Posted on October 2020 By Charlotte Herapath
Last week, iO’s Bea and Charlotte hosted the latest in our series of South Wales Tech Leader’s Breakfast Briefing. This instalment focused on organisation structures within technology.
Distributed vs Pooled/Centralised
The first topic of discussion was distributed vs centralised structures. It was agreed vastly by the group that enabling teams to be autonomous means having trust. One of the attendees raised the point that when they had a centralised structure, not much was achieved as it took four levels to sign off decisions. To add to this, distributed structures provide “Psychological Safety”, meaning that it avoids a blame culture and employees are much more likely to admit to their mistakes and therefore will learn from it. One attendee said that “one of the key principles of our job is that empowerment and having self-managing teams – great when it works, horrible when it doesn’t.” This was a great insight as we understood collectively solving issues changes the dynamic of workplace culture.
Netflix and Google were used here as great case studies as their hierarchies are very different. Netflix is much more flat where most employees are considered as a “Senior Engineer”; Google on the other hand start at tier 2 and go up to tier 12. It was talked about that opinions on hierarchies are (more or less) down to personal preference. One attendee said “Everyone loves a plan… you get to see where you’re going.” However, it was debated that when one of the leaders asked their senior team what they would like their job title to be, they generally aren’t interested – they just want to use the latest technology and create stuff. It was argued however that this is different across various sectors of the business so maybe businesses should make an emphasis on tailoring it to each department.
Companies build their own career paths so it’s something that candidates take into account when considering joining a new team. Some companies recognise that there isn’t enough space for everyone to be a boss/leader/manager. Sometimes an employee may out grow a role and unfortunately there isn’t anything for them to progress to within the company. One of our tech leaders mentioned “you never want to lose talent but sometimes it happens because you can’t promote everyone.”
Balancing ratios & tiers of management/leaders
One of our tech leaders kicked off this discussion by saying “as a head of you’re not going be able to see everything all of the time.” Our attendees recognised the importance of having “hands on” Team Leads as a tier of management due to senior leaders haven’t got the in-depth technical knowledge. Some management e.g. scrum masters are only there to run the business side.
Catering for Progression:
All our tech leaders agreed that career progression was very important to their company with one of our attendees saying “we try to play to people’s strengths”. It was decided that the main drive for progression for employees was money however interestingly Maslow’s Hygiene factors were thrown into the mix, including work culture and job security. However, it was highlighted that with flatter organisation structures, there is less room for career progression, including pay, responsibility and access to new tools. Whereas with taller organisation structures, they can often have more rigid pay bands.
This was a particularly interesting breakfast briefing and there were some more differing discussions due to the fact that our tech leaders are from companies with diverse structures. We hope that our attendees found it just as insightful as we did!