Three authors of the book ‘Made Without Managers: One Company’s Journey to New Ways of Working’ join me to talk about what they have learned at Mayden, a cloud based health tech solutions organisation in the UK. Ruth Waterfield (developer and scrum master), Taryn Burden (product owner of Mayden’s new ways of working) and Philippa Kindon (coach) share how Mayden’s ways of working have evolved over the years, including what career progression looks like, the role of directors in a bossless organisation, and what have been their biggest challenges.
Lisa Gill: Welcome Taryn, Ruth, Philippa to the Leadermorphosis podcast. Thank you so much for being here.
Taryn Burden: Thank you.
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Lisa Gill: So, I thought a really good and maybe obvious place to start is with Mayden. What is Mayden and what does Mayden do?
Taryn Burden: Hi, thanks so much, it's great to be here with you, Lisa. We are a software company based in Bath. We do software, particularly around healthcare services and patient management systems, and we're really excited about data and innovation in this space, and so that's kind of where we occupy a lot of our space and energy. But we're obviously here to talk to you also about how we work here at Mayden, which is a little different to your traditional organisation. So, in a very short and sweet sense, that is who we are and what we do. Philippa, Ruth, would you add anything to that that I've missed?
Philippa Kindon: No, that's a great start. We're really excited to be here, and thanks for having us, looking forward to speaking about our way of working. I guess it would be worth mentioning the system that we provide mainly occupies a space for mental health, but we're also exploring other healthcare sectors as our organisation grows and develops.
Lisa Gill: Nice, thank you. And I understand that you're around about one hundred employees right now. Is that right?
Taryn Burden: Yeah, we just reached our one hundred and twenty mark as of last week, which is quite exciting.
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Lisa Gill: Wow, congratulations. Maybe each of you could say something briefly about when you joined Mayden, and what your role is.
Taryn Burden: I'm happy to kick us off, and then I think - I'm looking at you guys - and obviously having a chat. I think I joined, then Philippa joined, and then maybe Ruth joined. I think we joined within a few months of each other, because I think we've all been with the organisation about six years. So, I joined in 2016, and I joined the company at a time where they were really reviewing and being intentional about our way of working, and wanting to make it great. But I came in on an administrative level and very quickly got excited about what was happening in the organisational development space, and I'm now working as product owner around our ways of working and how we do things here at Mayden. Philippa?
Philippa Kindon: Okay, so I follow, I joined the organisation shortly after Taryn, also 2016. I joined the business at a time when we still had what we called "the executive team", and I joined to support that team. They were comprised of three directors and one of our amazing software developers. As is always the case, in a smaller organisation, there's always too much to do and not enough time to do it. So I was brought on to support that team to pick up projects, and to be a programme manager around things that the directors at the time wanted to get done, but really didn't have the time to do everything that was on their backlog. So, I was brought in to support that team. The main piece of work that I started working on was around our way of working. Because actually, we had a staff survey during 2016, which which we do regularly, once or twice a year, that suggested that things weren't as well as we wanted them to be. So, that was the piece of work that got me going and got me started at Mayden, and my role has really grown and developed in some very strange and interesting ways, not least, because that executive team was disbanded within about three months of me starting, because it was deemed to be too hierarchical. So no doubt we'll get into that in a bit more detail. Following that, I did spend a good year, year and a half really focusing on our way of working and holding the space for that, working very closely with Taryn in that area. And then from there I picked up some different project work around innovation, writing bids for innovation for the organisation, that has now grown into exploring new areas that we'll grow into. I'm currently in our market discovery team. So, that has been sort of the main three areas that I've worked in since 2016.
Lisa Gill: And, Ruth, what about you? When did you join Mayden, and what's your role?
Ruth Waterfield: Yes, hello. I joined Mayden in 2017, so shortly after Taryn and Philippa. I joined the development teams as a developer initially, but a bit like Taryn and Philippa, my role has also morphed over time. Now I spend most of my time as a Scrum Master. If you haven't come across a Scrum Master before, it's an interesting mix of facilitation, coaching both individuals and teams, and supporting the wider product team, and also wider across their company in terms of becoming more agile, and the Scrum in our development teams. So that's more of what I do now, more about the people.
Lisa Gill: Thank you. All three of you have mentioned how your roles have evolved over time, and I think it might be really interesting for listeners to hear a bit of a timeline, like at a high level, what have been some of the key milestones in Mayden's development. Because I think that was one of the things that I really enjoyed reading about in the book, which, by the way, I really recommend to listeners, because it's fantastic. All three of you, and several others, have been co-authors of the book, so it's such a beautiful example of how to self manage a book in a way, because everyone's contributing different perspectives. And it's really fun because some of the developments in your ways of working - it seems like some of them happened almost by accident, some of them more intentional. But yeah, can you give us a bit of an overview, what have been some of the key milestones on the journey?
