureaucracy. But, as I explain in my book Positive Culture, everyone can be an influencer and every team is a laboratory.

Think like a hacker: act as if you have permission. It helps to adopt these five hacker’s beliefs:
The world is full of fascinating problems to be solved
No problem should ever have to be solved twice
Boredom is evil
Freedom is good
Attitude is no substitute for competence

Next, the challenge is to do a one-day hackaton with your team. Pick one bureaucratic problem – find the processes and policies that cause it, brainstorm on what would overcome it and run a local experiment. You might be surprised about the energy and ideas unleashed once you ask your team to help you hack the bureaucratic culture. Activists change the world – and organizations!

Hamel and Zanini: “We can do better than this, and we must. We can build organizations as resilient, creative and passionate (and purposeful) as the people who work within them.” I couldn’t agree more!

  • Which of these suggestions appeals to you most?
  • What would you like to delegate or hack?

© Marcella Bremer, 2021. All rights reserved.

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