Here’s what I learned from Jos de Blok of Buurtzorg

Edwin van der Geest   •   May 29, 2017

Earlier, I explained why we are moving towards a self-managed organisation. We still have a long way to go. And we continue to seek inspiration from the best sources possible.

Recently, we held a Leadership Bootcamp at Incentro. Each Bootcamp tries to stimulate mental and physical growth in a balanced program. The theme this time was Self Management, and what we at Incentro can learn about it.

The keynote speaker was Jos de Blok from Buurtzorg. He leads the best example of a self-managed organization we know. Plus, it was a personal bucket list item of mine to meet him. He was inspiring. Here are my top-six eye-openers from this session.



From day one, Buurtzorg had this purpose: “Helping home-based patients become healthy and autonomous”. This is clear to everyone in the company. Even better, everyone wants to offer the best possible healthcare to deliver on this purpose.

For Incentro, our mission is digital happiness. We believe that happy incentronauts (colleagues of incentro) deliver excellent results. A clear mission, but not yet a purpose.


Traditional organisations are unnecessarily complex: lots of staff, many departments, conflicting targets and interests. It is a lot to manage. To simplify your business, organise within teams. For example, to make your service offering easier, make the hourly rates more equal, stop some services, and focus on the ones you are best at.

Even within Incentro, where we keep overhead to a minimum, things are sometimes complex. So, we have a principle of cell division. If an office gets bigger than 60 people, we split it into two. We have 7 offices in the Netherlands, and each has different offerings.


“Only do things that are needed.” Sounds simple, right? And it should be. It’s only as hard as you make it. With a clear purpose, choosing between what is needed and what is not is more straightforward. But you have to be strong enough to be honest with yourself and the organisation.

In short: Any time you are in doubt, ask: “Is this really needed?”

If we are honest, we still plan a meeting because it sounds like a good idea. But is it? We do not ask ourselves: Is this really needed? And that is a very simple example.


The ideas of self-management and traditional-management still co-exist, sometimes awkwardly—particularly for those with prior roles as managers. But if self-organised teams are responsible for the complete process of a service, what can management experience add? My learning is to make them coaches. They can then share their experience—without slipping back into their old role—and add a lot of value.

It’s up to the teams (and coaches) to make sure they benefit from the added value in coaching and sharing of knowledge.


“What can we do to make your work a success?” This is our version of the Buurtzorg question: “What can we do to enable you to provide the best possible healthcare?” And it is exactly the right question to empower employees. We can learn from it, and how to facilitate such a discussion.

Within Incentro, we use the Moodforce tool to assess our own happiness score and we solicit feedback on how to make it even better. The specific question above was never asked. So we will add it right away.


Successful teams at Buurtzorg deliver a billing ratio of 60% of their time, a customer satisfaction score of 90, and are great at working as a team. These best practices are based on years of experience, and have evolved into rules of thumb. They are good guidelines to measure your team by, and to check you are on the right track. The ideas of self-management and traditional-management still co-exist, sometimes awkwardly—particularly for those with prior roles as managers.

We don’t have as much experience with self-managed teams as Buurtzorg. But we do have experience of successful proposals, so we are able to draft the guidelines (best practices) and build our experience along the way.