Philippa Kindon: Yeah, I'll make a start and no doubt Taryn and Ruth will chip in. Mayden itself as an organisation is actually now twenty-two years old. So, a super high level potted history. The first ten years or so, it was a boutique health consultancy with a very small number of people driven by our founding director, Chris May. And then the really pivotal moment in terms of us becoming a software company was when Chris attended a healthcare conference, struck up a serendipitous conversation with one of the people that was really spearheading a really important programme in the NHS called "the Improving Access to Psychological Therapy" programme. Now that really started to stem our organisation as developing software around healthcare, and that mental healthcare that Taryn and I touched on at the beginning. And Ruth started her career in Mayden developing. So that's that real sort of key moment there, a serendipitous moment. And then in terms of us growing a software development team, what we recognised by around about 2013, so about thirteen years into Mayden's history, that the software wasn't being deployed as quickly as our customers wanted it to be. So we sort of really started to hone in on what was the issue there, why weren't things going out to the customers as quickly as we'd like, and as sort of bug free or as pain free as we'd like. And that moment was when we honed in on this approach called Agile. And Scrum, which I will leave Ruth to go into in a bit more detail if there's an opportunity. And that really started to enable us to have a foundation to our self-managing approach, it was this idea that teams can be self-managing. Agile really gave us that way into stripping out middle management, stripping out any kind of command or control, really challenging where silos were potentially building up in the organisation. So 2013 was that sort of key moment there. And then fast forward a couple of years, that's going really well for the software development teams. And you know, those in the organisation at the time, which I think we're probably around about thirty to forty people, thought this could work for the rest of the organisation. So that was when self-managing was rolled out - for want of a better word - across the whole of the company. And then 2016 is, as you've heard, when we joined, and the organisation started to really intentionally work on our way of working, and really wanted to explore how can we do this, but in a way that's true to self-managing. So how do you really make sure that everyone is involved in co-creating an organisation that is self-managed?
Taryn Burden: I think one of the moments that I reflect on or that in the storyline is around, obviously, our developers had done the Scrum journey and Rob Cullingford, who Ruth works closely with, was really instrumental in kind of bringing that into the business and championing Scrum. But we came to a point where two of our directors, Alison Sturgess-Durden and Chris May, were champions of Ricardo Semler and "Maverick". And Chris tells a lovely story in the book around where he tried to introduce a different way of working on a production line in a chocolate factory, and how that went horribly wrong, but his passion for people, and them being so able to manage themselves and bring their whole self to the workspace, you kind of have this beautiful blend of Scrum and Agile being introduced, but also two directors really wanting to look differently and how we work. And it was that combination, I guess, in 2015–16, when we started to remove those line management structures, and invite staff to do it differently, but we also kind of had an organisation of two halves, which was kind of where some of the pain points came for us. Because you had your development teams who are already self-managing within a company that had line management, because they had the Scrum methodology to support their agile self-management. But you had the other half of the business who didn't have those processes. And so line management was removed for them, but they had no frameworks or scaffolding to fall back on to to know how to manage the work, we talked about managing the work, not the people. So that was really an interesting space, and probably the space that we all started to show up in was this tension going on in the organisation of wanting to try something new, but it not quite going as well as they'd hoped it to go, and how do we improve on that and make it work across the business.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, listening to you, what strikes me is there was both a drive of necessity and organisational effectiveness in terms of how to make the software development teams more effective, less siloed, etc. But it also sounds like there were some key principles as well, and kind of almost like philosophies or worldviews held by, you mentioned two of the directors there, around trusting people, involving people. Would you say that those principles have been, you know, how explicit are they and have principles been valuable in navigating, you know, how far do we push this?
Taryn Burden: I would say definitely, I think we often talk about our values at Mayden and our values were quite instrumental in shaping the culture and the ways of working that we have today. I'm going to hand it over to Philippa because she was massively involved. She kind of came together when we did some workshops around our values. And we often say when something isn't working at Mayden or doesn't feel like it's flowing well, it's because one of our values isn't being lived by, so we find they're quiet foundational to that, as well I don't know if you wanted to add to that Philippa.
Philippa Kindon: Yeah, very happy to. So, in the summer of 2016, Ali Sturgess-Durden and Rob Cullingford had run some workshops for the organisation, and the four values that we as an organisation are built on. So transparency, collaboration, contribution and forward-thinking. They'd really emerged from talking to the staff at the time, to employees at the time, and Rob and Ali had run some workshops to really help people to understand and get under the skin of those values. What does that mean in practice? How do we know when somebody's really living those values? How do we know when those values are not lived? And actually, so I should also say, I'm a grounded researcher at heart, that was my previous life before coming to Mayden. And what those workshops generated was an incredible amount of grounded data about what people really believed was working and not working at Mayden at the time, and we were really lucky to be able to then take the the outcomes of the those workshops to a full staff day. And that was a real watershed moment, I think, a real pivotal moment for the organisation to really wrap their heads around what does this mean to become a self-managing organisation, in a way that everybody can have a voice and bring that about together? And I think that was a real pivotal moment for us in terms of building from values. And then what we've also done since then is think about that in terms of ethos, which we do touch on in the book as best we can, in terms of, what was Chris's beliefs when he started this this organisation about, you know, what does an organisation need to be? And how do people thrive within an organisation when they come together to work together? Ali's inspiration that I think Tara's already mentioned, she actually was lucky enough to hear Ricardo Semler speak directly at a conference many years ago, and how having conversations with Chris sparked her memory of how there can be another way. So it's a real sense of some misgivings about wanting to grow an organisation, but not necessarily in a traditional, or "this is just the way things are done, let's put layers of middle management in", it was "we believe there is another way, and we really want to make that happen and support the organisation to make that happen". So it has been, as you say, a real blend of intention, and how things evolve naturally, and emerge naturally, and invite voices. Once you trust people and recognise that we're all adults that come to work in this organisation, you can have really good quality conversations that enable everybody to contribute.
