When we started this company about a decade ago, things were very different. We used to work differently, our speed was breakneck, our quality was great, our agility was phenomenal and there were almost no communication gaps in the organisation. But then I realised that most of these advantages that we had back then was because we were a much smaller team ? Really ? Well it turns out, not entirely.
A part of it can be attributed to the small team size but a bigger reason was that back then we were all full stack ! I was doing customer development and then conceiving features to solve those user problems, then would spend time designing it, then would code it, deploy it and then would start product marketing and so on. Essentially at every step I knew exactly what I wanted at the next step and because I was the same person there was no communication required and hence no communication gap either !
Everything was just too easy until we started building a bigger team and started hiring more and more subject matter experts rather than generalists like us. Which by the way is part of the process of growing as an organisation. And this is great because those people bring in so much deep learning of the domain and the subject matter that you would be blown away as top management. You would think, this is great I can now delegate everything and go to Hawaii. Right ? Well there is a small problem. Eventually you will find your self in situations where you would see your teams fighting with each other, missing out on really small and obvious things, and the list goes on. And you are frustrated because looking from where you are you can see they are failing at achieving their goals. So how did that happen ? They were all great, smart and passionate. You had aligned them so many times with your vision you don’t even remember. The answer lies again in this seemingly trivial concept of being full stack !
So I started talking to a lot of people in different teams doing different things. Interestingly when I was talking to one of my graphic designers who makes banner ads for app downloads and retargeting, I asked her a few simple questions — Do you know how much money do you save for the organisation everyday ? Do you know why your last banner had the best CTR ever ? It turns out, she had no clue. But she was intrigued and wanted to know more about performance marketing. She said that in her previous organisation, when she would ask questions about why we are making this banner, people would say — just do it ! So I gave her the freedom to learn about performance marketing. It created two big differences — firstly that person became a lot more excited about the opportunity to learn something new and secondly, now every time she designs a banner her objectives are completely different; now its about how her work makes us a more competitive company at user acquisition or about why certain group of target users would click on her banners etc. In other words she became a full stack graphic designer !
Our ad monetisation was suboptimal and there were always conflicts between product and media sales team — the reason, media sales was not full stack. We had great products but our products were not moving our core metrics of retention, engagement, activation and NPS — the reason yet again was the same. Product and design were not full stack. And the list goes on. As soon as people were given the freedom and the ownership of not just their core areas but also of their adjacent areas, the change was suddenly visible. All we had to do was ask a few key people to start looking a little to the left and a little to the right and voila — they had become full stack! Before our product roadmap used to look something like this — “Launch feature A on date B”. Now it looks like this — “Improve metric A by B% by launching feature C on date D”.
The magic has started to happen and the same teams which were working against each other were now sitting on the same side of the table, fighting the problems instead and chasing the targets together. It took some time to make it happen but all we had to do was to fundamentally change how we were looking at organisational goals and all the way down to the KRAs / KPIs of each and every individual in the organisation. I will resist calling it a success yet as these are still early days, but all I can say is that we have never had better energy and synergy levels at this sort of scale and team size !