In the previous articles in this series, we’ve spoken about the principles of product versus project modes, and the importance of customer focus. We now explore the people side of product-mode, providing advice learned during our journey on how shifting your company structure can best support the product mindset.
Hatchd has long focussed on people and culture, and our values remain a constant in a fast-paced, ever-evolving world (and office!). We refer often and fondly to the whip-smart, passionate, quirky, spirited, invisible yet ever present “thing” that lives in Hatchdlings. Like that look between fast friends enjoying a shared in-joke – it’s inexplicable to others, but you both just know.
As such we have a group of talented, intelligent and curious team members with opinions to share and great ability to identify and solve problems. Focussing on long-term quality and continuous improvement was already a part of how we operate. Our people are well capable of making good decisions, so how did the way we were structured as an organisation support this? If we thought of our organisational structure as a product itself, did it have our long-term strategy in view, and promote the accountability and ownership inherent in our people?
We wanted to reflect the product mindset in the way we worked. How we operated on a daily basis needed to best support the people who are already thinking this way. On paper, we had a flatter, hierarchical structure which in practice performed more as a quasi-matrix style organisation.
A self-organising model would seem to be the utopian fit for people like our Hatchdlings, and it would also support the pace and ownership of product-mode. But too much freedom can come at the expense of success, diluting the power of a strong vision. Buffer, a global company who provide a suite of social media marketing tools, seems a good example of this, where their experimentation with a completely flat structure ended in embracing hierarchy - but not throwing out their learnings.
Assessing company structure types
There’s a lot of digital content on different structure types and even more on experimenting with them. Ultimately, like selecting elements of the Agile methodology that will work for you, choosing the right structure for your company should be based on your unique needs. Choosing the right structure to support product-mode should see you selecting one which promotes decision making at all levels, removes hierarchy and promotes transparency and collaboration.
Here are some things to consider when assessing structures:
Where are your people at?
What’s the support or change needed? Is the structural change leading the way to product-mode, or is it more about better reflecting how decisions are already made, knowledge already held and how people already work together.
Mind your culture.
How different is product mindset from where you are now? Do your values already reflect collaborating, being innovative, driving quality, putting customers at the centre and follow through or accountability. Are these values then reflected in the day to day of how people work?
What do you aim to achieve, now and in the future?
Do you have a strong vision and clear objectives? What stage of the product lifecycle are you at, will you need to consider different operations soon, and how will you scale effectively?
Consider your options, and customise.
Armed with this information, consider the benefits of the different structure types and how you might customise them to suit your specific organisational needs. Product-mode is usually best supported by structures with less bureaucracy and hierarchy to enable and promote the necessary cross-functional collaboration.
Some modern and innovative structures include the Spotify Squads and Zappo’s implementation of Holacracy – Google either of these and you’ll get about 2,000,000 results debating the pros and cons of each, underlining the importance of customising to fit your set of circumstances.
Once introduced, watch for areas where you can improve how the structure works for you, tailoring to get the best out of your people and make the most of your culture.
The structure we’ve chosen for Hatchd takes some elements of Holacracy and is made up of high performing teams with shared goals working towards an overarching strategy. We customised to fit by prioritising quick decisions, autonomy and making the best of everyone’s skills, and cultivate distributed leadership with a clear strategy, direction and aligned objectives.
While our Hatchdlings are flourishing and the studio is humming, we’re always watching for ways to improve and evolve to ensure we keep people and culture at our core – more on that in our next post.
Interested in working with us?
Whether you have a clearly defined product brief or you're not sure wherein the problem lies, drop us a line for a no-pressure chat about where you are at and how we might help.