At Human Made we value personal autonomy and as such have avoided a traditional hierarchical structure. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a structure or hierarchy though, rather we do them our way by focusing on what we need and building on top of our core values.
Our structure and the explicit or implicit hierarchies that exist within it are intended to provide support for you to do your work, clarity around what your role is and guidance on where you should focus your time and talents. They should never be used as barriers to involvement in other parts of the company or as a way to discount or devalue your point of view.
People need support in order to do their job. When we were small, that support “role” could be handled entirely by Joe, Noel and myself. As we grow, it’s no longer possible for us to do all the things needed to support everyone. A team structure and leadership roles help us scale that support up as we grow.
The sense of flatness we’ve all experienced at Human Made is down to our leadership approach & values rather than because we don’t have leadership roles. As we scale up and our structure and our approach to leadership
becomesmore formalised we’ll maintain that sense of flatness by staying true to those same values.
At Human Made everyone speaks with an equal voice and everyone’s ideas and opinions are valued—in fact, they are critical in enabling us to make the right decisions and move forward as one.
At the company level we are structured into functional teams; Engineering, Product Management, Sales & Accounts, etc. Everyone on each of these functional teams does that thing; we don’t have managers who are solely managers. Teams do usually also have a team lead role which provides support to the rest of the team, is responsible for the running of the team at the meta level and representing the team to the rest of the company/partners. Teams have autonomy over how they choose to run but
- Take ownership of how the team runs. How are you tracking what you’re all working on? What’s the iteration cycle? Are you doing team calls, daily stand-ups, do people on the team have specific responsibilities?
- Support to those on your team to do their work. Have regular 1:1 check-ins. Know that people are happy with their work, clear what they should be working on and feel that they are doing a good job.
- Work with other team leads to make sure teams are working together well. Ensure you’re keeping the rest of the company updated on what the team is working on.
- Surface issues to Tom, Joe or Noel as needed.
Coming Soon: a visual representation of how we’re structured.
We also have a project level structure, projects are almost transient with a beginning and an end and are usually cross-functional with people from multiple functional teams. Within that project team, there should be a clear structure around each persons role on the project and what the expectations of that role are. Projects also typically have a lead who fills a similar role as the functional team lead but specific to the project team. We don’t have a formal process for how project teams form but it’s usually a balance between the needs of the project, who’s available and who’s expressed a specific interest in being involved.
We’re a work in progress
Although there is value in outlining our structure and the processes by which we work. It’s also critically important that we all recognise that this is at best a snapshot of how we work right now. We’ll change again tomorrow.
Just as we strive to continuously improve the work we do, we also strive to improve how we work and that includes everything about our structure, our process, culture, habits, traditions & norms, etc.
If you see a better way of doing something, whether large or small, share it, we’ll all discuss it and if it’s truly a better way, we’ll change.