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Initiative Circles

We have been trying to encourage decentralised decision making at Codurance. To that effect, everyone within the company understands that they have the power to make any decision they need to make so long as they seek advise from the people that may be impacted. In order to help people make effective decisions, all company information is available to everyone in the company, including financials and salaries. This is all well and good, but in practice people do not simply go and start making informed strategic decisions just because they have the power to do so. For one, they are busy with their day jobs and simply do not have much time to look at the company holistically. Even if they have some wonderful ideas, they may not have the inclination or confidence to kick-off the initiative.

This has led us to introduce of Initiative Circles. We have a board in Trello with the simple Backlog, In Progress, and Complete workflow. When someone comes up with anything tactical or strategic they can add it as an initiative to the backlog. The only perquisite is that the initiative must have a focused and achievable objective. The initiative can be moved into “In Progress” when 3 or more individuals volunteer to be full-time members of that initiative. The members have full authority, responsibility and accountability to fulfil the objective of that initiative. They assign an aspirational completion date for the initiative before moving it into “In Progress”. The date may change as the initiative progresses. The initiative will be blocked if the members drop below 3. We ask people to try and avoid taking on initiatives that they cannot dedicate time towards, so that blocked initiatives are kept to a minimum.

A regular update regarding the progress of the initiative is provided to the rest of the company. Any decisions made by an Initiative Circle is communicated to the rest of the company via our usual communication channels. If anyone has strong objections, they will voice those directly with the members of the Initiative Circle. The circle is not expected to satisfy everyone in the company with regards to their decisions. However, all members within the circle must agree to the decisions made by that circle. No decision within the company is written in stone and may be modified by subsequent decisions. So in case people strongly disagree with the outcomes of an initiative, they are welcome to create a new initiative to replace existing policies and practices.

We have integrated Initiative Circles Trello board with the Slack channel so that all updates are posted there automatically. Everyone is subscribed to this channel and can keep abreast of the progress of current Initiative Circles and proposal for new initiatives. If the objective of an initiative or it's completion date is changed then the rest of the company is notified via this channel.

So far this has proven very successful. This simple process has allowed us to synchronise our efforts to shape both tactical and strategic direction for Codurance. It has also allowed us to seek support from others within the company in a very natural way.

About the author

Mash is a pragmatic software craftsman always looking to improve his software creation skills and helping others do the same. He firmly believes that a well-rounded software craftsman must have a keen interest in all aspects of software creation, including; process, people, technology, user experience, development, operation, maintenance, and social impact. He relishes the daily challenges that Codurance brings to him–stretching his existing knowledge and expertise allowing him to constantly grow as a professional.

Mash is an advisor and a leader. During his diverse career, he has succeeded in invigorating large ailing software projects as well as creating highly effective software teams and departments. His broad and deep technical knowledge, organisational skills, craft focus, and empathy to people involved have been integral to his success. He has worked in many roles for charities, investment banks, consultancies, government, media and cloud providers. He prides himself at being a hands-on software developer and believes that software development skills are very hard to learn and the best way to maintain them is to apply them.