We often hear about how tech giants such as Google embrace a flattened company hierarchy in order to support cutting-edge development and a democratic culture. Evidence suggests that an adaptive, decentralised organisation promotes innovation by enabling better communication and empowering employees to make decisions.
Sounds wonderful when you have time and money to allow for that change to take effect, but can this work within smaller companies without a short-term break in operations, or impact on clients and new business? If so, how?
Red River has just adapted the structure of the company to do just that, with a view to stimulate growth and improvement, both internally and externally.
Simon Pringle, Founding Director provides a quick behind the scenes insight as to why and how he sees this as the way forward.
The company structure has recently been reviewed – what was the thinking behind this?
There were several reasons really. The main one was to grow but avoid a hierarchical management structure. We felt that by looking at the functions in the business and assigning a brand ambassador as leader of each new team would create a more adaptive structure and promote the sharing of ideas across disciplines, knowledge areas and individuals. It allows each team to take real ownership of their responsibilities and avoid decision bottlenecks. By making the team lead roles temporary, we also give the younger members of the team something to aim for. This is also about career progression opportunities, plus it helps to take some of the weight away from Kieren and I. It’s common for the ‘brand’ within smaller companies to be very focused on the Founding Director or founders and ultimately, that’s not sustainable and probably not very healthy.
How did you map the team specialties?
I sat in bed awake for a long time thinking how to grow. I don’t get on with hierarchies and believe this is probably the same for a lot of people. I spent weeks thinking and got disillusioned with other suggestions of roles and responsibilities. I have been thinking about brand ambassadors leading the company, not just the older, more experienced people. I wanted the company to be led by the enthusiastic, rather than the people who think they are owed the opportunity. I invited applications and presented the new idea over breakfast and people seemed fired up about it. I had to apply for the role of Business Development Team Lead – it was democratic from the off and best to lead by example.
How does the new structure benefit both client delivery and company growth?
Kieren and I are no longer the bottlenecks of every decision. The leadership role is dispersed and each team can take real ownership and this improves quality of delivery. The team leads are much more engaged and therefore more likely to recognise potential for their own personal development and stay on board. Separating out the functions shows we understand our business and that we know how to deliver our services. It allows the people with the right skills to look after their patch. Clients have definitive people to contact when needed. All of this facilitates company growth and hopefully provides a platform for a happy workforce.
By aiming to foster transparency, trust and engagement, rather than micro management, the need for process and hierarchy is reduced. People feel trusted to do things, mistakes can be resolved openly and quickly and this autonomy motivates people. It not only provides a creative space to share ideas but also a structure that results in increased productivity and efficiencies on both a commercial and personal level.
Check out the new teams.
If Red River Software sounds like the kind of place you’d like to work, please get in touch.