On Thursday, August 16, 2018, nine Netstream employees visited the company Sipgate in Düsseldorf, because they seem to work completely differently than we usually know from companies. Because they have no managers, no overtime and no budgets either. In their book "24 Work Hacks", they describe in great detail how they work and think.
Since we are currently undergoing a transformation as a company ourselves, we wanted to take the opportunity to be inspired by their way of working. I'd like to briefly record here what particularly impressed me after this enormously exciting, but also exhausting day.
1. decentralized and self-organized product/feature teams
They organize themselves in such a way that each team can finish developing and operating a product completely independently. This means that the teams have end-to-end responsibility and can decide and act independently in their area. Of course, this also means that they need different experts and roles in the teams. But in this way they can ensure that a large number of employees can constantly and quickly, conduct experiments and successfully operate a large product range. What I particularly like about this? Each employee can work effectively and the team can act on its own if something needs to be changed. This means that there are no dependencies and I imagine this to be very liberating and satisfying. However, for this to be possible, point 2 is a prerequisite.
2. transparency - portfolio, mission and analytics report
In order for the self-organized teams to be able to make decisions, they need all the information that is relevant for the decision. For this purpose, there is a specialized team that deals exclusively with the numbers. They regularly publish a report with 90 pages of decision-relevant information.
In addition to the Analytics Report, a centrally controlled and transparent portfolio is needed. This is based on the "Winning aspiration", which is the guidepost for the next 5 years. This portfolio board in turn controls the individual teams and thus ensures that all teams pursue the common goal.
3. learning organization - library, further education and experiments
They give employees room to learn, room to develop and room to be inspired outside the company. They do this with a large library and no training budget (everyone is allowed two trainings per year, no matter how expensive and where in the world, it just has to be transparent and the knowledge has to be passed on). As I understood, it is enormously important for them that their employees do not have to reinvent the wheel but can adapt existing concepts and solutions to their environment. Learning means that people stay in motion and that is, in my opinion, one of the most important things in an agile business world.
Of course, experiments are also part of a learning organization. With experiments, the result is completely open, because the most important thing is to understand and learn. When ideas are available at Sipgate, a team of a few people is formed who are then given time and space to develop and test the idea. The development does not take years but the goal is to go to market very quickly with a solution to just see if it works or not.
What excites me most about experiments is the uncomplicated way of just doing them and being open to what happens. It is not absolutely necessary that an experiment is financially successful, but that the experiment is used to generate new knowledge.
4. peer feedback
The HR world has been discussing MbO's, quality talks and performance measurements for years. My opinion is relatively simple: do away with them. For this reason, I found the feedback room particularly exciting. Because here, employees get honest and well-intentioned feedback with which they can actually develop further. They don't get it from their supervisor, because there is no supervisor, but from five or six people they choose themselves. These people prepare themselves well and give individual feedback in 10 minutes on "What should be maintained", "What ideas do I have as a feedback giver on how someone could develop" and "What were the highlights of the collaboration".
The feedback taker is silent and listens, there is no justification. Moderators can be brought in for this purpose so that the feedback rounds run "smoothly" and the principles are adhered to.
The attitude behind it is important and for me also crucial, because it is about benevolent feedback and the honest interest that the feedback giver wants to contribute a part to the development of the feedback receiver.
For me personally, this type of feedback is much more meaningful and purposeful for personal development than simply talking to a supervisor once or twice a year.
There were many other things that really impressed me. The time clock, Open Friday, childcare and peer recruiting. But for me, these many small things ultimately make up the culture. This is characterized by self-responsibility, focus on what's important, and a constant desire to develop and move the company forward. They really enjoy what they do and want to share that with the world.
It is difficult to really grasp why this day and the culture of Sipgate fascinated and inspired me so much. But I imagine a life in such a working environment to be very satisfying. Because as a person I can influence my environment, I have the freedom to change things if something bothers me, the environment trusts in my abilities and that I act in the company's best interests. The whole company also sees me as a person with all my talents, potential, wishes and goals. This leads to the fact that I would like to use exactly that to the fullest extent for the company and will probably achieve a lot more than if someone dictates to me from "above" what is to be done although I probably know it better in my function. Since I know exactly what the goal is, I am ready to run towards it with full commitment and know that everyone else around me is also heading in that direction. This gives me a tremendous sense of cohesion, belonging and purpose.
As I mentioned at the beginning, we are also undergoing a transformation with Netstream and I sense from many small things that we are also heading in this cultural direction. This makes me personally very proud and I continue to drive this change with all my heart. Of course, this does not mean that we will simply copy Sipgate's way of working and structure, but that we will find our own way of shaping our world. Sipgate has been a wonderful and lasting inspiration along the way and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them again!
I'm excited to see where the journey takes us (Netstream) and where we'll be in a few months. One thing is for sure, it's on the move and I'm glad to be in the middle of it.