Zappos is a pioneer company in sale of shoes and clothing online. The company was founded in 1999 by Nick Swinmurn and acquired by Amazon in 2009, although today it maintains independent operation of its parent company.  The company employs over 1,500 people and partially adopted self-management practices in 2013, which were extended to the whole company in 2015.  Zappos is in full transition to self-management.


Research Summary


This research, profiling Zappos, was carried out by Marina Martínez López and supervised by Professor Ana Moreno Romero at Grupo de Investigación en Organizaciones Sostenibles ETSII–UPM. Masters Thesis: Analysis of new organizational models and trends in self-management. Full Thesis.


Scheme of self-management  Nested Teams  Value Chain  Long
Type of previous organization  Start-up that had gained in bureaucracy and rigidity in its growth process
Keys to success
  • Dynamic circle structure: opportunity to easily develop new initiatives and abandon projects that do not generate interest.
  • Gradual implementation of self-management: maintenance of salaries during the transition process, progressive change towards work in circles and the assumption of new roles.
  • People points: System that allows the differentiation of the value of tasks and circles according to their importance for the company.
  • End with people who are not aligned with the new model, offering substantial economic benefits.
Obstacles or inconveniences identified by organizations
  • Endless meetings.
  • Excessive formality of Holacracy procedures.
  • Fall of productivity with the new organization.
  • Lack of volunteers to lead the initiatives.


 Disadvantages perceived making the case
  • Unilateral decision of the CEO.
  • It is a very large company for immediate success, the transformation process could take years.
  • Circles divided into sub-circles: like a hierarchical structure, multiply the governance meetings to which to go.
  • Lack of engagement of employees in the transformation.
  • It continues working with mentalities corresponding to the traditional structure.
  • Using a predefined model, instead of designing a customized system for Zappos.


 CEO´s roles
  • Strong driver of the transition towards self-management: unilateral decision to initiate it.
  • Image of the company: interviews on the evolution of the process of transition, strong defence of the model ...
 Wholeness  Yes  Evolutionary Purpose  Yes


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