Andreas Flodström and Gustav Henman are the founders of Beetroot, a remarkable IT company set up in 2012 to create social impact in Ukraine. We talk about how culture has played an important role in their self-managed way of organising, the challenges of scaling (from 380 to 1000+ in the next four years), and the tough leadership lessons they’ve learned as founders as the company has grown.
- Twitter: @beetroot_se
Lisa Gill: So, Gustav, Andreas, thank you for joining me on the Leadermorphosis podcast. I thought a good place to start would be if you could share a little bit about the Beetroot story, because it's such an interesting origin story of why these two Swedes decided to set up this company and why the Ukraine. So, can you say something about how you started the company and what the purpose or vision is?
Andreas Flodström: I guess I can start as I'm Andreas, and I think this story of Beetroot started back in university - me and Gustav were studying in the same university back in Sweden, (Chalmers University of Technology), both being engineers in different fields, and both having various startup entrepreneurial activities. And we met in university and found out that we had a similar fascination for eastern Europe and we had both learned Russian for different reasons and both spent some time in both Russia and Lithuania and eastern Europe and so on. And we quite quickly understood that we have some similar mindset and similar vision of building up some kind of company in eastern Europe, which has a good social impact.
From the beginning we didn't even know in what field we will be working and we didn't know in what country, but we knew that we want to create a business that has social impact and based on that we started to evaluate very different business ideas, and quite quickly came to the conclusion that I.T industry is a good place to start because it's sort of a borderless industry; it's somewhere where you can start without a lot of capital, (which we didn't have at the time), and it's also something close to us because we have been involved, specifically slaving in various I.T related startup projects prior to that. And this was in 2012 so seven years ago, quite exactly actually, and I was still in my studies as this was part of my Master in Technical Entrepreneurship. Gustav was finishing his Master in Biomedical Engineering in Moscow. And we quite experimentally we decided to move to Kyiv, to Ukraine, but we hadn't decided for a sort of final destination at the time.
So we had Kyiv as a base, but we were evaluating Kyiv, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and Moldova specifically, going kind of deep, both being academic and both using our gut feeling and so on, and we quite quickly during half a year, we started with a road trip with a Lada and also the car we drove from Saint Petersburg to Kyiv. We lived in an office there on the floor on two air mattresses for the first six months, and then we were basically like experimenting and researching, and we came to the conclusion that we felt that Ukraine was the place which had both the objective; very high potential parameters, but also the more subjective thing that we felt that this is a place where we could live and we feel very welcome, and where we can have a lot of impact. And so that was the start.
And then during this experimental first half a year, we started to work with various outsourcing projects from the beginning with different partner teams. So yes, travelling around we were meeting partner teams and finding good technical specialists and connecting them to clients in mainly at the time, Sweden, who needed software skills. So we learned a lot and, a long story short, we made a couple of conclusions on how we think it's better to run an I.T consultancy business - we came up with this model called a 'dedicated team' where you integrate a team based in Ukraine with the team at a client's location. So the teams are based in Ukraine, we run the office, we help them set up the remote cooperation process and so on, but essentially, the team works in very close relation to clients in typically western countries.
So that is the Beetroot part; so we have Beetroot and Beetroot Academy, and with that model (with the Beetroot model), we have grown a team of a bit more than 300 people, work from five different offices in Ukraine, so both big cities and small cities. And then since five years back, so two years after we founded Beetroot, we also founded Beetroot Academy. And that was in the time when Ukraine was in this turmoil with the revolution and the start of the war and so on and we were at the time, quite a small team of 15 people in Beetroot, and we were living in Odesa in southern Ukraine by the Black Sea, and we were like: "Okay, now is probably the time to really start to think about what we can do, based on our position here that really can create a good social impact". And what we did then was that we said, well, the I.T industry is growing fast, despite all the problems in the country. But it's focused mainly to the big cities, so if we can help to develop I.T in mid-sized cities, and we can get more women into tech, and so on and so forth, that will give a very direct and big impact on people's lives because working in the I.T industry in Ukraine is almost like a parallel world to more or less all the other parts of the economy, (if to simplify), because you work on a global market rather than a more local or regional one.
