B-Corp Series: Tristan Louis
When I talk about ways to make decision-making more inclusive, I’ve noticed that people either perk-up…or look overwhelmed. But the leaders who always want to talk about decision-making are B-Corp executives. B-Corp executives are a special breed.
Why? B-Corp certification for your for-profit company requires you to go through an assessment that measures how you operate with respect to your people, your partnerships, and your impact on the planet.
B-Corp executives are a special breed.
B-Corp executives are attuned to the people in their companies. And they’re attuned to the decisions they make, because they’ve had to look carefully at the ways their choices create a net social impact. Attunement is “baked into” being awarded a B-Corp certification.
They’re attuned to the decisions they make, because they’ve had to look carefully at the ways their choices create a net social impact.
B-Corp executives are the cohort of people who are leading the way by being conscious about their decision-making cultures.
And I thought you should meet a few of them:
CEO, Casebook PBC
Tristan Louis is not just a software executive with a history of thought leadership and success. He’s someone who thinks carefully about how things are structured, and views structure as a building block towards creating something great.
His latest company is called Casebook PBC. It’s creating a new way to understand how people who work in government can deliver services to people who need significant help—like people who are experiencing homelessness or substance abuse.
Says Tristan, “Our job is to enable caseworkers to understand a client’s data in real-time—specifically, what has already been tried, what has worked or not worked.”
What’s unusual about the Casebook insights is that they are people-centered. Casebook is organized around the person, not the software.
“We want to understand a person’s history of services, but also the linkages they have. Who is this person’s community? Who can support them? We know from years of research that a person will have a better chance of not relapsing if they are connected to people in their community.”
Casebook PBC is a Public Benefit Corporation¹ and a B-Corp. Everyone in the organization are dedicated to its mission of chipping away at poverty through the use of technology. As a team, they value collaboration, trust, and transparency.
Decision-making at Casebook represents a blend of autonomy and structure. “We want the majority of our company decisions to be made at the middle of the organization. That’s where decision-making is most efficient and effective.” The senior leadership team sets a direction and then makes sure that people have all the information they need to make a decision. “As a staff member, you need to move forward with our vision in mind and our values in mind—but you need to feel free to make decisions. We want people to have a sense of freedom.”
That said, there is a senior leadership team which makes the toughest decisions for the company (and the CEO is the deciding vote on these decisions about 2-3 times per year). The team is small, and consists of Tristan and the heads of Product, Technology, Sales and Legal. “In a typical software company, the CEO is the decider. In our case, we work as a leadership team to solve problems and make decisions. I make a few selected decisions, but the majority comes to the team itself.”
Still, these are not a lot of decisions. The only decisions the team tackles are ones that people in the middle of the organization cannot make, or ones that are cross-functional and may represent inherent conflict in the organization. And the process is straight-forward; if a decision is surfaced to the senior leadership team, it is debated within the team, and then the decision goes to the person most affected by it—that is, the person who has to make it work and is most affected by it.
Regular communication also plays a big role in decision-making. Casebook has regular meetings and they are structured. “We are very big about talking to each other about what we are doing. And we find that we get so much more out of our meetings because they are structured. People know the meetings are happening, so they can count on them as vehicles for raising issues, and they can do so without fear of retribution.” The establishment of regular meetings creates clarity, certainty, and participation.
Casebook also has a monthly demo day where they demonstrate progress, talk about what’s they’ve learned, and review how they made decisions. The organization also holds an all-hand face-to-face offsite 2-3 times yearly to get input from all team members around issues relevant to the organization as a whole. “What these sessions do is build trust and a sense of togetherness—it’s us, together, against the world. Our larger goal is to build a platform that deals with all of human services more globally. It’s a tall order. But together, we believe it’s possible.”
¹ A Public Benefit Corporation is a legally recognized type of corporation, whereas the B-Corp designation is a certification that can be awarded to any type of legal business entity.