Ruth Waterfield: Yeah, just on the values, I really love our values, and I think it's always surprising to me when I talk to people who aren't at Mayden, that pretty much everyone can name the values, and they and they know what they mean, and they use them. And we talk about them a lot. You kind of see them pop up all over the place. And like Taryn said, we use them to diagnose when things aren't feeling right, or as guiding principles when we're figuring stuff out. Is collaboration in there? What about transparency? How are we enabling contribution? And they came out of a place of, well, what kind of culture do we want? How do we want our teams to feel like and I think as we've already mentioned, a lot of it has come out of, well, something's not working or there's some pain. So what are we going to do about it? How are we going to change it? That's what happened with introducing Scrum. And that's what happened, I think, with values as well of what kind of place we want to work in, and therefore, how are we going to do that? What we're gonna do about it?
Taryn Burden: I'm reflecting on our conversation and I love how we've all been talking about, like, how do we want to change it? And how do we want to get involved to make that change? And reflecting back to what you were just saying, Lisa, around Chris and Ali and how they approached the space. They had such a people empowerment focus that they saw people could be brilliant in this space. And I just want to honour them in this space. Because I think if it wasn't for their leadership, and them holding that space and going, you guys, we believe in you, you can do this, and we believe you have something to contribute. And we're going to let go to allow that to evolve and to take shape, in however that might look, even if it might feel totally different to what we thought it would look like. And I think that is so powerful in this space, is when you give people that permission to shine and to take ownership, responsibility. It's really, really exciting to see what is possible in an organisation. Philippa nodded to the the ethos within Mayden, we've tried so many times to visualise whether it's a tree, or a building, or village, or like, how do we describe how we work here? But every bit I do get comfortable with is, we have a fantastic foundation, which is, you know, I always think about ethos as the soil in which this began. And that is so much to do with Chris, and his heart and his passion and his vision for the business, and for people and for making a difference to people's lives through software for us, but at the core is he wants to change people's lives through the resources he has. And then you've got the roots, which are our values, and they are growing in this soil of the ethos. And then what comes from that is a lovely tree, or a building, I don't know, it could go in different directions, and go a bit crazy. But I think that's just such a privilege to work in a space that is the foundation upon which we can build and evolve and develop.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, I love that. I'd love to talk a bit about leadership. I think there are a lot of misconceptions when people start exploring self-managing teams that there, you know, should be no leadership, there should be no leaders. And I want to talk about this in two parts, because I know in Mayden, that you do still have directors. So we can talk a little bit about that. But also, I think it's really interesting to talk about leadership as a kind of activity, or co-leadership if you like, something that people can embody whatever their role is in the organisation. So I'd like to know also what that looks like.
Philippa Kindon: Taryn has got the biggest smile on her face. You go for it.
Taryn Burden: My smile is more about going "Oh, who would be good?", or "Ruth could do that, and Philippa could do that", I was in a different smile zone, but happy to start. Obviously, as you said, there's two parts to it, and we did a lot of work within Mayden around what is the role of the director in a flat structured organisation, and whenever I do an induction with new staff around our way of working, I always say that we're as flat as we can be. But being a limited company, we have a governing body, which is our board of directors. And so they are there within a purpose and have value there, just in the governance side of things. But also, a lot of what we do is through collaboration and around discussing with staff and working groups that get together around a subject and a topic. So early on, and around the time that the exec team got disbanded - and I might hand over to Philippa at this point - we did a lot of work around what is that role of the director in a company that doesn't have that, and we figured out a space in that, I don't know if you wanted to pick that up, Philippa, because I know you were massively involved in really defining that space.
Philippa Kindon: Yep, I'm happy to pick that up, and I'm also happy to talk about another piece of work that was done by a couple of colleagues, one of whom is still in the business and was involved in the book, Dave Bould, around what progression at Mayden looks like, and within that he unearthed some really interesting insight into leadership at Mayden. So I think, as you say, there's definitely two parts to this question. And Taryn sort of picked up and sowed those seeds around how we looked at the role of the director, and what does that need to be? And how does that function within a self-managing organisation? And then also, what does a leaderful organisation look like, how does that really take shape and work? How does that work in practice? So in terms of the role of the director, we worked across the business, and we use a tool - probably for want of a better word - from the Agile and Scrum framework called "Stories". And the framework of a story is, "As a so-and-so, I would like such-and-such, so that I can", and we wrote our stories around the role of the director, "As an employee at Mayden, I would like a really clear understanding of what the role of the director is, so that I can deliver to my role". And then we wrote the other side of the story, "As a director at Mayden, I would like a really clear understanding...", so it was a two handed story. It did take some time, we can sort of put these in potted histories, but it takes time to have the conversations, to make proposals, to consult and to really develop these over time. But where we've ended up is a four part role of the director. Set direction, set expectation, then we have something called "Get Out of the Way", we can go into that in a bit more detail, and then to come back into seek assurance. Because ultimately Mayden is a legal entity. It is a company that has to report to Companies House and there are certain things that only a director is allowed to do in the legal entity. So we make sure that we acknowledge that as part of the role of the director. And then in terms of that leadership space, what we've recognised as a self-managing organisation is that absolutely anybody could be leading and have leadership behaviours, across the business, depending on the needs of the work, the needs of the business, the aspirations, and where that individual is in terms of what they want to bring. Some of the insight that Dave and his colleague identified when they did a piece of work around this is a lot of the behaviours for leaders and leadership within Mayden is about supporting other people to shine, supporting other people to develop, to listen, to challenge, to champion. And it's really exciting to see that emerging from our own. And these are conversations that they had with members of staff, with teams across the business. And actually, that's another piece of work that we want to take forward and really explore further. I don't know if Ruth might have more to add as well?
