I still remember it as if it was yesterday. BossData was but a mere little speck in the vast world of digital marketing agencies. Our office hosted 6 ambitious marketers and was .. charming. In its own ways..
Working above a small coffee bar, we could hear everyone’s chit-chat below.
It was good for keeping up with the gossip, but focusing on our work wasn’t always a given.
The mice sprawling across the ceiling after hours weren’t exactly helping either.
Ahh, how the times fly.
Back then, our team had of a very, very flat organizational structure. Everyone had a say in hiring / sales / marketing /…
All of our visions were aligned since we made every company’s decision together.
It was perfect, so we swore to keep this structure alive.
The flat structure started turning on us
As our company grew – we have 25-ish employees at the moment – we noticed we had outgrown our once beloved flat structure:
- First off, decisions started taking longer. It’s hard to reach consensus when there are 25 opinions to take into account.
- We got too reliant on a couple of key figures. Whenever there was a personal or client-based problem: we always needed their input. It was manageable for them when there were only 10 people but it became almost impossible to keep track and help everyone as we grew.
- Knowledge wasn’t flowing freely anymore. People were spending time on issues of which similar ones had already been fixed weeks ago.
- Group thinking became the default. Group thinking is a normal psychological phenomenon where group members choose consensus over independent decision making. It’s a natural evolution that as a group becomes larger, this phenomenon happens more often.
With this new situation, we started wondering: ‘How can we organize ourselves to keep all the advantages of the good ol’ days (autonomy, speed and engagement), and that gets rid of all these growing pains?’
How we implemented a new structure at BossData: circles & pacers
Every company has a structure. Even the ones who claim they don’t. (☝️ guilty)
When you don’t define your team structure, one will always form by itself. Unfortunately, this organic/non-defined structure lacks authority, accountability and alignment across the team. In the long run, this invisible, shadow hierarchy creates conflict and confusion: slowing your company down.
Time for a confession: at BossData, we were working in a shadow hierarchy for a year or two. Yes, we claimed to be a flat organization but it was obvious that certain people had a bigger say in discussions than others.
Instead of fighting this and believing that we needed to remain flat as an organization, we embraced it.
Taking our heads out of the sand
We got rid of our shadow hierarchy, and made room for an actualized hierarchy. A true representation of our already existing (but ignored) hierarchy. To achieve this, we weren’t just going to copy-paste a classic corporate company structure.
And, we weren’t going to reinvent the wheel either…
So we scoured the web on the lookout for companies who faced similar issues. And we found them! It turns out that major companies like Buffer, Spotify, and Wistia already fixed these issues. So we decided to adapt their organizational models to fit our own needs. The end result is unveiled in the next part of this blog.