Creating effective teams in a growing company

Work with smaller multidisciplinary teams

Nothing limits people's motivation and productivity more than jumping through irrelevant hoops. Read more about creating smaller multidisciplinary teams in the article below.

In this last part of our blog string about DrupalCon, Evelien Schut tells us about her experience at DrupalCon (‘Wow, my first DrupalCon! And how lucky I was that it took place in sunny Barcelona’) and the two session where she as consulting project manager was interested in: the session of Lukas Kahwe Smith about Self-Managing Organizations, and the session of Tim Deeson about Creating a collaborative agency culture that scales.


For me as a female project manager and Drupal consultant in a (nerdy) mansworld, I didn’t had a clear idea of where I was going and what the conference would look like. But the scenery was pretty interesting: 2000 men shining in their awesome company t-shirt and all docile wearing their keycord (to blend in and make our director happy, I decided to do the same :p). Opportunities to take pictures with beach-boy Dries (I hope this was intended for the few women?), geeky one-liners (like “Double your hardware is like peeing in your pants, it will only keep you warm for a bit” and "Left joins are evil!”), table-soccer, accidentally ending up in a wrong session (appeared to be a hardcore tech session, OMG how embarrassing) and last but not least: no waiting line at the women toilet. Oh yeah! Conclusion: I enjoyed it a lot, DrupalCon is awesome!

But... what was in it for me as non-developer?

The past years GoalGorilla has grown fast and our projects are becoming larger and more complex. It becomes more and more important that our development team consists of professionals with great developer skills. But just as important: good skills in communication, being proactive and act accountable. Developers are rare in the east of The Netherlands, especially with these skills. So, it is very important for us to keep our developers happy. We provide cool projects and make work more clear with methodologies. Growth also means in this case that company culture, structure and processes need to get to a higher level. GoalGorilla’s strength is that we keep on challenging ourselves, being critical and always learn from our projects and customers. We keep on asking the questions ourselves:

  • ‘When is our client happy?’
  • ’What is a successful project to us?’
  •  ‘How do we get the best out of our team?’
  • ‘ How does the team stay motivated?’ and so on.

This makes us more mature and professional every day. But the larger the teams get, the more challenges we need to face in, for example the (resource)planning, team accountability (we want bottom-up!), team motivation etc.

Working towards self-organisation

A trend (and possible solution) is creating smaller multidisciplinary teams with their own processes, tools en accountability, and is often hot topic in our management brainstorm sessions. But is it really the solution to all our issues? And if so: where, how and when do we start? Because of this, I was very interested in 2 session at the DrupalCon:

  1. Self-Managing Organizations: Teal is the new Orange. A session of Lukas Kahwe Smith. He is manager and developer at Liip (CH)
  2. The session Creating a collaborative agency culture that scales by Tim Deeson. He is Managing Director of Deeson (UK).

Two companies with similar problems and challenges as we have, but different in company size and phase of implementing. Liip (round 130 employees) is already fully operational with multidisciplinary teams and they go pretty far. Their teams are totally self managing and for example need to do their own sales and recruit their own team members. Tim Deeson (his company has round 30 employees) shared his experience with their implemented first changes this year to enable a more empowered and self-directed approach. A perfect opportunity to learn from both types of companies. To me, the session of Tim was the most interesting, because it was very hands on and I could relate relatively easy it to GoalGorilla. We are setting first steps towards multi teams as well. So, I tell you more about this session.

"Nothing limits people's motivation and productivity more than jumping through irrelevant hoops!"

Deeson focussed especially on motivating the team by making working hours flexible, setting unlimited training budget, provide a personal tool budget and giving them mandate to implement changes in their own team, without approval of their management. They work in small self managing multidisciplinaire teams where result is more important than the process itself. Of course there are some standards where the team should commit to (like security, coding standards) and these are described in the Deeson 2.0 Handbook.


To build a bit of a structure around it,  each teams should deliver an x amount of billable hours a week, and the team needs to provide weekly reports. There are 3 self checks which employees should question themselves very often. Maybe a little bit obvious, but it is really all there is too it:

  • Is the way I’m working making our clients happy?
  • Am I effectively collaborating with my team?
  • Am I happy with the quality of my work?

The first results are overwhelmingly positive: employees are re-energised, more renewed innovations and conversations are mostly about the important things (no unnecessary meetings!). The difficult part still is the accountability. It is unclear who is accountable, and does the team carry the weight together? Deeson doesn’t have all the answers yet, and he advises to just start (there is never the perfect timing) and adjust/learn along the way. In conclusion: fresh new ideas for GoalGorilla: therefor my mission at DrupalCon accomplished!


Watch the entire session of Tim Deeson in the video below


Header photo made by Michael Smid


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