So that was the start of Beetroot Academy, which is now a social enterprise, so essentially, it's a nonprofit organisation, but which is built to be long-term financially self-sustainable, although we're scaling it up and building the product and so on with help from grant money; we are supported by for example, Sweden, Estonia, USAID and UNDP for doing that. And at this point we are Beetroot Academies running in 16 different locations throughout Ukraine, from west, basically to the front line, more or less in the east in Mariupol and Kramatorsk which is part of Donetsk region, and we are approaching that we have educated around 1% of all the I.T specialists active in the Ukrainian market, and it's a pretty big market, so it's getting close to 200,000 people who work in the I.T industry. So the fastest growing industry, and also very export oriented industry, so it adds a lot to the economy, locally. Maybe Gustav wants to add something?
Gustav Henman: Yeah, I'm Gustav. Thanks Lisa for inviting us. I think you managed to summarise it pretty well there. If I would add something, I think we always or usually get a question like: "Why did you do this? Why did you go to Ukraine? It sounds risky, it sounds counterintuitive - why did you do it?" But I think it was just because this decision felt so natural for us. Like we met and we realised this is what we should do. And it was just a gut feeling and it was like sort of our arrows were aligning in a way, and we kept this good feeling throughout these years, when we were developing this - we had a feeling this can lead to good things. Like even if we fail, this is going to lead to good things - and I think that's the big, general conclusion, is that it's important to do things where you feel like you're heading in a good direction. And the biggest risk you can take is to work in a direction you feel isn't right, no matter the sort of actual business risks and stuff. And something you could say about all these years we've been working, we really feel like this feels right.
Andreas Flodström: And I can add one more thing in relation to that, but also in terms of the context, we're working in three different ways: we're working in a very fast changing environment - so, we're working in the I.T industry (we call it the I.T industry, but what it actually is that this industry is affecting more and more any other industry in integration in our society and so on), we are working in Ukraine, which is a country which is in a constant transformation, for the last couple of years between, to simplify, the old and the new with the new being this very progressive and active youth who really wants to change the future for themselves and for the country, and so on, and we are also then working in this interesting world of like self-managed teams and experimenting with this new paradigm of how to run an organisation. And these three things, they play along quite well, because we are in the industry where, in some aspects, maybe it's easier to run as self-managing; we are in a country where the traditional way of running organisations are very old school and hierarchical, but at the same time you have a lot of people and drive in a social transformation in the country where this way of running organisation becomes very interesting. So, we are in this sort of 'storm'.
Lisa Gill: Yeah - eye of the storm. Yeah, I like that. There's a couple of things I wanted to pick up on from your overview of the story and what you both said, because I've had the pleasure of visiting your Kyiv office, and I joined the Beetroot birthday party last year as well. And of course, we met because of your interest in exploring further this idea of being a self-managed organisation and what does that look like? But something that strikes me is what you were talking about, Gustav, about sensing into what feels right and just moving in that direction almost intuitively. And so my impression is that you guys came towards this idea of self-management, not from an intellectual or systemic perspective, but more because culturally that felt like the kind of company that you wanted to create and build, the kind of workplace that you wanted to create for people. And I think one of the most tangible things when you visit Beetroot or when you meet any of the Beetroot team, is how strong your culture is - there's really a strong feel. So, I wondered if you could say something about how important culture has been for you, and maybe describe a bit of the essence of the Beetroot culture for people listening, because you have this great analogy, for example, between an onion and a beetroot and so many wonderful ways of describing your identity as a company.
