When you lose an employee, your first reaction may be, Whom shall I hire or promote? Most of the time, that's the right question. But it also pays to ask: Do I really need a replacement for that person? Consider the case of Leonhardt Plating Co., a metal finishing company in Cincinnati with revenues of $2 million.

After the death of his polishing foreman, CEO Daniel Leonhardt decided not to hire a new foreman. Instead, he let the polishing department rule itself by committee. Leonhardt reasoned that the five people in the department are very experienced, and the work is "a craft," unlike work done by production employees. A foreman from another department handles scheduling for the polishing department, Leonhardt says, but the polishing employees themselves decide who will do which job. There have been "no major problems" with the arrangement, says Leonhardt. "It has worked out pretty well."