Ruth Waterfield: Yeah, I think for me, you talked about leadership, it's really helpful to think about influence. Everybody has the ability to influence those around them, what you say, how you act, it matters. People see that and are influenced by it. And so, thinking about the development teams, we've taken an approach where every one of our 30 plus software developers are all developers, there's no senior, mid-senior, we don't hire on that basis, everyone is a developer. But that doesn't mean that there aren't some with more experience or specialist knowledge in certain areas. And that is based on respect and knowledge of each other. So when you have a question about databases, you're going to talk to the people that know about databases, you're still respecting, and ask for that advice and influence from people who are more experienced or have knowledge. But it allows everyone's voice to be respected. I love that no matter how long you've been there, even maybe a placement student has just joined, their opinion and their ideas are just as valuable and might be a completely new perspective. So by removing that kind of title, and automatic authority or leadership, you allow everybody to have a voice. But yes, there are still leaders. It's just recognised maybe in a different way, and maybe more of respect, and how you how you interact with each other, and how you build up these relationships more than a particular structure.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, I love that. I wonder then, what what does progression look like in Mayden? Because this is another question I get asked a lot, where people say, "Well, you know, if you take away the career ladder, or if it's a flat or flatter organisation, where where can I grow? Where can I develop?" So what does that look like in Mayden?
Philippa Kindon: Lisa, you've already said some of the key words that really springs to mind for us. We find we have these kind of guiding mantras that have been developed over the years. For us, it's about "grow", not "climb", exactly as you say. Because there isn't a predetermined ladder or hierarchy that traditionally would narrow as you go up, because there isn't that, it really is with the individual, with a great deal of support and scaffolding, to find their way of growing and developing within the organisation. And we give people that sense of opportunity, I guess. So it is helping all of us to see, okay, where does the business need to grow and develop? What are the business opportunities? But then also you as a person, what do you find really interesting in this space? And how do you want to grow and develop? And what we hope to achieve is that we're creating an environment where people can really take the opportunities to grow and develop personally and professionally. I mean, there's a few tools and practical things that we have in place, like everybody has access to a training budget, their own personal training budget, and it is completely up to them how they choose to spend it. We really support and champion that everybody does make use of that every year in a way that suits them, in a way that they want to access that and make the most of it. There's a good comprehensive coaching programme that people can access again, we're happy to talk in a bit more detail about that. So we do recognise that actually, sometimes you want a private conversation to say, okay, well, I'm thinking about this, or I'm having some challenges in this area. So again, people can really seek some space in a coaching environment to help them figure out how they want to grow and develop in the organisation. It's not without its challenges, there is a lot of ownership that needs to be taken by the individual to really take hold of those opportunities. And so there's a lot of tools and scaffolding and things that people can access to support them in that. But ultimately, they really have to own how they want to grow and develop in the organisation. And you heard our stories at the beginning, you know, each one of us has taken some good opportunities and taken that forward in ways that we've wanted to.
Taryn Burden: Yeah, I think I'll just tag onto - while you were speaking, Philippa, I was just thinking of ownership and responsibility. And so much of it is on the individual, which is that nod to we believe in you, we believe you can carve the path that you want to do, but I do also recognise where, looking back at my journey, from coming in as a receptionist to then being a PA, to then moving on to working more around other projects in the business, and then ultimately discovering organisational development, which when I was looking to work, what to study after school, I didn't even know that was a thing. I've loved that, and I've trained as one of our internal coaches, and working toward my accreditations and recognitions in that space, which I love, and it's just been amazing to be able to explore those opportunities, but it has also been really hard at times. Yes, there's the support. There's this scaffolding to take you on that journey. But sometimes you have to really fight for it. Because it's such a fluid space, it's such an area that you can really just explore and experiment, that it's not always clear when, "when have I progressed officially?", "At what point do I get recognised for the changes and responsibilities that I've taken on?" But I think that's where we work a lot as well. We spent a lot of time looking at what we call our core curriculum. Because working in this way, soft skills are really, really important, and I have a little bugbear that they're called soft, because there's nothing soft about them, they're essential. They're really core to a great working environment, and particularly one where you haven't got a line manager to do those conversations for you. You're gonna have to speak to somebody about those opportunities, you're gonna have to deal with that team conflict or that misunderstanding. And we want to make sure we give staff those skills and help them to feel empowered to have those conversations, to give feedback and to move forward together. So again, it's just that growing outwards, how do I grow outward, and that might be in my soft skills, in those core essential skills that I need to be a great person, nevermind a great product owner, and how do I grow in those skills? Or a great coach? And how do I grow in those skills? It's kind of looking at what makes a whole person? And what are those different areas that I need to grow in and identify, and then take the steps that I need to, which are supported by the training budget, to make me the person that I think I want to be, rather than that career path I want to go on, which I think is also a nice way of looking at it.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, I was just reflecting on what you've touched on a little bit around what can sometimes be challenging also, and the kind of shadow side, I think, of being in a self-managing organisation, that the onus can fall quite heavily on the individual to own your own development and seek those opportunities out and so on. How do you support people when they join Mayden, for example? I'm guessing you've probably honed your recruitment process also to find people, but once they join, do people find that challenging? And if so, how do you support them in adapting to this way of working?