Gustav Henman: It is something that came very natural. I mean, it can be hard afterwards to derive where it came from, but I think it's a combination of that we always had this social drive and like we want to achieve some positive change and we see the organisation as something that no matter what the organisation in itself is delivering, it's also a good chance to help to grow people working in the organisation and in that way, also have impact. And then also, we had so little experience in general when we started this. So it was very natural when we brought in people to support us in building up the company. I mean you know this so much better than us, you take care of it! We don't know and we're not very authoritarian in our style. We probably have, like most people, a bit of control need over something a bit yourself, but it came natural as we grew, and we didn't think about it specifically: "Now let's build this self-managed" or "let's build this in a new way". It just evolved,
Andreas Flodström: Probably we didn't even know that there is this way and that there is this world movement of different companies who are experimenting with different ways - it's from the beginning, it's really just us doing what felt natural, and one thing is the self-management, another thing is the culture, and one very strong part of our culture is this very friendly and family-like relationships in the team. And I think that came from the beginning, from that we were sitting in a flat where we lived and developers were coming home to us and taking off their shoes and taking out their slippers and yes, starting to work as friends and some people who deliver something together. And then when we started to grow, we kind of felt that we want to keep this personal approach, so we moved to some office in a business center, and it just felt unnatural to walk around with shoes so we said let's take on the slippers and let's make it this homey environment, and let's try to use this Beetroot as symbolic for the way who you are to each other.
Gustav Henman: We also took some active decisions not to introduce control functions and not double-checking, but sort of encouraging that all this sense of responsibility came from within; like some intrinsic force and you shut that down if you start to do controlling and if you start to behave in a way where it's obvious that you're not fully trusting someone. So that all came pretty natural, and that's something that is, I would say, fairly easy when you're small, and you have a very close personal relationship to everyone and it comes even more natural. It's a totally different thing, when you're building a big organisation distributed in many locations, and that's something we thought of - that's where the real challenge started. And we came to a point where we felt that: "Okay, this is probably where most organisations introduce middle manager...oh, that will be so nice. That will release a lot of pressure right now". But we actively decided not to do that and started to work even more on the culture and spreading that and working on things enhancing the culture and started to talk about culture more.
Andreas Flodström: And I think it was an interesting point there around I think, somewhere when we were scaling - we were growing very quickly from let's say, 30 to 100 people. And somewhere along that growth you started to see different challenges. And we had created our model of self-management - we didn't call it, we call it 'reversed hierarchy', and we had our own little pictures that we were painting and felt very revolutionary, and so on. And at the same time we faced challenges, and you kind of tended to go: "Okay, but what did we learn in business school? What do you do now? Well, probably you introduce some middle management, you go KPIs, and you go structures..", you go many different things. And I think we were even starting to do that a little bit, when, even though it didn't feel like naturally right, and at that point, that was I think around 2015, that's three years into the Beetroot journey, we came in contact with this world of teal companies, and so on.
And how it happened was that I was speaking at some different conferences, presenting our reverse hierarchy model, and so on, and then somebody asked: "Oh, you probably read this book, Reinventing Organisations and you decided to build your company that way?" And we were like: "Hmm. We didn't read that book but maybe we should" - so we did, and we realised that there is actually a lot of things here that is very much aligned with what we have been trying to do, but also what sort of would feel right to continue doing further on. And along with that, this was also when we came in contact with Tuff Leadership and with various organisations in this sort of community, which made it feel more real for us; it's actually possible, there are other examples of companies who manage to scale while keeping this human-centered approach.
Gustav Henman: And what we started to do then as well, when we got more into the science of it in a way, we sat down with a big part of the team, I think around 50 people, to formulate our fundamentals together, like our 'why' direction values and put words on it. I mean, they were already there in a way, but just to agree on what is this, so it's easier to spread in the organisation and describe what it is. So it's as we're trying to get these things to come from within, rather than pouring down from the top, and then boil it down to: "What's our overall global direction and ways of doing things?" And then you've got: "What does this mean for us on a team level?" and "What does this mean for me on an individual level?" - so attach everything we do more actively to our common direction - that's something that we realised that we need to do this to get some sort of sense of direction, and to support accountability and all that, as we move forward.
