How to organize a remote company and build a human workplace for high performance and hyper-growth

How to organize a remote company and build a human workplace for high performance and hyper-growth

Author: Tobias Leonhardt

The Human Workplace – a Blueprint for Remote Companies

A remote organization is built on trust. Trust is the single most important driver for collaboration and high-performance. Once you trust yourself and your peers, a whole new range of leadership possibilities open up.

We also know that remote organizations are mostly more effective. Today on a venture capital network exchange one tech founder shared: “Since we’ve been working remotely, we’ve delivered in a week what we normally did in a month”. This is not a surprise for me anymore. I have the feeling that I know why it is like this.

For the last 15 years I’ve been thinking about “how to organize collaboration”. I grounded my thinking in a lot of publications by well known companies such as Google, Zappos, Buffer, McKinsey and many more. Even more than reading and researching, I’ve experimented a lot and gained lots of experience and insights. At Zalando, I facilitated the agile transformation and scaling Tech from 120 people to 2.500 in 3 years. We had a hundred of teams to work with and with every one I made a unique experience.  Overall the experience has been stressful and overwhelming – which shows that I was in my growth zone: meeting the unknown, experiencing something new and trying to be comfortable in uncertainty. I enjoyed this very much.Over the last two years I’ve conducted my own research and studied pattern of high performing teams, also at Zalando.

What I want share in this article is the insight of those 15 years of work.

It’s a blueprint for how to build high-performing remote organizations based on trust and the patterns and principles of some of the most successful companies around the world.

The blueprint is designed to cultivate…

  • Trust between members of the organization
  • Honest relationships
  • Self-responsible organization members
  • Empathy for “new hires” and the questions they have when they join the organization
  • Clearly distinguished organizational aspects
  • Hyper-growth readiness and the ability to work well together at scale

…and saves you a lot of management overhead (/headache).

  • It helps you as founder to think, organize your thoughts and build up a mental model that enables you to develop your organization with focus and clarity
  • It helps you to maintain, explain, align and develop your culture despite or esp. during hyper growth — it helps you to build “a learning organization” that is resilient and responsive
  • It helps you to co-create a human centered workplace where people’s happiness and health lead to high performance and outstanding business results. It doesn’t do this for performance reasons alone, rather for love & care for humans.

How do we cultivate trustful relationships

We build the organization based on a positive human mental model and principles such as trust, honesty, appreciation and self-responsibility. These human principles are the source of the organizational principles.

Example: The human principle of self-responsibility leads to the organizational principle: Everyone can take ownership and therefore can & should make decisions independently but aligned. As a result, we structure the organization in a way that allows people to pick their topic/teams (see “How we structure”) and decentralize decision-making (see “How we make decisions”).

Why

We do this because we believe workplace happiness and health leads to high performance / valuable contribution.

How

One company using this blueprint is BRYTER. In the following remote session it’s co-founder and CPO Michael Hübl shares their insights and practices of how they “cultivate trustful relationships”:

“In 2018, we decided to go fully remote. Our entire company operates remotely. We have a remote-first structure in our DNA which means we know how to build, run and scale a business remotely. We know how product development, customer success and marketing teams work in a fully virtual environment. We know how it feels to provide an enterprise-ready solution – anywhere. So we want to share our learnings and experiences with you all. In this online session, we will run through how we organize the collaboration of 70+ people in different countries and timezones. We will talk about the importance of communication and knowledge sharing in order for all of us to make rapid progress with our work and product.”

BRYTER is the leading no-code platform to automate expert knowledge. Its intuitive toolbox enables professionals to build, manage and sell interactive applications without programming skills. BRYTER is especially geared towards experts in law, finance, tax and compliance working with complex, conditional and scenario-based content who want to automate recurring and standardizable decision-making processes. BRYTER operates offices in Berlin, Frankfurt, and London and supports professionals in over 50 international law and consulting firms, corporates and public bodies with the automation of professional decision-making.