Taryn Burden: Yeah, we've definitely done a lot around, first of all recruitment. So we worked with a business psychologist in the early days, probably around 2017 I imagine. I wasn't massively involved in that, that's why I'm being a little hesitant, but I am massively involved in our induction process. So I guess, Ruth, did you want to?
Ruth Waterfield: Yeah, I can say a little bit about recruitment, because I'm involved in developer recruitment. And yeah, these questions that came out of that conversation with a psychologist really help us to figure out what are the questions that we need to ask to figure out whether not only does this person have the competency the skills that we're looking for, but also, how will they get on? What's their perception of hierarchy? For developers, especially when we're hiring experienced developers, how do they feel that they will they will be a developer, not a senior developer? How do they feel about that? What's their approach to leadership? Like we said before, some of those questions about approach, and how will they get on not? We're not looking to hire just like ourselves, but we're looking for people who will thrive in this environment. And some of these questions were guided by times when people really struggled, or those that found it really challenging to work in a self-managing way. So, trying to look for those aspects when we're hiring has been really important.
Taryn Burden: Yeah, I think, obviously, we really want to ensure, and we make sure in that process as well, people are really clear that they're coming into an environment where we don't have line management, and what that might be like, and try and make sure our website does that as well as much as possible. Our recruitment team are really great at setting that scene. And obviously, the actual interview process is there. But then we do go on a real journey with staff when they join us. So obviously, when you join Mayden, you'll get set up on a laptop and the basics of what you need to know and our communication systems. But then I'll spend a morning with a new starter just talking through some of the language and an understanding around the role of the director, how how it works here at Mayden, what is the language that we use. I often talk about managing the work, not the people, how we're a self-managing, as-flat-as-we-can-be organisation, I then talk about, you know, we believe in guidelines over rules and fluid frameworks over rigid structures. So you won't find a lot of policies at Mayden, or if we do, it's normally just one line with a bunch of guidelines to help you to self-manage yourself, and you as a team, about how that works for you, and talk through some of those tools. But then I will stay in touch with those individuals and probably touch base with them in three months time, to then take them on the journey of why we work this way, and how we introduced some of our practices and approaches. Because we're obviously very much aware that when you're a new starter you can have deer in the headlights moments, lots of information coming on board. And one of the things I've realised and really value is us being a bit more back in person, so much of our culture is experienced and our ways of working is learned through osmosis. And the teams are really great. Each team has their way of expressing it as well. So, I can tell and train everyone on the bare bones and the blueprint so to speak, but each team has interpreted it in a very special way and a unique way to them. And so we also want them to experience their team's approach, their team's self-managing way of working. Some teams use Scrum, some teams use other Agile methodology to organise themselves. So you want the individual to experience it for a while, and then have another touch point of a bit more clarification. But as we've said, we want you to get involved from day dot, you know, whether you've been here a week, or whether you've been here 10 years, you can get involved in our working groups, you can make decisions, you can be a valid contributor from the beginning. So, it's kind of touch points, but also lived experience that happens as well.
Ruth Waterfield: Just as a small example, often when developers join one of our teams, I'm the scrum master for a team, and that is a servant-leadership role. So I do have a place in coaching and facilitating, but I'm not in charge. I don't have authority over the team. I support and facilitate and make the space for the team. But often when developers join the team, they'll come to me and say, "Can I take holiday next month?" And I'll go, "Well, I can tell you my my opinion, but it's not up to me, you need to ask the team. I'm part of the team. But I can't tell you yes or no, the team needs to make that decision." So it's just a small way that often, when people have worked in a different way or in a different structure, it takes a bit of adjustment of "oh, that's not how it works". Yeah, it's the team, and it's just a bit of adjustment over time, which does happen.
Taryn Burden: I think that's a conversation I often have with new starters as well around mindset, we recognise this is going to be a mindset shift for you. Because I don't think, as far as I'm aware, I don't think I've ever inducted anyone at Mayden that has worked in an organisation like ours, and hierarchy is so ingrained in our culture, whether it was in school or university or in other other job experiences, even in our family structures there is hierarchy. So, it is such a shift for individuals, and a mindset shift to get their head around this, that I don't need to ask permission, I don't need to have somebody tell me what to do, that I can take that initiative. But as long as I've got that accountability within my team, and we're working towards this together, then I can take the holiday or I can, you know, buy myself a laptop cover if that's what I need to make my job work. Well, you know what I mean, you don't need to ask permission. I think that's really a huge shift for people. But also giving them permission, it's going to be a shock to the system, but we're here to support you on that process. And so keep the conversation going, access that coaching, your team is a great support for you, etc.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, I love that you say that, because my my main interest when I talk to people on the podcast is always wanting to learn about that process of exploring the mindset shift, and also the kind of human skills shift if you like, as well, like you mentioned conflict and feedback, for example. And you touched a bit on the core curriculum, but I'd be interested to know, when there are disagreements or interpersonal conflicts, how do you handle that? And has that been challenging? And have you evolved that process over time?
