It’s been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We took our first step toward Agile in 2008 with our development team. We’ve taken hundreds of additional steps since then. But by 2013, we felt like we had taken all of the easy steps we could take. The next steps looked tougher.
So we decided to take a big leap instead.
We did some soul searching. We did lots of reading. We were particularly inspired by companies that have destroyed the boundaries of traditional management thinking. Valve Software’s employee handbook drew a picture (literally!) of how far you can go. Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, has a renowned 126-slide presentation on culture that challenged us to really think about what’s most important to us as a company. Steve Denning’s writings had us questioning things we thought were sacred. The Agile movement as a whole, especially Richard Lawrence and Joe Justice who came to Iowa last fall for our company-wide Agile Boot Camp helped get us ready to rethink everything.
And so, on January 9th, we jumped:
- We flattened the org chart. We went to an entirely flat organizational structure, to clear the way for smart people to do what they do best. There are no managers at Geonetric anymore. Everyone is on a self-organizing team, focused solely on how to best deliver value to our clients as quickly as possible.
- We ditched traditional departments. There are no departments either: almost every team is now cross disciplinary, or soon will be, and can respond to client or marketplace needs without departmental relays or hand-offs.
- We’re getting radically transparent. We already share a lot more information internally (and externally!) than most companies do. But to make these changes possible we took an even bigger leap forward by sharing much deeper levels of financial, client satisfaction, and operational information with our teams.
- We’re building a deeply peer-accountable culture. Team members commit to each other, and to their clients or prospects. They don’t need to be “held accountable” by a supervisor.
As a team, we’ve historically been very open to radical ideas and making big changes, but this one is particularly complex. We spent the last 10 years carefully constructing tidy organizational charts, lines of communication, thoughtful performance evaluations, methods for working that depend on departments, and detailed planning tools and systems to keep track of it all.
And on January 9th we pretty much abolished all of that. As a result we’re learning a lot – very, very quickly.
Perhaps the most radical aspect of all this is that we’re not hiding this learning process. No man behind the curtain here. We’re pulling the curtain back so you can see. The fact is there are very few companies that have taken Agile company-wide.
We’re ahead of the curve on this – certainly in our industry and in the state of Iowa – and since it’s an exciting story we intend to blog about it, warts and all.
So you’re invited to join us on the journey. Come along with 73 people who are excited to make changes. To get better. Get faster. Get smarter.
We hope you’ll learn alongside us.