Q: How can I embrace everyone's ideas and incorporate them into my company’s decision-making process?

A: DaVita is a FORTUNE 500 company comprised of 35,000 employees with nearly $6 billion in annual revenue. It is the largest independent provider of dialysis services in the United States, operating over 1300 clinics.

Yet despite its size and the financial pressures of being a publically-traded company, DaVita choses to operate using a democratic model. For example, on a regular basis, DaVita teammates are asked to vote on various aspects of the company, including program names and logos, new practices, and initiatives being considered for the upcoming year.

In general, decisions are made based either on the consensus of the DaVita teammates or through voting. This practice has been in place since the company was formed in 1999, when the founders invited the employees select the company’s name, DaVita, which is Italian for “He/She gives life.”

Today, DaVita conducts "Town Hall" meetings on a regular basis to make sure that the employees, who are called community members or teammates, are aware of company developments. Staff showcase new programs, highlight outstanding teammates, and share different departmental updates. The meetings also provide an opportunity for teammates to receive answers to any questions they have about DaVita's business practices and the direction of the company.

All of DaVita's 1,400 clinics have their own, unique set of rules and guidelines. This is because each of DaVita's Facility Administrators is responsible for his or her clinic and teammates. Instead of being run top-down from DaVita's headquarters, each clinic is basically its own boss. In order to support this decentralized structure, DaVita provides training programs that teach Facility Administrators skills such as leadership, delegation, and that clarify the metrics that determine each clinic's success. Ultimately, each clinic creates its own special community.

“At DaVita, we are truly a community first and a company second," says DaVita’s Chairman and CEO, Kent Thiry. "It is our belief that every company has an opportunity to be more than just a balance sheet – it can be a community that makes a difference in the lives of all it has the privilege to touch. The entire concept of the DaVita Community is innovative for corporate culture and is a fresh approach to thinking about a company’s role in society. Our hope is that this approach adds more value to the American health system, not just in savings, but also in transparency and accountability.”

The democratic approach to decision-making, even in such a large company, seems to be working well for DaVita. It is now an industry leader with a healthy bottom-line. “I believe every company can be a democratic community," Thiry adds. "And I know that it’s worth it!”

Traci Fenton


Traci Fenton

Traci Fenton is the Founder + CEO of WorldBlu, which champions the growth of democratic organizations worldwide. As a leading expert in organizational democracy, she is recognized as one of