Scaling at Happy Melly

by Jurgen Appelo

Let me tell you how we’re trying to scale our Happy Melly One team.

I delegate more and more work to my team members. This was relatively straightforward when we were just seven people. The team had two weekly calls about our Management 3.0 and Happy Melly brands and business models, and they could easily make decisions about any issues relating to these two areas. However, we sometimes struggled with other topics that fell somewhere in between the two brands: How do we coordinate content across brands? What about development and design decisions? When do we discuss financial compensation?

Scaling the Happy Melly One organization

Now we are fifteen people, we keep hiring more, and the diversity of topics keeps increasing. What about online learning opportunities? What about translations? What about our financial results? It appeared that an increasing number of conversations were not specifically about either Management 3.0 or Happy Melly.

Research shows us that the optimal team size is between three and seven and thus we needed to find a way to split our conversations and decisions into smaller groups, and into more than just two brand-related weekly calls.

Business Perspectives and Focus Areas

I decided to check all the topics around which we regularly had conversations and I arrived at a collection of focus areas arranged in a few business perspectives.

A business perspective is one particular way of looking at an organization and within that perspective there often appears to be a natural or logical way to partition conversations and decisions into separate focus areas.

For example, I already referred to the two brands that our team takes care of. Thus, Brands is a business perspective and Management 3.0 and Happy Melly are two focus areas in this perspective. (The other brands on our website are handled by other people and teams.)

But wait, there is more!

I realized that Business Models (or types of income) are another way of looking at our organization. Clearly, we can identify Licensing (for Management 3.0) and Membership (for Happy Melly) as separate focus areas. But we also have some (small) regular income from Product Sales, Publishing, and Certificates. And more types of income are on their way.

Sometimes, we have discussions and decisions about certain Language Regions. In fact, one team member (Yoris) is specifically hired to be our eyes, ears, and voice in Brazil. And we’re opening a new position for a similar role for the German-speaking part of the world.

Business Guilds

Sometimes, we have chat about topics that are of interest to almost all of us. I realized that this is the case with Tools for example, because we use so many of them. Another one is Content, because almost all of us are involved in producing text, images or video of some kind, and we like sharing tips and good practices. This made me think that these could probably be seen as focus areas of another perspective called Business Guilds.

And then there is the more traditional segmentation of work across the perspective of Functions (or Specializations). These are typically activities that only one team member (or just a few) are dealing with. For example, only Chad makes illustrations and only Christiaan does bookkeeping. With fifteen people, most of whom were hired for their specific talents, we have quite a few such narrow specialities in our team.

Another perspective is that of Stakeholders. They are the external parties who care about the existence of our organization, because they are clients, suppliers or partners of Happy Melly One. We can distinguish tool vendors, technical platforms, supporters, facilitators, and several more. Obviously, some of them are directly related to a brand or business model. But others are not.

Last, but not least, we have at least two ongoing Programs that are managed separately by a couple of team members: Happy Melly Coffee and the Virtual Book Tour hangouts (which are temporarily on hold). Programs are yet another way of drawing boundaries for communication and decision making.

Does it end here? Probably not. We may recognize additional business perspectives in the future. For example, some organizations would identify Projects or Products as important perspectives. Others might prefer to differentiate between Regions and Languages, or between Business Models and Value Streams. It all depends on the nature of your organization and how you want to clarify boundaries for decision making.

Well, this is what we have now and the picture will certainly be different next year. In the meantime, our focus areas within these perspectives come and go, leadership per area emerges in a natural way, and how to manage a focus area is an entirely different topic. But I will tell you more about that in future posts.

Other articles in the Happy Melly reorganization series:

Part One: Dazed and Confused
Part Two: A Tale of Two Companies

Image credits: Bryan Goff (Unsplash)

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