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Horizontal Bord&Stift: how do we make decisions?

Bord&Stift is organized horizontally. We believe that together it’s possible to keep a business running without managers. By placing the decision-making with employees themselves, you keep them creative, involved and happy. But if no one is “the boss”, how do you ensure that everything runs smoothly?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018, our annual year-end brainstorm is almost over. After a day full of presentations on, among other things, finances and the distribution of work, we do a “soapbox round”. Does anyone have anything to say?

As a Team Horizon member, Charlotte wants to present something to us. Meetings like this are there to keep everyone informed of the ins and outs of Bord&Stift. This openness is important: within a horizontal organization, everyone can introduce a change and participate in this, but everyone must be kept informed. Of the approximately 30 employees, 23 are present today. The meetings are not mandatory. What if someone never comes? Do we find that bad? Should we oblige people to come, because that is good for the horizontal aspect of the organization, or does that actually go against that horizontal aspect?


Making decisions like this is a puzzle for us. Because even though Charlotte has set up Bord&Stift, she has no more to say in relation to these kinds of issues than the other employees. How do we do that, make decisions?

A project planner, writer, illustrator, editor and voice-over are involved in the production process of the films. Together they are responsible for a video and make decisions about it in consultation with each other. In addition, there are also all kinds of operational management tasks that need to be done and other internal projects that are running. Because there are no managers who set out lines and make decisions, Bord&Stift has set up teams around certain projects or themes. There is “Team Money”, “Team Marketing”, “Team Feedback”, “Team Innovation”, etc. The teams operate independently: they come up with projects and implement them. Everyone can join a team, but you’re expected to be fully involved. People outside the team trust that it has been properly organized and staffed.


With decisions that affect everyone’s way of working or for larger expenses, the teams present a proposal to the entire group. Decision-making is based on consent: teams don’t ask for approval, but listen to objections. Other Bord&Stifters are given a certain amount of time to come up with questions and comments. Major themes are discussed during the regular meetings that we have every other month. If nobody comes up with objections, the plan is put into operation.

In everything we do we try to keep in mind: what is the “Bord&Stift” way? Our mission is to make the world more understandable, in a pleasant and positive way. Our core values ​​are: equality, freedom and responsibility, involvement, solution orientation and transparency. When making decisions, we return to that base, to the mission, the values ​​and the agreements that we have established with each other.


If we tell people that we all have an equal say, they often assume everyone wants to say something about everything. That there are always 30 people in the room struggling to make decisions, feeling like you’re trying to run through treacle. That’s not true. The fact that everyone can be involved with everything doesn‘t mean that they are. Employees join teams if they are intrinsically motivated, want to learn more about something and feel that they can contribute. Because everyone can have their say, group trust is created and there is less draw for everyone to be involved in every decision. There is no “fear of being screwed”; fear that things will be quietly discussed  in a back room. With large decisions, everyone has the opportunity to object in principle.

The knack

What we have decided about the mandatory attendance at meetings? As involvement is our top priority (after all, it is one of our core values!), we want everyone to be there at least half the time. And if that doesn’t work, we will consult. How can you stay up to date? And do you actually have enough time and space for Bord&Stift? Working with us is not just about tricks, whether that’s planning, writing, drawing or editing. As a Bord&Stift member, you and your colleagues ensure that the company actually runs. And we’re quite proud of that.