Louis Georgiou | Managing Director, Code ComputerLove
Code ComputerLove are very proud to have been recently awarded one of Campaign Magazine’s 50 Best Places to Work in the UK. We were only one of two businesses given the accolade outside of London. You can read more about it here.
You’re probably thinking this sounds like a typical agency setup with swanky coffee machine, foosball table and bean bags for the staff to lounge around on. Well, you’ll be right, except for the bean bags – uurgh!
It’s true we have a few fun items – a foosball table, a table tennis table, 3 arcade machines (my favourite), a drum kit, some guitars and a variety of vintage hand held games consoles. There’s also the ‘maker space’, complete with a full arsenal of workshop tools, 3D printer, vinyl cutter, screen printer, Lego and Mindstorms sets. When not working, there’s a lot of fun that can be had in the office space. I often bring my children in at the weekend to play, they love it.
But I’m keen to stress, NONE of these things are reasons why Code is a great place to work.
Unlike some offices I’ve seen during my career, our office has been designed with a single purpose – so that talented teams can work effectively together. The word “effective” is really important and is central to our whole attitude to our digital work too. Effectiveness we simply class as the reduction of waste and maximisation of value. In terms of the working space and the office culture, we began by asking the question, how can we empower our teams to get the best results for their clients, i.e. maximising the value they get from their team?
So we’ve established that the foosball table isn’t that important, but what is? The space needs to reflect the values and beliefs of the business and this helps create the right culture, which is then self-propagating. This is all about work first, enabling teams and individuals to deliver to the best of their capability. To do that, we’ve embraced many of the practices of modern digital native businesses and many concepts from agile software delivery and lean manufacturing are the foundations of our teams and culture. There are far too many components of these practices to detail in this article, but at a high level, the three guiding principles are:
1 Multi-disciplinary, collaborative teams
2 Autonomous, empowered teams
3 Learning and continual improvement
- Multi-disciplinary, collaborative teams
Let’s start with things we know. We are all social creatures and we are better together than we are alone. Particularly in a complex digital world, there are no individuals who can create brilliant digital products solo – we have to work together.
A shared goal and purpose motivates and brings teams together. A shared space, shared routines, shared tools and artefacts helps teams bond and gives visibility around progress towards their team goals.
The design of the physical space helps support the teams’ working practices. Every team has a Kanban board to visualise their pipeline, work in progress and improvement actions. Teams surround their spaces with their key client artefacts (customer experience maps, goals/KPIs, product canvases etc) and working material such as performance data and design iterations. Each zone also has a live dashboard reporting on platform performance with live metrics – immediate data that is visible to all team members to inform their decisions and actions.
- Autonomous teams
We know teams are most effective and individuals most fulfilled when they are able to work unhindered, to produce high quality work. Teams who have control of their working life and practices are focussed and effective. Their autonomy and pride in their work and achievements, translates into results for their clients. This attainment of goals further fuels the pride in their achievement which becomes a virtuous circle. So how do we make sure this happens?
We have 8 product teams, each team is responsible for up to 4 client products (their owned digital platforms), depending on the scale/complexity of the product and the client need. Each team has a shared blueprint for their base structure and practices, but teams are able to build on that and adapt their methods to suit their team and the needs of their clients. They are able to customise their spaces and decide when and how they run stand ups, retrospectives, showcases, feedback sessions and client meetings. They can even brand their team names and spaces. We have a varied mix – “Apache Communications” (an Alan Partridge reference), “Foxhound” and “Shadaloo” (video game references), “Rogue Squadron” (the obligatory Star Wars reference) and then the totally random such as “Dessert Storm”. The thing they all share, individuals take ownership and pride in team membership.
It’s not just about the product teams though, we encourage cross team learning and sharing, typically around discipline, but also the creation of groups of interest. Individuals are free to organise their own events and meetups with likeminded people. We have clubs for art, video gaming, charity fundraising, music, knitting, running, yoga etc, anything people want to do we can facilitate – outside of working hours. We’re fortunate to have a dedicated event space in the office which we open out to the local design and technology community to use free of charge. Many of our team facilitate and run these meetups too.
True to our values, a rule that we’re keen not to break is that senior management do not interfere. Teams are given the responsibility and are equipped to deal with issues; they ask for help if they need it.
- Learning and continual improvement
Individuals are motivated by mastering their trade. Teams who are open to learning new approaches become great problem solvers and are able to self-correct when encountering issues. Therefore learning and self-improvement are highly valued within the business and we encourage this in a number of ways. To start, every employee has a dedicated learning budget to use as they see fit. Across the teams, the disciplines meet regularly to share their learnings and progress their overall capability as a discipline. As a business we have annual objectives which are around our continual evolution and improvement (not just financial targets). These cascade to the teams and into individuals’ objectives, so that every member of staff has clarity on their goals and how they can stretch themselves, but also, how this will benefit the overall business. We use the Google OKR format for this (https://rework.withgoogle.com/guides/set-goals-with-okrs/steps/introduction/ ).
Within the product teams, improvement objectives are reviewed regularly and worked on in priority order, keeping a limit on tasks in progress. On a much smaller, practical level, the team hold retrospectives weekly or fortnightly, discussing how they have performed in their last iteration and agreeing how they can improve their effectiveness for the next iteration. This constant evaluation and improvement cycle ensures they learn from experiences with a view to eradicating waste and generating more value. Ultimately this means better results for clients which makes everybody happy.