I want to share with you the product of my thought experiment: “If an IT company was a country”. I often conduct thought experiments, but it is the first time I am sharing it publicly, so please do not judge and do not take it seriously :)
I compared some IT companies to five most common political systems in the world (Democracy, Republic, Monarchy, Communism and Dictatorship).
Most startups will be classified as a Monarchy in case of a family business or Dictatorship in case of a joint venture. Mostly because they are founded and ruled by small groups of individuals.
I could not find any examples of Democracies, I have not heard about the company that elects its CEO every four years based on the majority of the employee’s votes. However, one can argue that shareholders elect the company leaders, but it is determined by the size of their portfolio, not like 1 person = 1 vote. So in most cases the biggest shares portfolios are held by small group of people, like ruling elite.
According to my thought experiment, most companies are classified as Communism or Dictatorship.
Firstly, the company leaders are not elected, they are appointed by the ruling elite. The Ruling elite is normally a board of directors, they make the big decisions and only a few people know their names or meet them in person. Appointed governments often consist of all sorts of execs, common examples are: CEO, CFO, CTO, CIO, CMO, CAO, CLO, CPO, CRO etc.
Secondly, there are no private property rights. All the country’s property (buildings, lockers, laptops, phones, software etc) belongs to the government and distributed to the employees based on their titles and entitlements.
Thirdly, most companies have centralised, planned and fully controlled economies. Plans are issued by the governing class and called “Strategy and Budget”. Plans are normally released on a yearly basis. If those plans are executed on time and on budget, citizens will be rewarded with bonuses. The Government owns all resources and redistributes all profits. Most people are expected to perform specific functions and receive fixed income from the government: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. The fixed income comes in the form of salary and bonuses.
Most companies operate under the “Iron curtain”. All visitors and residents (aka employees) are contractually obliged to keep all information secret (in whatever form, including, without limitation, in written, oral, visual or electronic form, or on tape or disk) relating to the country and its business.
Government and agencies
Majority of the large countries are divided into states or territories. Normally, those are called business units or departments. Each of those departments have their appointed leaders, usually they call themselves “Leadership team”. Business units are divided further down.
Country’s military force is normally represented by the legal department. They fight outside of the borders to preserve territorial integrity and protect the country’s economic interests.
The Police and Secret Service is the HR department. It is responsible for law enforcement, holding all citizens accountable to the country’s policies. Some companies might have an equivalent of neighbourhood watch, normally those are the “old-timer” employees who like to remind everyone how things should be done “properly”, but they do not have any official power unlike police.
Emergency services are limited to wardens and first aiders. Most of them however do not receive financial reward for being as such and they share that capability freely for the benefit of everyone else.
In some countries you can find special agencies or committees. Most likely they will be called “working groups”. Members of those committees are appointed by the government or selected on a volunteer basis.
The Bureau of Statistics is again the HR department, but most likely it will not share any “juicy” stats with the general public.
Some governments are open to feedback. Once or twice per year they will run anonymous surveys. Mostly to assure the general public that their voices are heard.
Citizenship, immigration and social structure
Citizens of the country are full and part time employees. Most people obtained their citizenship not by birth (family business are excluded here) but by passing eligibility criteria and a series of tests (interviews). Normally, there are few immigration programs open on a regular basis: hiring qualified workers or special programs for graduates and minorities. Consultants or contractors might be considered as temporary residents on working visas.
Most countries can revoke citizenship at any given time if a person is suspected of terrorist activity (aka broken company’s policy). During harsh economic conditions or as a result of changes in the political structure, citizens can be deported via a mechanism called redundancy.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is again the HR department. They are responsible for issuing citizenship certificates and working visas.
Most societies are organised into classes, commonly called as functions. Citizens are required to do certain jobs according to their function and their upward mobility is somewhat limited. Though there are cases when certain people change their function, the scale of those movements is normally quite small.
Most countries are friendly and maintain good relationships with their neighbours. Those are mostly suppliers and distributors. But like most communist regimes there are public enemies — competitors! Those enemies threaten economic stability and sometimes declare wars (filing lawsuits, sending spies to obtain company secrets etc), so the country has to send the military forces and secret service to fight.
Some countries provide international aid programs to smaller countries via community charitable projects and matching donations programs.
Education and Healthcare
Most big countries have an education system. It normally exists in the form of workshops, sponsored training sessions and sponsored tickets to the various IT conferences. Some companies have specialised programs designed for graduates, interns or underrepresented minorities.
Educational budgets are controlled by the states and set by the government. Some citizens can use them to venture overseas to attend conferences and workshops. Eligibility criteria and usage of those budgets vary by state and can be changed by the government.
The Healthcare system in most cases consists of gym sponsorship, yoga classes and employee assistance programs. Some governments provide “food benefits”, common examples are tea, coffees, fruit baskets, sponsored breakfasts or lunches, celebratory cakes etc.
All formal communication channels are normally controlled by the government. Sometimes there are special departments to control external and internal communications. Large countries commonly have internal communication portals that are filled with propaganda messages like “Peace, Labor, May” (Customer is always right, We value honest feedback, In Agile we trust etc).
Some countries can even have “freedom of speech” — normally it means that every employee is allowed to express their workplace appropriate opinion in communication channels. But in majority of cases the internal communication channels are monitored and can be easily accessed and censored by police (aka HR department).
Like most communist countries most companies do not have an official religion, so technically they are secular. Some countries do have freedom of religion, and Agile is the most common one. It is widely spread across certain functions. Most teams follow very common Agile rituals like daily stand ups. During the stand up the whole team gathers in a circle and discusses how well they progress according to the state plans.
Fortnightly, most teams engage in another popular Agile ritual called “Retrospectives”. These last about an hour and are similar to group confessions or therapy sessions. There are many more Agile religious rituals, like sprint planning, showcases, project kickoffs, post mortem etc.
Holidays and celebrations
Most companies have official holidays, most commonly those are linked to Christmas or start/finish of the new financial year. Some celebrations are mandatory for all citizens to attend and holiday schedules can vary year by year. Based on the set budgets those celebrations can be quite lavish. Often those are advertised in the immigration program to encourage more qualified workers to migrate to the country.
There are many more analogies between a country and a company that I can think of. But this article already has too many words, so I will finish my thought experiment here.
I hope you enjoyed it!