Andreas Flodström: I think it's very hard to expect that people take well-informed decisions in different ways if you don't have a common, bigger vision that you work for. And what we concluded with our team, with going through these workshops and so on, was defining that the purpose of this organisation or this ecosystem, you could call it (because it's actually Beetroot and Beetroot Academy and so on, it's different organisations), but we want these ecosystems to be the most social impactful organisation in I.T in Ukraine, which of course, is something you could measure with hard factors, like how much you affect the economy, individuals, and so on, but also sort of soft factors where you more look at how do we affect the mindset, or how does the organisation affect the mindset of the people who work in the organisation, partners, and anyone basically you get in connection to? So we have taken that role, you could say, where we try to spread this way of doing things further, which also includes like being very collaborative with other organisations - we don't really look at competitors as competitors in the traditional sense - more of a chance to change various things and so on.
Lisa Gill: So in terms of, you reach this really interesting crossroads of aha! Around about this time, the traditional business school approach would be to hire some middle managers and to introduce some control functions. So I wonder if you could tell us something about some of the decisions you've made, or some of the things you've implemented that are alternatives to that along your self-management journey; what are the things that have worked well and what are the things that are still really challenging in terms of balancing the purpose of the organisation and also this way of working that you want to adopt?
Gustav Henman: One thing is I mentioned about these big, strategy workshops with the whole team to make sure that comes from within, that's a good starting point. Then also we've been talking a lot about decision-making and get everyone into the world of decision-making in terms of the different ways of making decisions; what are the different kinds of decisions, like big, small? Who do you need to involve? When is it important with consensus? All these things. We've been trying to structure that like, this is when you should do this, and this is when you should do that. But you come to the conclusion that it's complex. So it's more about getting everyone in to think about being aware of these things, and all that's under development I would say, like the whole constant evolution there in decision-making. We've been defining a group of coordinators like a little parliament; one coordinator from each functional team, where we bring up global questions - can be global operational, things, can be connected to business development, can be a strategy. Also, the sort of meta topic is organisational development in that discussion. So it's all the things that no one else would address, if you just would let everything flow. So that's a conclusion we came to; that we need to have a sync function for these global questions. And that's also under evolution - we've been doing it for a year now, probably going to review it now and adjust some things.
Andreas Flodström: And also, as we discussed already a bit as a very important basis, of course, to the basics of the culture and especially when you listen to people who joined us quite recently from a different environment, you almost always hear these sort of comments, like: "I was shocked by the amount of trust I got when I joined Beetroot" and that's a good sign when people say that, because what we have experienced, and I mean, the traditional mindset, is that people give people a lot of trust and see what happens, you take a lot of risks; that people will not do what they should do and so on.
But what our experience is mainly that shocking people with trust, is adding another motivational level of: "now I'm actually responsible for this". For some people, it's a very fast adaptation process, for some people, it's much harder and what you could see is usually related to what kind of environments you have been working in previously. And one of the things that you could experience is that, well, you have a lot of trust and you usually have a defined purpose of your role in relation to the big picture, but you usually end up in: "Well, it's up to you how you want to achieve the goals of your role". And that can be very unusual for someone who has the experience of coming to a new workplace, and you get a list of things that you're supposed to do. So in a sense, sometimes you have this situation where people are sort of searching for their purpose in the organisation, which in some cases falls out very well, and for some people in some situations, it's not always easy to find that purpose in a way.
Lisa Gill: I think it's interesting as well that I know a lot of your team is quite young, which in a way is an advantage because people don't have as much experience perhaps, of really hierarchical workplaces. And yet, I think still the education system and my understanding is the culture generally in Ukraine is quite hierarchical, so there's still some unlearning to do there I think, and I think it takes people time (even though they have the permission, so to speak) to really get used to: "Oh, I can really challenge something or suggest something", and I'm wondering, in terms of onboarding and recruiting and personal development within the organisation, what have you found useful in terms of supporting people in that transition, in terms of getting used to 'the Beetroot way' of working.
