Company Alignment

Every business, including ours, must navigate the ever-changing market and uncertain world (VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) to find success and growth. It’s not enough to react; we need a shared understanding of our objectives (where we want to go as a business and organization) and the path to achieve them. Alignment is about having an internal compass in this volatile landscape. It anchors our self-managing teams to our overarching purpose and vision, preventing fragmentation and self-directed divergence. It assures every team and every VSHNeer understands their role, their part, in achieving our vision. In a small startup, daily conversations might suffice for alignment, but with 50+ people, we need a more systematic approach. We avoid rigid frameworks and classic command-and-control styles, yet we seek clarity in creating alignment, ensuring efficient and unified efforts towards our goals.

Alignment at VSHN can be seen as two tracks: our aligned Organizational Structure and the Agile Goal Setting track.

Aligned Organizational Structure

Having an Aligned Organizational Structure means, that teams and roles serve a higher purpose (company purpose). At VSHN this is done through Delegation that starts at the top (Board and Management Team) involving the teams in the needed decisions for this. This ensures that each of our teams has a long-term identity and purpose within the organization that is aligned. What exacly is needed depends heavily on Business Strategy clarified by the Strategist Role.

We organize our teams around business areas or value streams, taking into account technical considerations, product or service specific knowledge, etc. A team should be aligned as directly as possible to a value stream, meaning the are responsible and able to deliver services or products from producing assets, customer onboarding to continuous support and operations with only the minimal dependencies and interfaces. We also have supporting teams, like sales, marketing, customer account management, customer support, and internal operations (like HR and Corporate IT).

This so called "long-term identity" of each Team and also Role is defined and documented using a Domain Description Format, focusing on the delegated responsiblities, formulated in a result oriented way: what someone takes responsibility for, not the steps they need to do to achieve that.

Implicit and explicit roles within each team is a further level of delegation, and helps the team to clarify responsibilities and to fulfill their purpose.

Agile Goal Setting

Objectivs and Key Results (OKRs)

The Strategist VSHNeers set the company-level OKRs in collaboration with the board, affected VSHNeers and subject-matter experts. They consider higher level strategic goals, current business and market situation. Each team then proposes their own Team Level OKRs that directly or indirectly contribute to the company level and their own long-term team purpose, for the next quarter.

Through the combination of structural alignment and agile goal setting, we ensure that our teams know what to focus on and prioritize, balancing their daily operational work with strategic development.

Product Roadmap

We maintain customer-centric roadmaps for each defined product or product group. The roadmap is a list of products or features that should be produced next. The Product Roadmap is maintained by the Product Owner with inputs from various stakeholders like Product Managers, Customer Account Management, Sales and the Strategist Role.

For teams that own a product or product group with a roadmap, the roadmap is usually more specific than OKRs. The OKRs are more general, higher level than the roadmap - what future state do we want to reach, while features on the roadmap but also other work of the team contributes (at least indirectly) to reaching an OKR objective. This isn’t an either-or thing, it’s not roadmap vs OKRs, whatever works as orientention and alignment to the team, is the right way. In the end, a roadmap or OKRs are just tools to give tangible goals.

Objectives and Roadmap in Scrum

A good practice is that the Scrum Sprint Goals contribute to either the product roadmap or the Team OKRs, besides the day-to-day business that could also sometimes be Sprint Goals (like a customer’s project). The roadmap is aligend to Team or Company Level OKRs, but focuses on customer value. Not easy to find this balance.

If this connection is not visible to team members, it’s a sign of a lack of common alignment - we are no longer working towards common, higher objectives.

And where is Strategy in this?

There is not the one static plan, not one strategy. Strategy exists on different flight levels or levels of goal setting:

  • Those who have a (monetary) stake in VSHN (shareholders represented through the board), need to define:

    • What is the long term, hard to reach future picture of what VSHN does and why we exist - what is our motivation.

    • What is the mission: more concretely how we want to do it, but still quite high level. For example, do we want to produce products and managed services, do we want to rent engineers or do random engineering projects, etc.

    • What they want with and from VSHN in which time. Can be money, innovation, growth, etc. usually a combination.

  • Within VSHN, we need to translete those strategic goals into more tangible objectives (usually quarterly or yearly) - some sort of S.M.A.R.T. goals - we use OKRs (see above).

  • We also need to think about and come up with high level plans / initiatives how all the parts of VSHN can contribute to achieving those objectives. This is very close collaboration with the teams and subject-matter-experts.

  • From this, teams and roles in VSHN can have their more specific OKRs for the quarter.

  • In the teams or roles, they can then come up with plans / initatives / projects / epics how to reach their team / role level OKRs.

And that’s it: We see strategy is in between all this goal setting: * How do we want to come closer to our company vision * How we reach the strategic goals (business model) and changes in the business model. * How we reach the company level shorter-term goals * How we reach the team / role level goals

This is the proactive part. Strategy is also needed to address to strategic risks, respond to organisational challenges, personnel strategy, internal processes or structural changes, etc.

In it simplest form, a strategy is not more than a wiki page which points to a goal we want to reach or a opportunity / issue we want to address, and a few bullet points how we plan to do what.