Ruth Waterfield: I think this is where our agile foundations really, really help us. Because Scrum in particular gives you some really quick feedback loops. So, every morning when you have your standup, which is when you come together and go, "Oh, what did you do yesterday? What are we doing today?", it gives you that opportunity to adjust and feedback very quickly. And then every two weeks for us – but it can vary – we look at the work and feedback in terms of that. And also our team have retrospectives. I think retrospectives are really key in making sure we talk about what's going well, and what's not going well, and what we need to change, particularly in team dynamics and interpersonal things. Because the longer you leave tensions, the worse they get often. So, having a space to air and to talk about, and to be honest with each other in a vulnerable, safe space is really important. When I first joined Mayden, I joined a team with some really strong characters. And at the time, probably hear lots of lots of quite heated exchanges, really strong opinions, often wanting the best for the code, but maybe not going about it in the best way – lots of talking over each other. As a new person, I wondered "how am I ever gonna have a word in edgeways? This is quite tricky". But then the first retrospective – I remember it – it was in a loft room in the building we worked on at the time. The team who'd been arguing and talking over each other, sat down and talked about how it had been for each of them, and listened. When somebody said "I felt like you weren't listening to me", or "that my opinion wasn't valued", and somebody would go "oh, I'm really sorry you felt like that, I didn't know that that's what happened in that exchange", and were willing to have that honest conversation about what wasn't working and how it was going, really. I was able to say, "I'm not sure how I manage to get to speak, I'm not sure there's space for me", and to have people go, "Oh, okay, what do we need to change to allow you some space?" And so that point for me was the point where I thought - well, if if we're willing to have these honest conversations, and we're willing to listen to each other and make a change, then this can work. We can change, if something's not working, but we're able to talk about it, we'll be okay. And I think that's the pattern we see over and over since that space to talk about things openly. And to make a change from that is what drives the ability to make progress.
Philippa Kindon: Yeah, I would agree with Ruth completely and add a couple of things if I may. Some of our teams are not completely guided by Scrum and Agile, but most teams now have some form of retrospective or team space where that is the space to have those kinds of conversations. We have made use of team coaching. So a very similar function to the Scrum Master, but not somebody that's completely embedded in teams. And any team at any point can say, "We think we need a bit of help with something, can you hold a space for us, hold a space for a difficult conversation, help us to understand what tools we could employ, to really slow ourselves down, or, to really get under the skin of something". So some of those tools that have come into play - and Taryn mentioned the core curriculum which we've done some lunchtime talks on, are things like transactional analysis, helping people to really understand that adult-to-adult space, and what those kinds of conversations can look and feel like. And another one that we've really introduced and encourage teams to use is the ladder of inference, where you can really start to recognise some of your own underlying assumptions, and you can help one another to raise that awareness of - where are you coming from in this conversation? And how can we seek to understand one another? We found that's been really, really important, that people have really honed those communication and listening skills, so that difficult - or potentially difficult conversations can be held in a really constructive way. We recognise that everybody in the business needs those skills, and we work hard to try and help people to access the information that they need to do that for themselves.
Taryn Burden: I just would add, feedback is a huge subject, and there is fantastic resources out there. And it's something that we've been working on ever since I've been working here, because it's not easy. I'm originally from South Africa, so I do find sometimes that English culture is very polite around this. And nobody wants to say anything, or upset anybody, we're learning how to do those conversations and have that brave communication. In so many of my coaching sessions, I'll talk to somebody about coaching, and they're so worried about how that person is going to react, even if they haven't had an experience of that person reacting negatively, and there's so many assumptions in it. But what I've really appreciated is we talk about a feedback culture that we - and as Ruth has said - we have that built in in our retros, we have it built in in team stand-ups, and whenever we have a big project across the business that is also cross-team, we will do a retrospective of that project. So you get it happening in lots of pockets and lots of ways across the business. But I also love on our core curriculum - Philippa has mentioned some of the tools, and we've got an internal intranet that's through the Google Suite, and we have different individuals who've found resources and have done lunchtime talks. Anybody can do a lunchtime talk here at Mayden, if you've got a subject, or something that you'd find interesting. You can say, "I want to do a talk on this", and then you come and do a talk and invite people to come and have lunch with you or you chat. There's been quite a few around feedback, where different individuals have addressed this for themselves and found a way that works for them, but in that have found really great tools and then shared it with the business. So there's a real culture of learning, and experimenting. and trying and finding a way that works. But I think the challenge for any organisation is that continuous learning, and bringing people on the journey - like we talked about new starters, depending on where they came from, it might be so new to them, and they're just starting out on the journey, versus somebody like Ruth, who's had lots of experience of working as a Scrum Master and across teams, would be a little bit more au fait to different feedback conversations. It's meeting everybody where they're at, and supporting them on their journey.