Andreas Flodström: I can maybe comment first on the overall educational system and what with what luggage people come into the organisation. So most of the Ukrainian education system has a, you could call it, 'Soviet legacy', which means it's very fact-based, it's not based on you taking various initiatives and so on. That's the one side of it. And at the other side of it is that Ukraine has shown and proven reasonably in terms of overall political development and so on, that this is a freedom-loving people who want to take their own path. So it's almost like we can offer something as an employer for those people who are really interested. So in one way, we have never done this in Sweden, but I have sometimes the feeling that in some sense, it's maybe easier to do this here because there are so many people who are so fed up with a very traditional way of doing things. So you come in with a super high motivation and openness towards doing something completely different. And often you like people would come to visit the company and so on, they were like: "Is this like how you run companies in Sweden?" Well it's not really like it, this is much more towards freedom and self-management than most Swedish companies would be.
Gustav Henman: But there is a kind of a catch-22 there; like being young and open-minded and wanting new thing, but at the same time, to be able to work in a self-managed environment, that requires a lot of maturity, awareness, business understanding and also this about tuning down your ego, seeing the big picture - all these things, that really, really requires a lot from each individual - they come with experience, and age and so on. So there's a difficulty there as well. And this is no matter in which country you do it.
Andreas Flodström: Yeah, and to look at what kind of skill sets that you usually need to work with, and which we always need to work with, I think as an organisation...Okay, let's say what works really well for us, I think, is to create the atmosphere in the office and the trust level between different people in the team; to feel that this is a space where I can be myself, I can act as myself, I feel so informally, like at home by being here and feel trust with that. If to talk about this skill set that is more challenging in which we are constantly working with and partly together with Tuff Leadership also, is the feedback culture, in how to be able to when there is not a manager, (who gives you feedback, and you're successful if the manager is happy), so if it's not that, then you need better ability to give and take feedback on an individual, like peer to peer level because that feedback needs to happen everywhere between different people in the organisation, rather than top-down. Yeah, that's something we work on.
It's something that is maybe one of the more challenging parts for us and maybe partly because (and you know this Lisa because you've been working with us) we are very nice to each other in this organisation and sometimes we are so nice to each other, so we are a little bit afraid of stepping on someone's toes or making someone disappointed because you're a little bit afraid of destroying the harmony. And that's something we're working on, I think we are getting better and better at that. I think it's also one of the key factors for being able to continue to scale with this approach, because we have a big scale plan; we are 380 people now in total, and we plan to be more than 1000 people in around four years from now, while still being this decentralised, teams decision-making and so on, which I actually think on the other end, that approach gives that opportunity as well because growing in this way means that you don't grow just based on some top-down strategy, but you grow in parallel in many different parts of the organisation at the same time.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, I've heard you say before, that the self-managed approach is partly out of necessity; that you have to work in that way, if you want to scale the way that you're hoping to, in a way.
Andreas Flodström: Yes, that's true and especially for the Academy as we are also very decentralised, just geographically, as we are working in 16 locations and a very lean, small, we call it the 'support team' - so this sort of centralised function who we call 'support functions'. So we have the regional coordinators who are out in the cities, and they are, like, fully responsible of everything that goes on in the city, and then they have this support system of people who work with product development, producing various marketing material, financial, administrative support, and so on. So in a way without self-management, we wouldn't be able to make so many good things happen. Based on self-management, we are running an I.T hub in Mariupol, which is one of the big cities close to the frontline, and this is something that came up as a local opportunity. And then we switched on our support functions with the organisation to help. So that's how the mindset is built to work; I take an initiative, I have an I.D, but I'm not alone. I'm not like as the lonely sailor. I have a support team who can switch on when needed. Gustvav, do you want to add something?
