Can Companies Successfully Operate without a CEO?
by Yumi Clevenger
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) asked that very question during recent interviews with Doug Woods, co-founder and the D in DPR, and Matt Murphy, who is part of the Texas Business Unit Leadership team.
How does DPR do it? What are the benefits? What are the challenges?
The benefits were easy to articulate: increased collaboration, enhanced decision-making at all levels, greater opportunities for leadership, and a highly engaged workforce. Employees are empowered and trusted to make decisions. The focus is on roles, responsibilities and experience—versus titles, bureaucracy and power. That’s what it feels like to work at DPR.
The Wall Street Journal interviewed DPR's Doug Woods and Matt Murphy about shared leadership for the December 14, 2016 print and online editions.
The challenges, however, while slightly more difficult to accurately convey, are what builds the character of DPR from deep within.
In the WSJ article, Woods mentions that the Management Committee arrives at decisions together, sometimes after “a lot of argument,” but claims the company is better off with consensus.
To some, arguing or conflict is seen as a negative. In the culture of DPR, it’s a positive. We have groups of leaders, who are passionate, engaged, and openly and respectfully express/debate various points of view to arrive at the best direction for the company. It is by thoughtful design and this commitment to brutal honesty and transparency that helps build trust with all who have the opportunity to work here.
Shared leadership focuses on combining the strengths of people to produce high-performing teams ready to build great things. DPR's Management Committee includes (top row) Mike Ford, Greg Haldeman, George Pfeffer, Eric Lamb, (bottom row) Mike Humphrey, Michele Leiva, Peter Salvati and Jody Quinton.
For Murphy, who previously worked for more traditionally structured construction companies before joining DPR in 2013, it’s a “breath of fresh air” that has helped the Texas region thrive and grow into a tri-city, $1 billion operation.
“In the traditional model, you get one person’s direction or opinion. At DPR, you get lots of opinions and advice but no one person tells you what to do. At the end of the day, it’s your decision to make and you take responsibility for that decision,” said Murphy. “The Management Committee gives us all the tools we need and trusts us to make it happen.”
That’s the level of trust you need if you want to operate without a CEO.
DPR’s collaborative spirit is exemplified through shared leadership. It began with DPR’s three co-founders, Doug Woods, Peter Nosler and Ron Davidowski in 1990, and continues with DPR’s Management Committee and throughout the company.
Posted on December 15, 2016
Last Updated August 23, 2022