We are always working on innovation at Decos, not only when it comes to our products, but also our organization as a whole. Besides working without paper, we also work without management, which is something I am very proud of. It is amazing that you can trust your employees so much that you can give them all the space they need to grow, not only professionally, but also personally.
We got rid of middle management about 1.5 years ago and our people now work in self-directed teams. That means they work together to establish the objectives they must achieve and how they will achieve them. Therefore, they make their own decisions. That is no longer management’s job. We now have more of a leading, coaching and directing role. We set the boundaries and the ultimate goal, the employees determine everything else.
Independence involves a lot of responsibility. Our employees are good at that. I am very happy with our current team. Every one of them is involved and intelligent and is not afraid to take ownership. Everyone is capable enough of making independent decisions and solving problems. On the other side of the coin, it gives you a lot of freedom to set up your work the way you like it. Therefore, you can tackle a problem in the way you think it should be solved. Our employees have the freedom to do that here. And, if you have any doubts, you can discuss them with your team so that you can come up with a solution together.
Open and agile
How does that work in practice? The most important is to be completely open and transparent in everything we do. We document our objectives and the key results we would like to achieve in a web app that everyone can see. You can see 24/7 what every company, every team and each individual are working on that quarter. Of course you have to update your progress on a regular basis so that you can also quickly see where action is required. The main difference is that this is no longer the manager’s job. In a self-directed team, you address each other if it appears something is not going well, because you are responsible as a team for achieving the goals.
We also work agile via scrum. We want to deliver products, add value for our customers and answer questions quickly. This requires focus. A product owner and scrum master provide focus. The product owner clarifies what has priority and keeps the team focused on providing value for our customers. A scrum master ensures that the team can effectively work on this value. The Daily stand-up works really well in my opinion. I always hold the Daily via Skype with our team in India (at 8:30 am here, thus 12:00 pm in India) to briefly hear what everyone has done and what they will do that day to achieve our goals. That is the time to hear about any problems and/or whether you need help from someone, so that you can continue making progress.
It’s a matter of mentality
Self-directed teams work well in our organization. I think that it helps that we are an IT company: our people enjoy testing things; we have a quick “adapt” and “learn” cycle. For instance, we have already tried out various programs for scrum purposes. What works well for one team doesn’t necessarily provide a good solution for another team. This is why we let everyone choose their own tool.
I believe it is even more important that we were mentally ready for that next step. Our employees already had a lot of freedom and a lot of responsibility for their own work. It was simply not logical that they couldn’t make certain decisions independently, such as having to request approval to go on vacation. That makes no sense at all. We simply got rid of the whole vacation time system: you arrange that within your team. In any case, we didn’t need any managers for that. This is how we slowly became an organization without a hierarchy. And I can tell that the teams and individuals have really blossomed as a result.
Would you like to see how we do that at Decos? You are welcome to come and have a look and to talk to us about our methods: we would really enjoy that!