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Redesigning the content, research & design org

How redesigning our org structure led us to different ways of working

sana rao
sana rao
May 13, 2019 · 5 min read

Over the last few years, Deliveroo has grown and scaled in a big way. When things are moving so fast, it’s easy to only focus on ‘how’ and ‘what’. But growth of this scale is chaotic and awkward, so it is important to step back and think about the ‘why’ behind the structures we work within.

Late last year, we did just this — we noticed some patterns emerging in our ways of working, which led us to question the structure of the Content, Research and Design (CRD) org. We wanted to ensure that the org structure was really serving the needs of the people and the users rather than the other way around.

Overall the questions we asked ourselves were:

  1. Does the org structure enable clear lines of responsibility?
  2. Are all the three disciplines equally aligned towards their product group goals?
  3. Is everyone on the team getting the right context and support?

Here’s the journey we’ve been on, and what we’ve unlocked so far.

The old structure

For the most part, the organisational structure that the CRD team was built around had been pretty stable. CRDers have been embedded in restaurant, rider or consumer-facing groups, neatly organised according to the dynamics of our service.

Here’s the structure we were building towards until late last year:

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In the structure, disciplines were vertical and the individual contributors reports into discipline lead, but embedded in product groups. This structure grew organically because each of the three disciplines were established at different times. They needed to create their own identity, rituals and practices. With time because of this structure, all the discipline identities matured , codified and got embedded in the overarching culture of CRD and Deliveroo. From a product group level however, the reality was that design was the only discipline which had group level managers because there were just more designers to manage than other disciplines.

In practice, the structure started to present other challenges:

  • Discipline leads were responsible for each member’s progression but actually were not close enough to their day to day work.
  • The group design managers ended up acting as default decision makers because they had the most vertical product level context and presence given that there were more of them.
  • When hiring or other resourcing decisions needed to be taken, product and engineering teams didn’t know who the decision maker was. Eg: If we needed a researcher on consumer, the group design manager would be the one who would be able to identify that gap since they were more embedded but the decision ultimately resided with the research discipline lead who wouldn’t have as much day to day context.

What we did about it

To address all the above challenges, we looked at multiple ways of structuring the org and ultimately landed at a model where we centralised decision making and responsibility for all three discipline vertically. This also reduced unnecessary management hierarchy and enabled clear focus. Our new team structure looks like this:

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Okay but org chart, shmorg chart…, what does this all mean for the people on the team?

These moving boxes impact every single person on the team in both the short and long term.

Here are a few questions we asked ourselves — things you might consider asking yourself too if you’re thinking about changing the org structure of your team:

  1. What will the new structure unlock that is currently a blocker?
  2. What potential problems might the new structure create?
  3. Will it set the team up for scale for the future variations?
  4. What will the transition look like?
  5. Is it really, really, really necessary?

Once we answered all of these questions, we felt confident of what this structure would unlock. We also knew it would be logistically challenging and transitions would likely not be the most smooth given the reality of a fast paced environment.

What we’ve unlocked so far

It’s early days, but here are three big things that this new structure unlocked and is continuing to unlock for us:

Focused decision making

Each CRD manager now has a clear focus and a direct ability to influence strategy and direction for the product group they are responsible for. The CRD manager represents each discipline equally in strategic conversations at the group level.

Ownership for craft

In this world the discipline leads are freed up to focus on growing the discipline and sharpening methodologies. Which is now especially important since CRD managers will likely not have deep expertise in all three disciplines.

Multiple ways of progressing in the team

This model allows for every member of CRD to imagine different ways of progressing in the team, there isn’t one linear path of progression — there is the path to senior IC in each discipline, a discipline lead or a CRD manager, whichever path feels more exciting.

We’re only a few months into the new structure and this is still very much a work in progress. As companies grow I’ve often seen structures get locked in, and it becomes virtually impossible to have the ability, time or appetite to question the foundations and avoid shipping an org structure. The stage of company Deliveroo is in currently means it’s a design exercise in itself to be able to question the org design. We’re excited to see where this leads!

Fancy helping us create our team culture?

Do you care deeply about the craft of management? About people? About org design? About the impact content, research & design can have at scale?

Well you’re in the right place.

We’re actively hiring managers for discipline leads and CRD Manager roles: Apply here:

Deliveroo Design

Stories, tidbits and musings from the content, research and…

Thanks to Becky Hirsch

sana rao

Written by

sana rao

Designer, manager, poet. Previously @deliveroo @twitter @apple @svaixd

Deliveroo Design

Stories, tidbits and musings from the content, research and design team at Deliveroo

sana rao

Written by

sana rao

Designer, manager, poet. Previously @deliveroo @twitter @apple @svaixd

Deliveroo Design

Stories, tidbits and musings from the content, research and design team at Deliveroo

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