Empowered teams and OKRs with Christina Wodtke
6 minute read
A newsletter that started as a personal learning and getting-in-touch project by Ivan Krnic grew into a sociotechnical newsletter covering topics of technical excellence, organizational improvements, and productivity.
Autonomous, empowered and self-organized teams are the common characteristic of every successful customer-oriented company. Self-organized teams enable decentralized work management, elimination of bottlenecks, increased efficiency, and better knowledge sharing. Getting to self-organization is not easy. Our journey in this direction started in 2010. Although I feel we’re still not completely there, I wanted to share our experience so far.
Since 2010, we have tried several models and tuned them along the way. The latest model that works for us is following:
In each team, we have two persons with the role of team leaders. They are co-pilots and they navigate the team together. We choose them very carefully and deliberately. There needs to be chemistry in their relationship, like Maverick and Goose, Thelma and Louise, Mulder and Scully. We found it crucial for a team leader to have a peer in the team with whom they can validate their view of the situation, test assumptions, and that acts as a mirror for their thinking and their actions.
Because of the way we choose them, we have full trust in them. Together we define team goals and outcomes. After that, nobody external to the team is messing with the way the team works internally.
Team leaders are not left alone, we provide full technical and organizational support. We have regular check-ins where two team leaders sit with the director of engineering and HR manager to discuss current challenges and share team successes. This “team of four” is perfectly capable of solving or at least escalating problems to the right address in the company.
Furthermore, we have established a Community of Practice for team leaders where we share experiences across all teams. It’s always useful for team leaders to see that others have similar challenges and to hear their experiences.
Finally, we have established regular 1-on-1 check-ins with team leaders. While all mechanisms mentioned so far were targeted at the team level, 1-on-1 check-ins help us move to the individual level and address personal challenges that team leaders face as well as celebrate their successes and work together on their personal growth.
Just like the Spotify model, this is just a snapshot in time of our model that continuously evolves. It will be interesting to look back a year from now and see what has changed.
To hear more about empowered teams and OKRs, check out the new episode of the 0800-DEVOPS podcast with Christina Wodtke.
Interview of the Month
Christina Wodtke on empowered teams
Christina Wodtke worked in the product development space in companies such as Zynga, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Yahoo. She is a Stanford professor and author of several books, most notably The Team That Managed Itself and Radical Focus. Her experience in developing teams is precious – we talked about empowered teams, OKRs, and the 2nd edition of her bestseller Radical Focus.
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