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Flat management structure promotes productivity, retention at DreamHost
Eliminating chain-of-command helps California web-hosting company achieve goals
By operating with a flat management structure, Southern California-based DreamHost is enhancing productivity and employee retention, says Brett Dunst.

Dunst, who has been an employee at the Brea, California web-hosting company since 1999, says the company’s horizontal management structure ensures that every employee has their voice heard and their concerns addressed, promoting a constant flow of ideas and encouraging people to want to work for the organization.

To promote productivity, the company eliminates the concept of having a chain of command, which Dunst and managing partner Dallas Kashuba say is working well.

For example, if a team member is working on a project that might be related to a project another employee is working on, the two can join together to pool their efforts without having to consult with a supervisor.

“That actually happens quite a bit,” says Dunst.

“Employees are all really happy with the setup because they can get so much more accomplished. It’s really worked out well for us.”

He adds that the lack of chain of command at DreamHost means the most junior employee is free to speak with one of the four managing partners — or “head honchos,” as they’re known — about any issue without having to consult with their supervisor.

It’s a system which has worked well in achieving its goal of creating an enjoyable working environment and keeping people engaged, says Dunst.

“I think it has been really successful as far as retention is concerned in keeping employees interested in the company.”

To ensure DreamHost — which has about 80 team members working in three offices in the Los Angeles area — has a flat management structure, employees work in an open-office environment and everyone is staunchly “anti-cubicle,” notes Dunst.

Although there are some offices for managing partners, the doors are always open and employees are welcomed to come in at any time.

The success of this management model speaks for itself, says Kashuba.

“We’ve been told several times that this is the best job people have ever had.”

DreamHost is one of 25 international companies named to the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces for 2008.

WorldBlu is an Atlanta-based company specializing in organizational democracy.

More information on DreamHost can be found on the company’s website www.dreamhost.com.

More information on WorldBlu can be found at www.worldblu.com.

— Part 3 of a three-part series

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