When you reach a fork in the road, take it.

Words of wisdom from the eternally wise Yogi Berra. An amusing turn of phrase yes, but also an apt description of the difficulties that come with rapid scaling. Stuart has grown by 20x over the past 2 years, leading to endless challenges that often require a bit of blind decision making. A particular set of these challenges relate to motivation and teamwork:

  1. How best to balance innovation vs. standardisation? On one hand, when teams in different markets follow the same processes, we have clarity and ease of planning. On the other hand, the constant need for operational improvements, the launch of new products and the ever increasing expectations of clients all demand innovation that would be stifled by the imposition of too much structure.
  2. How to ensure sharing of best practices? Motivation to share can be incentivised through culture and compensation and advancement. But even that is sometimes too little. People are busy, communication — especially across countries — may not come naturally. What to do, then, to get them gabbing?
  3. How to develop trust between teams? We’re putting a lot of work into re-launching our mission — logistics for a sustainable world — and to ensuring everyone understands the vision for how we get there. A shared mission and vision no doubt goes a long way towards ensuring trust across the company, but hurdles remain. Different teams contribute to our mission in different ways, and a genuine desire to collaborate will only happen when there is a clear link between their day-to-day objectives.

These questions are plainly amorphous, making simple, clean solutions difficult. We also won’t ever have perfect information to inform our choices, and the choice that might be right in one particular example won’t be right in another. But the more we discuss these topics, the more we realise that there are foundational elements we can put in place to improve our cross-team, cross-country collaboration:

The core of the entire approach is Visibility. All teams should know what everyone else is working on, how those projects are progressing, what’s going well and what’s not, and so on. We’ve settled on some tools to facilitate this: (a) Confluence for documentation of all projects and learnings, (b) a single CRM through the entire customer lifecycle from lead to total deliveries, and © Product Board as the single source of truth for our Roadmap.

With clear Visibility, we can have productive Communication. We encourage communication via team and company level updates, show & tell presentations, All Hands meetings and weekly reporting. We also encourage micro level comms — weekly check-ins between department heads, sharing sessions between PMs and business managers, and, where feasible, travel to build crucial personal relationships with peers who sit in other countries.

When teams are Communicating regularly, it fosters relationships and trust. It also ensures that projects ripe for Collaboration are identified organically. One of the biggest struggles we’ve had is generating real engagement when management asks two teams to work together inorganically. By contrast, when teams can see what the other is working on and regularly talk about shared opportunities or mutual pain points, they are excited to collaborate together and the synergy occurs naturally.

And lastly, when teams Collaborate organically, they are much more open to Standardisation in the way they work. This topic sits at the top of the pyramid for 2 reasons. First, the rush to standardise often ignores the benefits of testing different approaches to make data driven decisions. Second, the teams need to feel stimulated, particularly in the start-up / scale-up environment, and they deliver the best results when challenged to innovate. Just as with Collaboration, when opportunities to Standardise are promoted by teams who have concluded it’s the best path forward, both of these reasons are met.

And does it work? Well the proof is in the pudding. Our commercial leads Eric (Spain), Nikki (UK) and Dimitri (France) recently took an offsite together before the DELIVER conference in Portugal. The result? Eight topics on which they are now sharing current processes, collaborating on solutions and standardising how they work. All shared with our global team at our latest All Hands!

Also this:

Laughs, some good food, and a few (very!!!) late nights out, and our commercial teams are humming like never before.

Want to join the team? We’re hiring! 🚀

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