In this webinar Mic mentioned the “Caring Circle” as an advanced practice – which brings together a lot of the practices Mic shared in this remote session in a simple and powerful format.

With the “Caring Circle” you can learn how can we care for each other in challenging times, deepen human relationships and build a sense of togetherness remotely?

To learn this powerful practice of the “Caring Circle” – and many more micro-practices – you can book a remote training with me and my friends from Sense Tribe.

Why we exist

We see our customers as human beings. With empathy, we think about what they need in their workplace to get their job done. How they feel when they are using our product. What success means for them and their company.

That’s why we have a customer success team and call our customers “champions “— it is part of our job to help them to become champions.

Why

We believe that customer empathy enables us to build a product that adds value for our customer.

How we structure

We work in cross-functional groups where we have every competence at hand to act, deliver and make decisions independently. Sometimes this is an ideal state, but we know the closer we come to this, the better we can collaborate.

We learn together in communities of practice. This is our home base of like-minded people where we give and find support, mentorship and care.

Why

We believe that a responsive and scalable structure enables healthy hyper-growth and collaboration at scale.

How we make decisions

We make decisions “together alone”. Following the principles of trust and self-responsibility everyone can make a decision when: 

  • we follow the companies north star(s) / objectives
  • it is based on a real personal topic, need or tension
  • we make sure it is safe enough to try and we do the risk assessment for this
  • we are willing to follow up on the consequences

When a topic is more complex or more people are involved, or we do not know how many can be affected, we activate our collective intelligence. We follow processes and procedures – lean and small in the beginning, and more formal and powerful ones when needed – to collectively assess a decision and mitigate risks. 

Why

We believe that distributed decision-making enables us to take the right decisions fast so that we will stay effective and react fast at scale.

How we do leadership

Leadership means to care about culture, structures and context —it means to take care of co-workers without violating their self-responsibility and the trust we have in each other.

When we take leadership we want to strengthen ownership, self-responsibility and trust in ourselves and others. It is a coaching mindset that enables others to use the given processes and procedures of the organization. It is about co-creating local and structural / organizational improvement and optimizations. It is about taking ownership of conflicts.

It is like gardening.

Why

We believe we need and profit from ownership and an entrepreneurial spirit on all levels, in order to be successful as a company.

How we improve personal & professional

We learn from each other and with each other. We learn from like-minded people and people with more experience. We learn from the experience of others. We reflect our experience (the good and the ugly) honestly with others and learn.

We do not have a failure culture – we have a learning culture. We organize as communities of practice and go through events and sessions self-responsibly: following our human centered principles. We grow as a human, not as a function. And we grow together.

Why

We believe that when we learn, the organization is learning. And we need this learning to be competitive on the market.

How we plan and align work

We plan work based on direct customer feedback. We work in short iterations to handle complexity and respond to change fast.

We use clear objectives and key results to align our work. We own our objectives and have a clear understanding on how business impact / success looks like.

We have clarity of who is doing what and regularly reflect about how we can improve our collaboration, keep the flow and stay in the high-performance zone.

Why

We believe that to navigate well in complexity, react to change fast, build the best customer value possible, we need the freedom and skill to adjust on a daily basis in alignment with the common north star so that we can work effectively & efficiently.

Business Impact

What we see is – and what we want – is: the more you implement the blueprint as your organizational model, the more business impact you create.

In summary, what you get is 

  • A way to organize and grow your remote company – without stopping operations
  • A human workplace blueprint that boosts your business model
  • A way to keep your trustful culture during fast growth
  • It attracts talents and seniors that want to take ownership and responsibility
  • Readiness for healthy hyper-growth and working at scale

In the last days a lot of people I trust encouraged me to publish the blueprint now. Thank you Mic, Benjamin, Juke, Mira, Raffa and Andrei. I also have the feeling that it is the right time. So now I am curious what reactions and questions arise in you after reading this article. Send me a direct message with your feedback or use the comment function to share your reaction and insights.