Ruth Waterfield: Yeah, just on feedback. It's definitely something we're still working on. Last year - I think it was last year - my team went through a few months where the topic of feedback and wanting to do more feedback, on a personal level to help each other grow, kept coming up. And the conversation was along the lines of, "Yeah, we'd really love to figure out how to do feedback. We'd really love to do more feedback". So I as a Scrum Master, "okay, let's sit down and talk about how we want to do it", and it turned out that we really loved the idea of feedback. But when it came to actually doing it, the room kind of tensed up and went, "Oh, actually - it's quite hard actually, and I find receiving feedback quite difficult" was the kind of vibe that the room suddenly changed from: "Yeah, yeah, feedback. That sounds great!" too: "Oh, that's a bit tricky actually". So we had to explore - okay, well, how do we start small then, what kind of tools can we use to help become more comfortable, or try out little ways? So one of the things we found really worked was rather than "feedback", "feedforward", which is proactively coming to a group saying I would like to grow in this way, or I would like to get better at this, could I have some ideas about how I could do that, how I could explore that. So it's very forward focused, rather than giving feedback on something that's already happened, which felt easier to tackle first. But I really love that kind of concept that - yeah, feedback sounds great, but in practice, it's possibly more challenging.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, I find that's really common that people in organisations say, "We'd love to give each other feedback more, have more of a feedback culture", and then when you say, "Great, so, when do we start?" or, "What's the first step?", then people are like, "Maybe not, just kidding". I think there's so much baggage as well with feedback, and especially people who have come from traditional organisations, I find there's some kind of "wounds", and like trauma with a little 't' as well, where you know, feedback is not always done well in traditional organisations, and can be attached to reward and pay, or can feel disempowering if someone's trying to correct your fix you. So it sounds like in Mayden it's much more driven from a personal growth angle, or, wanting to be more effective as a team, or wanting to learn more as a team, which sounds like a much healthier starting point, I think. I'd really be curious to hear from each of you, what has been challenging for you personally in this journey, and the evolution of your role in Mayden, and it could be something that you've overcome, or it could be something that you're still wrestling with now, or keen to - like a learning edge that you're working on.
Philippa Kindon: I'm happy to start. So, something that I find challenging is so much of what we do, and there's so much opportunity. So I am somebody that gets very interested and very excited in getting involved in things, and because at Mayden you are so much a master of your own destiny, for somebody like myself, who struggles perhaps to say no, and struggles to prioritise, I can find myself in places of being involved in too many things. And then you recognise, actually, you're not giving the best that you can in the spaces that you're in. And so I guess, for somebody like myself who has that way of proceeding, there's nobody there saying "don't do that Phillipa", or you know, "put that down", that really is up to me to make sure that I generate the conversations that I need to have, and recognise when it's time to move on or put something down. So I think for me, one of the personal challenges is, there's so much, so much opportunity. It's recognising how to prioritise, and how to really make the most of the opportunities in front of us. As Taryn will often say to me, it's the power of a positive "no". So yeah, that's something that I found, and I wonder as well, Ruth and I have often had conversations - so Ruth and I worked quite closely - we do still work closely on things like decision making, and helping the organisation to figure those side of things out - people often seek, like a framework or a structure or a process, what they think is going to make something easier, you know, "Oh, we're going to have a framework for feedback because that will make it easier". And actually, sometimes these things are challenging because they're challenging to the human being, like you're saying from past trauma or, you know, things that people have experienced in the past. So that's the other challenge, is recognising the human aspect of organising. And you can't always put a structure or a framework or a process in place to take all the pain away. Sometimes, you know, difficult conversations will be difficult, but we need to learn how to have them in a really meaningful, mindful way and in a way that supports one another. But yeah, so I guess that's the two things I would point to from where I'm sat.
Lisa Gill: That's interesting, because I can imagine it would be so tempting in your role - or perhaps this applies to all three of you actually in your role in supporting people to be effective or to develop ways of working, it would be easy to want to rescue people or alleviate pain. But I find that sometimes, as you say, it takes courage to have quote-unquote "difficult conversations", and no process is going to take that away necessarily. It might increase people's confidence, but I think that can be the kind of lure of the heroic leader as well, sometimes that you want to help people and that's not always helpful or empowering in a sense as well.
Philippa Kindon: Yeah, I have an example just from the other week, when things were reasonably stressful in the lead-up to a staff day. And my team in particular were really involved in getting ready for this staff day, and it was stressful, and you're sort of looking to somebody else to go "help us in this!" And rather than somebody leaping in and saying, "I can do this, I did that" people will say, what do you need? You know, there is that reflecting back, and you still own this. "What do you need", not, "I'm going to come in and try and rescue you", but sort of really holding that space and saying, what do you need right now to support you through this, not take the pain away, but support you through this? And we really do support each other in that time and time again,
Taryn Burden: Answering your question about areas of personal growth and learning kind of ties into what Philippa was saying, because we were massively involved in the staff day, actually, all three of us were. But it is one of the things I've had to learn, and what Philippa said, around what do you need, and holding that space. My journey has been massively around holding the space, because I'm a recovering control freak, I like to plan things really well, my natural bend is to be well organised, whether that's an event, whether that's projects or whatever, like every 'i' dotted and 't' crossed, everything thought of in advance, and that's not always possible in an agile working environment. So I think early on on this journey, I had to learn how to just hold that space, that I couldn't control it, I couldn't control the outcome, I couldn't control the conversation. But I could support it. And I could bring some structures that would support the conversation or support the flow of the conversation. I used to work with a lot of creative people, and I used to say to myself that structure breeds creativity. But it's not necessarily a rigid structure, it's about having - I always have a picture of almost a paddock in which you can keep a horse, you know, you've got the parameters of the fence, but it's a nice big paddock where they can roam around freely and get to the grass that they need to get to and have a good run, and be expressive, and be creative and be a horse. But actually, there's still parameters within that field to help you to look after that horse in the best way that you can. And I've had to really learn those skills around - how do I balance that? Around when structure is needed, when a plan is needed, and when people just need to be people, and they need time to just have a conversation, or they just need time to process, or just time to be left alone so that they can get on with the work that they need to get on with, whatever that might be. It's a forever journey. I'm in the process of learning, and have learned, but continue to learn.