Gustav Henman: Yeah, because I was thinking about what your initial question was; about what we're looking for when we recruit and how we build a team. I mean, obviously we've been good at spotting these good fits for working with us, but it's a bit tricky, it's partly an experience I'm not being based to, but of course it's a good thing if someone explicitly says that I'm very open for something new and I have heard about this and I'm interested - that's one thing, (doesn't always need to mean that it's a good fit, but that's a good start). And then you can try to listen a bit under the surface, in terms of motivators and the ability to listen and the real curiosity and interest is there and also the level of responsibility-taking. And lately I've been coming into some later stages or interview processes and I'm usually trying to test out self-awareness to see: "What do you know about yourself? How do you work?" And then sometimes is a really good sign, I think if someone is able to reflect on that, because that shows a certain level of maturity and awareness. And if that just pours off - that doesn't stick at all, that question - that can be (doesn't need to be, but it can be) a bit of a red flag warning.
Andreas Flodström: And one of the interesting things when it comes to recruitment, is it is much more challenging for us in this context to find people with senior hard skills, and who is comfortable and willing to enable to switch into this way of working, than it is to find hard skills less senior which means that we are in a constant process of people learning very quickly inside of the organisation. And I think especially in Ukraine, where because of historical reasons, if you're above 40 today in Ukraine, it means that you grew up and formed yourself during the Soviet times, (and there are of course many exceptions; people who are gone through personal transformations and so on - that's what you have to go through to be able to work. So it's almost you can compare this old paradigm to the new - like comparing Soviet mindset with the new, Ukraine mindset or something like that. I don't know if that was clear.
Lisa Gill: Yeah it's interesting. Something else that I'd love to hear about is your experience - both of you as founders of the company - what has your personal journey been like since starting the company, and then now it's growing (it's been growing very rapidly since quite early on), but how have you managed this journey for yourselves in terms of your own development and what have some of the most challenging milestones been?
Gustav Henman: It's an interesting question and what we could say is that we were, as we said, fairly inexperienced when we started straight from university. We had been running some smaller projects, companies before, but it was not at all this dimension and at this level. So we came in pretty blank, and then we had these post seven very intensive years, and you could say that first of all, we developed a lot together; like even the first year, we were working as one unit pretty much and that's part of how we succeeded as well, how we managed to get going, because we have this really amazing dynamic between ourselves where we completed each other - really different kind of persons and personalities - but we completed ourselves. So the joint learning experience there was extremely key in the beginning.
Andreas Flodström: But then I think to talk about personally for me, one of the hardest thing is sometimes I just want to jump in and do other people's job. I'm very impatient and my mindset is usually set on that everything is very doable, which means that my allergies is also when I feel that you experience this mindset of: "Things are impossible, we can't do this because..." and then I'm like: "Of course we can do it!" And to be with that sort of personalities that at the same time, it can sometimes disturb this process of self-management; if you jump in too hard and taking over the steering wheel from people. So that's something I'm working with.
Gustav Henman: And my corresponding thing is, I'm very much of a thinker and I have a tendency to start to think for others too and just get in there. But I've been trying to focus my thinking on like engineering the organisation instead of the people. So I spent a lot of time now lately on these mechanisms for self-management, for example, that requires a lot of the kind of thinking I like, so it's a way of tricking, redirecting the pitfall into something productive.
Andreas Flodström: Yeah, the dynamics between us; you could call an engineer or you could call it a philosopher or other things, because I'm more running ahead of things, usually like two steps ahead of maybe sometimes what the organisation is ready for maybe, but then the dynamics that we have had during this seven years is much that I'm pulling various things or coming up with different initiatives or trying to like to be helpful in different initiatives, and Gustav has had this more backbone; making sure that we are actually doing the right things and so on. And now since we have grown up and have this coordination or functions in the teams and so on, this is something that more and more lands on the whole organisation, so that the organisation is more and more involved in these sort of priorities of what we are and what we should be doing for the next year and so on.
Gustav Henman: All according to plan. But we could also say that all the skills you need to work self-managed, in terms of the ability to listen (like active listening) and this general awareness of how you behave, and about feedback (we develop that as well and that's very key). And I think you cannot be a founder of a self-managed organisation without yourself taking these things really, really serious and acting like this yourself. You cannot get away from that you have a role model function partly.