Author: Tobias Leonhardt

Online strategy workshop: Self Organisation and Autonomy

Online strategy workshop: Self Organisation and Autonomy

The sudden exponential spread of Covid19 and its impact upon our known way of operating daily professionally and personally, is requiring us to be extremely creative in our response. With most team members confined at their homes, establishing a new rhythm that enables businesses to continue in the midst of disruption is both a challenge and an opportunity. Whether you are leading a team or take part of one and whether you are already well versed or not in working remotely,  learning and adapting during and for this period will be crucial.

Join us in a journey to:

  • Establish sound foundations to work remotely & obtain the full potential of what already exists in the organisation.
  • Define and agree on the practices and routines that best fit your organisation and context and select the most appropriate tools.
  • Inquire into existing processes, workflows and responsibilities and adapt them to fit the current circumstances.
  • Create the space for team members to grow in autonomy and responsibility, contributing their hidden potential and additional capabilities in this moment in time.

Training overview:

We invite you to 3 training sessions where, starting from your team / company needs we will jointly co-create a sound map of structure, processes, agreements and attitudes, to enable you to maintain an appropriate level of activity. These training sessions will be designed and conducted on the principles of continuous learning and adaptation:

Learning goals:

This training will help you to:

  • Define your key needs of collaborative remote working to maintain core business
  • Engage in a process of adapting to unfolding changes in environment to enable the journey through this period
  • Identify and unlock additional individual / organisational capacity and explore the opportunities this situation might bring

Time investment:

We recommend a minimum of 3 facilitated team conversations with intact teams (executive) and a follow up session to evaluate progress and define next steps.

Download service overview with more details about timing and pricing.

For whom is this course?

This training will bring great value to:

  • Project Managers, consultants and HR managers.
  • Team leaders and line manager.
  • Agile coaches, SCRUM Masters and product owners.

Download service & pricing overview
I have a request

Click here for an overview of group trainings and coaching sessions (open and in-house) that we offer. 

Revisiting your strategy in uncertain and turbulent times

Revisiting your strategy in uncertain and turbulent times

For a number of years we have been immersed in a context that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. At this moment in time, in the midst of Covid19, the need to make sense and understand the context we find ourselves in is key, and developing organisational capability to address a continuing changing environment for today and the future is vital.

Join us in a journey to:

  • Reaffirm the intention and core of your organisation, the focus on what matters, for today and the future.
  • Discover what dynamic capabilities bring to increase the ability of your organisation to respond to and create disruption, whilst focussing on the core.
  • Learn about complexity, what it means to your organisation and what helps to take decisions in a complex environment.
  • Explore alternative approaches and models for strategic decision making  (The Business of Wellbeing, 3 Horizons …)

Training overview:

We invite you to 3 facilitated conversations in which to experience the initial application of complexity based theoretical approaches to your organisation and its specific needs. In these conversations,  we will create and model for you, the conditions to engage in the conversations that matter for the healthy continuity of your organisation into the future.

Learning goals:

  • Engage in conversation to clarify organisational purpose enabling alignment of organisational intention to specific short term and longer term actions.
  • Learn about new approaches to enable purpose-driven organisations, sense their context and develop the inner compass to navigate VUCA conditions.
  • Experience participating in conversations that matter and learning about creating the necessary conditions for them.

Time investment:

We recommend a minimum of 3 facilitated team conversations with intact teams (executive) and a follow up session to evaluate progress and define next steps.

Download service overview with more details about timing and pricing.

For whom is this course?

This experiential learning through facilitated conversation, will bring great value to intact teams in need of defining next steps for their organisations in today’s context whilst enabling their future.

Download service & pricing overview
I have a request

Click here for an overview of group trainings and coaching sessions (open and in-house) that we offer. 

Designing Innovation in uncertain times

Designing Innovation in uncertain times

How do we identify the hidden opportunities within current challenges?

