Every business, including ours, must navigate the ever-changing market and uncertain world (VUCA) to find success and growth. It’s not enough to react; we need a shared understanding of our objectives and the path to achieve them. Alignment is our 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 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.
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. We organize our teams around products, taking into account technical considerations, product-specific knowledge, and the independence of each product from a customer perspective. Each team operates as a value stream, responsible for delivering a product from customer onboarding to continuous support. We also have value stream supporting teams, including sales & marketing, customer care & support, and internal operations. The long-term identity of each team is defined and documented using Sociocracy 3.0 Domain Descriptions. Implicit and explicit roles within each team help is a further level of Delegation, and helps the team to fulfill their purpose.
Complementing the long-term perspective is the Agile Goal Setting track. Our management, in collaboration with the board and any VSHNeer who can contribute, sets Company Level OKRs based on current business and market conditions. Each team then proposes their own Team Level OKRs for the next quarter, ensuring their goals align with both the company’s objectives and their own long-term purpose.
Through this 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.
This is what we do with Company and Team Level, even personal Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), which we track in Tracking OKRs.
Running parallel to the OKRs is our customer-centric product development, based on a roadmap. This track is guided not only by customer feedback but also by our Company Level OKRs and proactive bets based on internal and external factors. We maintain a product roadmap for each product, which outlines our strategic direction for proactive product development. The value stream teams primarily manage this roadmap, incorporating responsive strategies based on customer insights and proactive strategies to realize our business models and vision. Operating in tandem with Team Level OKRs, it provides another layer of strategic direction, ensuring we continuously deliver value to our customers while driving towards our broader company goals. The synergy of the Aligned Organizational Structure, Agile Goal Setting, and customer-centric product development equips our teams to manage their own work and contribute effectively to our company’s overall vision.
See Product Roadmap.
There is not the one static plan how our business will be successful, because we can’t for sure know what works and our environment (mainly the market) is ever changing. Therefore we see strategy as an agile approach, meaning that we try something, see if it works and adapt, or do something completely different. What works is mainly defined by whether we find enough paying customers, meaning they get something valuable from us and are therefore willing to pay for it.
While strategy usually starts on the Owner, Board and then company level (imagine you start your own business), strategy always exists on different levels in an organization simultaneously, and can be very explicit through documented business plans, project plans, etc. but also often happens very light weight, a few bullet points or even just in a team internal discussion with some decisions on how to approach a situation or opportunity. There is no right or wrong.
- Examples for Strategy at VSHN
On the company level, we have to come up with a plan on how to get closer to realizing our vision. Currently this means coming up with our product ideas and product portfolio, having a basic understanding of the business model and how the products work together to create value for our potential customers, who our customers are and how we make money.
From that, find out how we can organize ourselves to best create and deliver our products and services, and what is needed in addition, things like sales, marketing, internal services like backoffice and IT, etc. What ever we find out, we do, as long as there is no better way or risk we should avoid. Whether it works or not, we’ll find out.
From that, we also define time bound goals to create focus.
The teams can then have strategic discussion and make decisions, what the should focus on or need to improve / change, to a) best contribute to the higher objectives but also how they best fulfil their teams purpose and then craft Team OKRs to create focus and measure progress.
After that, teams need to find out how they could achieve their OKRs. This might again involve strategic discussions and decisions, before they ultimately organize their work (for example create Epis and Stories, Tasks in Jira to work on).