”The ‘dozen-bagel team’ theory from the excerpt release of Twilio CEO, Jeff Lawson’s new book has been circling social media for the past few weeks, with other organizations sharing similar stories as to how they preserve culture as their organisations grows.
Inevitably, with any rapidly expanding organisation, it’s more than likely there’s going to be a dilution of the founding culture. It’s only when the original employees step back and look at how much has changed, they see how the culture has evolved – positively and negatively. In the case of Twilio, Jeff explained in the early days how quick it was to make decisions, the beauty of a start-up’s flexibility, with three of them running the business, sharing the same vision. Every Monday morning, they’d meet to discuss the week ahead and on Jeff’s commute, he’d stop to pick up some bagels for the team. The order started with three bagels and as the company grew, the order increased to half a dozen. Then a dozen. Then two dozen. As the bagel order increased, it became harder to implement and make decisions in the business. When one day he reviewed the layout of the organizational structure and discovered all thirty people reported to him – which identified where the problem lay. The result was formulating ‘dozen-bagel team’s’ meaning a team small enough that a dozen bagels would be enough to feed one team – decisions began to be made within the teams much quicker, just like in the early days as a start-up. This is something Twilio have maintained throughout their expansion and how they’ve structured the organisation to preserve their culture.
Here at Zing, an agile approach to projects has always been a core element of our culture. As a Twilio partner, it’s great to see the similar approach of operating in small agile teams, in order to make quick decisions and overall work more effectively.
Over past 18 months, we’ve experienced significant growth as an organisation, increasing our team by fifty per cent and expanding internationally to customers in eight new countries (see our 2020 Round Up blog ). With new team members having to being inducted virtually, a lot of time has been spent looking at screens. The risk when working remotely is people fall into the trap of starting work earlier and carry on working after hours, which comes with a danger of quickly burning out. This was a very predominant theme at the start of the lockdown, where the so-called ‘9-5 working day’ structure began to diminish.
Where we’d usually take a coffee break with a team member, have a face-to-face meeting with a client or even host some after work drinks – Covid-19 has ended this. All were a ‘break from routine’.
So Julian Hucker, our CEO, has introduced ‘Zing Days’. Once a quarter, the team are asked to take a day off work and do something ‘not work related’ – whatever that may be. The expense is covered by the company and the Zingers are encouraged to switch off their screens and notifications and do anything they want – that’s not work. Of course, due to Government restrictions, there’s been some limits, but overall, there’s been a really positive response to the break in routine. Some examples of Zing Days so far include, making homemade pizzas, going for a long walk, long bike rides, winter runs, reading a new book, baking a cake and many more!
As we move towards a relaxation of lock-down, the hope is that Zingers start to coalesce around dates to share a trip to a climbing wall, or undertake a project together. It’s hoped that these shared experiences, through Zing, become a key part of our culture as we grow. We look forward to restricting our shared bike-rides to “one-dozen cake orders”!