From day dot, self-steering Customer Teams have been at the heart of the way we work. As we have grown, our organizational structure has had to grow with us.
How to best organize effective cooperation?
How can we keep supporting our Customer Teams in delivering our promise?
How should we scale central services while maintaining constant innovation?
These questions were at the heart of our organizational development conundrum.
A Circle is a self-steering group of people who contribute to a common purpose. It dissolves when the purpose has been achieved. Each Circle is comprised of different roles and they are accountable for their domain. It operates with freedom and responsibility and must be explicit about what it’s working on and who’s involved. Schuberg Philis is the sum of all its Circles with their interlinking information flows and decisions.
Organizing in Circles originated in a Quaker school as a type of governance where all participants are equal – an enhanced form of democracy within a community. Sociocracy and “holacracy” brought linking systems between Circles and added governance practices to the basic principles.
So, what does that mean for the way we work? The Customer Teams (CTs) are still at the core of everything we do, surrounded by our Central Teams (such as recruiting and marketing). Our colleagues have their home base in either of those teams. To leverage specific expertise and share resources, each CT is part of a Greater Customer Team (GCT). By Organizing Circles in GCTs, you can enhance capability creation and knowledge building in a focused way.
Our biggest challenge is to show all the active Circles working on company-wide topics. We call them Schuberg Philis Circles because they range across CT and Central Teams. From Strategy Circles to a Coaching Circle, and even a Running Circle. Although Circles form naturally, we formalize them after exploring the groups in our Connect app and analyzing Slack and Jira data.
Organizing a company in self-steering Circles requires alignment and communication. For this purpose, we have chosen the advise/consent model. Any Circle can make a decision within its domain – after seeking advice from every Circle that will be meaningfully affected, and from Circles with expertise in the matter. After advice has been given, the initial proposal is refined. If there are no serious objections, it means that consent is achieved, and the Circle has the freedom and responsibility to act.
We continuously aim to strike a balance between exploration and exploitation. To embed this in our structure, Schuberg Philis Labs was born. A dedicated group of colleagues scan the environment for promising new technologies and tailor them to meet the needs of the CTs. Labs is paired with Schuberg Philis Services – a hub designed to provide central services across the company. This allows us to tap into economies of scale and standardize where that’s appropriate. Explore in Labs, operationalize in Services!
We’re just starting the journey of making the implicit explicit. New Circles constantly evolve, while others will be replaced, or cease to exist. The strong core remains: Circles are here to interlink the organization, enable decisions across teams, and empower self-steering. Their dynamic and yet transparent nature provides a solid basis which can take us into the future.