  • Build capacity to adapt business strategy to a rapidly changing world. 
  • Identify hidden business opportunities, exploring new possibilities through alternative mindsets and creative practices.
  • Seek the emerging patterns within your business rather than always putting out fires. 
  • Support and co-create business solutions that encourage a customer centric mindset and sustainability practices.

Training overview:

In 3 training sessions you will discover the SenseTribe online collaboration framework, identify your business needs, using tools like human centered design, design thinking, biomimicry and creative problem solving to find solutions that include social and environmental impact. 

Together, we will take a holistic approach to solve your business challenge, focusing on a better bottom line (environment, society and profit):

Learning goals:

This training will support you with:

  • Provide a practical scheme as a guidance on how to identify hidden business opportunities and to solve complex issues
  • Build capacity to adapt business strategy to a rapidly changing world through different business approaches such as Triple bottom line (profit, people and planet), Circular Economy, Design Thinking, Biomimicry among others.
  • Creative problem solving to find business solutions that contemplate social and environmental impact.

Time investment:

We recommend 3 short training sessions (with 6-9 participants) and a follow up session.

Download service overview with more details about timing and pricing.

For whom is this course?

This training will bring great value to:

  • CEO´s, Product Managers and consultants 
  • Team leaders and line managers
  • Startups and SME owners looking to create impact through different business approaches

Download service & pricing overview
I have a request

Click here for an overview of group trainings and coaching sessions (open and in-house) that we offer. 

Organisational Design & Business Agility (Madrid) – 22nd & 29th May / 5th June, 2020

Organisational Design & Business Agility (Madrid) – 22nd & 29th May / 5th June, 2020

Do you want to support the development of agile and resilient organisations that offer new organisational dynamics and work conditions?  Are you looking for practices that can help you make this happen?

In this course we will look at different organisational models and practices including Teal, Sociocracy 3.0, liquid organisations, anti fragility, agile etc., and we will explore innovative tools and real life cases (Zappos, Haier, Buurtzorg…) that help you amplify your perspective and resources to support digital and cultural transformation processes. The course has been developed in collaboration with ThinkingWithYou and 9Brains.

Course content:

For this course we have prepared different practices that we use to support our clients in their transition journey. We invite you to think of new ways of designing and developing your organisation, to discover different models, manifestos, structures and organisational practices that are emerging in new work contexts.

Discover new ideas and inspiration for the design of your organisation through an experiential learning experience.

Discover inspiring models and viewpoints from Zygmunt Bauman, Nassim Taleb, Edgar Schein, Bob Anderson, Wilber, Beck and Schneider. Find out about concepts and models including Antifragility, integral theory, the Schneider model and Cynefin.

Explore examples of manifestos, develop your own and discover new things about your own organisational context in conversation with others. Find out about paradigms like Teal and organisational practices like Sociocracy 3.0.

Discover a selection of examples and best practice and apply what you learn with concrete challenges (salary review, vacation management, motivation & recognition of teams etc.)

Register now  More info in the programme (in Spanish)

General information:

Course dates: Organisational design workshop: 22nd & 29th of May + optional Business Agility Certification 05th June 2020

Language: Spanish

Venue: Thinking With You. Paseo de las Acacias 50 Bis, 28005, Madrid

For whom is this course?

This course has been developed especially for HR & innovation specialists, transformation managers, agile coaches, entrepreneurs & change managers

Workshop facilitators:

Miguel Ocaña (Twitter | LinkedIn), Anais Rubio-Galván (Twitter |LinkedIn), Eduardo Toledo (Twitter | LinkedIn), Israel Alcázar (Twitter |LinkedIn), Mira Bangel (Twitter | LinkedIn), Gerardo Barcia (Twitter | LinkedIn), graphic facilitation: Marina Roa (LinkedIn)

Course investment & registrations:

Register here  Course programme (in Spanish)