Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Virtual Team notes

source: Mike Bennet of

"Growing a Tribal Software Company with Integrity"

We are a Network, not a Hierarchy: People’s job really was Their Job. I needed to know what was going on and we’d have some meetings – but the initiatives were mostly theirs. This was helped by everyone working from homes all over the UK linked by phone and email.
To encourage unconventional thinking, flexible and continuously changing structures, self-organisation, empowerment
and generally behaving like proper human beings: This helped to provoke people into doing new things. One response to plans I found useful was “It’s a bit boring”. Not telling them what to do – but pushing them to go farther.
To speak the Truth - even if apparently to our disadvantage: Radical!
To take the largest possible view of any situation - including the customer, the patient, society, the environment, the
Universe and ourselves: If you design a business model and software that meets the needs of everyone in the best way, it puts you way ahead.
To understand everything from first principles: It’s often things that we take for granted that obstruct great ideas.
To produce outstanding software that makes customers say “WOW!”: (Thanks, Tom Peters.)
People responded amazingly to all of this. For example, the 5 person self-organising support team were on a demanding 24 / 7 schedule with a guaranteed 30 minute response – and took pride that they were achieving under 5 minute response times. And we could change direction as a company very fast – far faster than our competitors (who were all huge)!

You do need to recruit the right people – they need to be happy working without close supervision and to relish freedom – not be afraid of it. For the right people it was a great environment, and they gave far more to the company than they would have to a normal company. They were committed! Totally.

I found that the role of the MD / tribal leader is coach more than CEO, people development not “The Decider”, values not orders. The Visionary and also the person who keeps it all together by ensuring we’re mostly going in the same direction. You only actually need one person to set it up – provided that they are in charge and don’t have to negotiate with others who are more concerned about the money or have other values (like wanting power for instance).

Part of the background that I brought to this was lots of time in various spiritual groups – and I wanted to use that experience in designing and running the company. What would the company have to look like to attract people trying to live at the highest level of spiritual integrity? Well, we didn’t in fact recruit anyone like that – but it still set a standard of behaviour within the company."

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