Andreas Flodström: And I think one of my wake ups was when we went for the first training in London, like two, maybe three years ago, (at least two years ago). Coming there I thought that I'm probably quite good in giving feedbacks, and I realised that I wasn't that good and that was like a wake up call, and I realised that you can do this in very different ways, and working on that toolbox. Yeah, I think it's a lifelong journey, probably.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, I think we've known each other for a couple of years now and I think it's been really interesting to watch. You guys have such strong energy, like really positive energy that I think has powered the organisation along, and now is a turning point, I think, where you're realising that your energy is also kind of your pitfall, or there's a shadow side to that, which is that other people in the organisation are still a bit dependent on that energy. And so I've had conversations with you both about realising that and learning how to step back in a way, not literally, but more in terms of your way of being, so that other people really get that they are co-responsible, that they are also the energy behind the organisation. So, it's interesting to watch that evolve.
Andreas Flodström: And actually it works really well for my sake - like tuning down myself sometimes in group discussions and so on, like being one voice of the team, and sometimes making clear that I'm just one voice of the team, so that not everyone around the table turns around and thinks: What has Andrea said? Is that the way we are doing? And actually one of the interesting effects of that has been that for the last year, there has been quite some significant decisions that have been taken with me actually being against that specific decision, having voiced that, but not as the final decision-maker, just as one voice of the team and many of these decisions has been very good. So that's some success.
Gustav Henman: Yeah, and recently, like half a year ago, I moved to Sweden to let the organisation get some more space, and most of the team is based in Ukraine. So that's also part of the experiment - the ultimate step would be to actually not be in there. I'm still there, but a bit more distance now and we definitely taking the next step by that.
Andreas Flodström: And talking about challenges, maybe more of an organisation challenge than a personal one, but when we are growing quickly, we're working with the mindset as the base point, and so on but sometimes things feels messy, and then sometimes you get these sort of calls from people in the organisation who go like: "Let's make someone the boss of XYZ", which sounds maybe counterintuitive in terms of self-management, but maybe that's one of the roles as we have as founders to stand for - that this is the way we are doing things and we are not stepping away from some base factors of; this is how the DNA or the identity of this organisation should should look like. Does that make sense Gustav?
Gustav Henman: Yeah, enough.
Lisa Gill: I guess in starting to wrap up our conversation, you've had an amazing seven years since starting the company and have learned a lot along the way. What would your advice be to people listening who are in self-managing organisations of their own or perhaps thinking about transforming their organisation into a self-managing one? What tips or advice would you share with them?
Gustav Henman: The very obvious thing for us is to start from the soft parts, like as we coincidentally did when we started to grow this culture, (it wasn't coincidental, but it came natural) and then that's reflecting the growth environment for self-management. Then we talk about trust, feedback culture and these things and transparency and then gradually start talk about it, start to let more people get more into more things like to get an overview; start with the environment, and then take small steps towards awareness and then you could start with more structural changes, or whatever you want to do.
Andreas Flodström: One more thing would be to not relate to this as some kind of religion. It's not a purpose by itself to always follow a textbook, if it's not a business school textbook, then it might be Reinventing Organisations or whatever, but it's not about that. Because when we presented this idea that now we are going teal and so on, it sometimes became something that people used as; "We are doing this because we are teal" and it's like, no, we're not doing any big thing because we are related to some religion or teal. We are doing things because we want a certain environment of growth, like personal growth in the team, and we want to achieve certain bigger goals and this is our way of doing it.
Gustav Henman: And how to describe it for your organisation could be that instead of saying: "Now we're gonna go and be teal, we're gonna do this huge transformation". You could more say that: "Okay, let's try to drop the old way of doing things and the old paradigm, and start to explore our own way of seeing what it takes us to develop our own way of having more freedom and trust" - to emphasise on that so you set out that direction rather than defining: "We need to get here", because you have no idea where you're going when you're starting this, what you're doing or where you're gonna end up. A constant experiment can be exhausting but it's super exciting, and I think that's the only healthy way of doing this.