Fundaments of the Baarda Model

Fundaments of the model

The model rewards

  • people’s qualities, talent and added value to the organization
  • determined by their problem-solving skills,
  • based on their work and
  • the way they do it.

Of course, as you learn more and develop yourself, your skills, knowledge and experience will grow too. This will influence your qualities and the amount of complexity you can deal with, increasing your added value. However, everyone has a limit. It is important to know everyone’s limitations so we can respect each other’s possibilities and boundaries.

A fundament of the model is that talent is unchangeable. You can grow your knowledge, skills, and behaviour, sometimes substantially so, but only to the maximum your talent allows.

This brings us to one of the foundations of the model: success depends on leveraging diversity, which in turn depends on acknowledging and rewarding the differences between people. Everyone has a different added value to the organization because everyone has different talents, qualities and problem-solving skills, but together we all work on the same purpose.

The key to determining added value is not only looking (or speculating about) someone’s talent but looking at someone’s actual behaviour. This assumes that people will fulfil their roles in the way that best matches their problem-solving skills, especially in an organization like Voys where you have a lot of freedom in shaping your own work. The more complex and important the problems someone works on, the more problem-solving skills someone has, reflected in a higher salary. This means that two people with the same role can fulfil them in very different ways, leading to a difference in compensation.

Another fundament of the model is that you are as good as your colleagues think you are. In general this doesn’t lead to big surprises, but it can sometimes be confronting to be explicitly labelled by your colleagues.

More than just compensation

In this aspect the Baarda-model can also help you in your personal growth (and therefore the growth of the organization!) and with arranging your work so it fits your talent and the needs of Voys in the best way possible. It also clearly shows which behaviour we expect from each position in the matrix (more on that below) and the career path that lies ahead of you. The model makes expectations transparent and shows you how to achieve the next step.

Actually, the model is already used before a new colleague joins Voys: it plays a role in our strategic people planning, it helps to define what kind of person we’re looking for when there is a vacancy, helps drafting the vacancy text and helps in asking the right questions in the job interview. Of course it also helps the Hirer with making an offer and negotiating compensation for the new colleague.

But it doesn’t stop there. The model is also a valuable tool for reflecting on your work and on your performance (and on that of colleagues too, of course) and with defining your personal ambitions. You might even conclude that the work that needs to be done at Voys doesn’t match your growth curve, and decide it’s best to continue your career elsewhere.

For the organization as a whole we strive for a healthy balance between different pathways and the model helps mentoring and/or training people the right way.

Looking at the differences: Thinking vs. Doing

The model defines eight different pathways (more on those below), although not all are represented in our organization. Those eight pathways can be divided in two groups: the pathways of do-ers and the pathways of thinkers.

A high abstraction level, conceptual thinking and a critical, investigating attitude are characteristics for thinkers. Do-ers preferably operate within the boundaries of their knowledge (which can be very extensive). Even though there might be many pros and cons for a certain solution, do-ers operate on the assumption that there is a best solution for every problem, and that solution can be found based on knowledge, procedures, methods, skills and experience. Thinkers, on the other hand, doubt everything and deal with problems that all have their own context;  there isn’t ‘one best way’ to deal with them and existing knowledge isn’t enough. Research is required to investigate possible outcomes, even when they are off the beaten path, and thinkers have the necessary skills to do this research. If reality (the market, the competition, the economy, our environment etc.) would never change, we wouldn’t need thinkers. But reality changes all the time, and thinkers help shape this new reality: they innovate on a fundamental level.


If this sounds like a really binary division, that’s because it is. You can’t be both a thinker and a doer, even though your work probably has both aspects. Working in a holacratic organization, you’re often required to reflect on the nature of your work, but that doesn’t make everyone working in a Holacracy a thinker.

When assessing whether you or a colleague is a doer or thinker, the guiding principle is the kind of problems you deal with and how you deal with them. How complex are they? Are they concrete or abstract? Are you also the problem owner or do you only address them? Do you have a vision on how this problem can be solved, and how do you make sure that vision is shared and adopted within the company?

Even with these questions, it is not always clear which category someone belongs to. This is mostly because of unfamiliarity with the model and sometimes because it can be very confronting to label people this way. That’s why, in case of doubt, we err on the side of caution, which means that you’re probably a doer and not a thinker.

With this, however, remember that most thinkers also start their careers as doers.

Generally speaking, you’ll find that most thinkers have an academic (Dutch: WO) education that prepares them for the level of conceptual work in their field, while most do-ers have an applied education (Dutch: HBO or MBO). Of course, some academics prefer to deal with specific problems, and HBO’ers are very good at dealing with conceptual problems, but these tend to be exceptions rather than the rule.

Of course, every organization needs to get stuff done: ship a product, help clients, fix bugs, implement new features, design marketing materials etc. This is why the bulk of almost any company consists of doers.