Ruth Waterfield: Yeah, I think my challenges have been similar in a way. I really love the Agile principle, that's people and interactions over processes and tools. It's kind of what Philippa was talking about. And I often say that the best part of my job is people, and seeing people grow and empowered, and I love that. People are the best, but people also fall out, and conflict happens, and people are also the worst. It's always people, it's always about people. And I guess the challenging part for me - is feeling when it's about encouraging, and empowering, and coaching and supporting with processes we already have, and the kind of structures and the boundaries that we're already working within. And when something's actually not working, and we need to change more significantly, and then the kind of iterations that naturally occur - that kind of, oh, something's really not right and we need to make a bigger change. I think I find that challenging. When is it just about supporting people and holding the space and facilitating, and when is it about noticing that there's a bigger change? Or a more drastic kind of shift that's needed. I personally find that challenging.
Lisa Gill: Thinking also about zooming out again to Mayden as an organisation, and you're a hundred and twenty people now, what do you see on the horizon? What are things that you're hoping to develop further? Or what are challenges that you're grappling with as you move forward?
Ruth Waterfield: I think it's probably fair to say we're still figuring out what we're doing coming out of the pandemic, we've changed where we are working drastically. Even though we've come back to the office, a lot of the time now, it's different to how it was before. And the size of the company grew - approximately doubled, I think, during that two year period. So we're still figuring out, well, who are we now? And in that time, the business has grown in other ways, and what we're doing and what we're producing has also changed. So kind of - oh, is everything all right? What what's going on? What do we need to change or adjust? And what's the culture now? How is that evolved? How does it need to evolve, as we grow and continue to grow?
Philippa Kindon: I think an area we're really homing in on at the moment is - and I'll come back to the decision making piece of work - is to this point, we are a very collaborative organisation. We really hold that value very dear. And consulting and involving people in decision making has always been a very important part of what we do and how we do it. We think that is what gets the best in terms of the best for employees, the best for customers, the best for developing new things, innovation. But we recognise that sometimes that decision making can be slow. And the bigger we are in terms of number of employees, the harder we are finding it to balance that efficient, effective decision making with involving and collaborating. So I think for me, one of the things that we're really homing in on is the impact of scaling for collaborative decision making, and how do we strike that balance as an organisation. Because we really want to get it right, we really want to still hold true to that value of collaboration, but also be fleet of foot. We're exploring new markets, new opportunities for us, and we need to know that we can also make decisions quickly. So yeah, that's definitely an area that we're homing in on as an organisation.
Taryn Burden: I think I would just add in that, for me, it's kind of looking at all of our ways of working, the areas that we've looked at over the last six years, whether it's been progression, decision making, role of the director, feedback, management arrangements within the organisation. And we've put some processes in place that are working, or have worked, but we have scaled, we have grown, where are hybrid now. And so tying in with what Philippa and Ruth have said, we've got to learn, we've got to look at a few areas in the business and go, right, we implemented these when we were sixty to eighty people, but we're more now. And we're gonna continue to grow. So how do we keep these evolving? And how do we keep them moving and evolving with us? That's what I get to do as a day job. So that's always fun.
Lisa Gill: So in wrapping up our conversation, which is difficult, because there's five million more things I'd love to ask you. But I'd love to know what your advice would be for listeners who are on their own journeys with new ways of working, self-managing teams perhaps, what advice would you have valued when you joined, for example, or what has stayed with you?
Ruth Waterfield: I think the shorter you can make your feedback loops, the better. In line with the Agile mindset of - don't be afraid to talk about what's not working, figure out something to try, you won't get it perfect, that's okay. Try it and then see what happens. And that continuous experimenting, adapting, progressing by just making small changes, seeing what happens, and transparency I think is really, really key in that. It's one of our values, but it's something that we're still exploring. Often when something isn't quite working, or communication isn't really flowing, it's because transparency isn't there, or some something is being hidden, or something isn't as visible as it should be. And transparency - you really need, because you can't ask the right questions unless it's transparent. Unless it's there for you to go, "Oh, what's that?" or, "Oh, have you thought about this?" or, "Oh, we're doing something similar over here." That transparency is really key to the right people being in the room and thinking, "We should try this then," or, "Have we tried this?" and then that kind of flow of the transparency and then the inspection and then the adaption. It's making - keep making small changes, I think could be my biggest advice to myself or anybody else who's wanting to make a change in their team.
Philippa Kindon: I think mine would be that you have to find your own way, but don't travel alone. So by that I mean, every organisation is completely unique. The people that worked within it, the purpose of that organisation, their starting point. So it's really homing in on listening to the people that you have on your journey, and tapping into their knowledge, their wisdom, hearing their voices in that journey, and finding your own way, but recognising there is incredible resources out there now. There's amazing people that are journeying similarly, asking similar questions, there will be people out there that will challenge you and say "what are you doing?" And all of those voices are really important to hear, and to listen to, and to take all of that on board, but ultimately, to do it your way, find your way. Recognise the uniqueness of your organisation, and what you need to do from where you are.
Taryn Burden: I think for me, I'm thinking of the phrase "My greatest gift to you is a healthy me". And that probably more comes from more of a therapy space, or a space where you're wanting to work on your personal development and self. And I think that is important here, is being safe in that space and feeling the best you can do is work on you. And make sure that you show up well in the space, that you're equipped in this space and can move forward and strength, and be the what you can be in the best way possible. I'm only responsible for myself, I can only change myself and support others on that journey.