Through The Keyhole #47- How you grow fast, grow big AND stay small and engaged

17 February 2017 | Rob Farrell | About a 4 minute read
Tags: Club, Club Day, club house, Culture, DevOps, Friday Fun at 4.44, Paramjit Uppal, product analyst, Product Developers, small company, solution architect, Squads, Through the Keyhole

At AND Digital we want to be different on the inside. Our ambition is to be one of the best companies to work for, in part, by giving our amazing people a small company feel in fast growing business. Hard to do – when you are growing rapidly to over 500 people!


The belief that we can do this AND do it well – comes from the ‘Genius of the AND’ (see our related blog from Paramjit our Founder and CEO).


So, from the very beginning we decided to build our business differently. For a professional services company it is difficult to avoid growing along industry lines or using skills based teams, constantly scaling out those teams by adding new layers of management and ‘direction’ along with greater levels of specialisation. This wasn’t what we were looking for.


As a business like this grows – often people start to feel disconnected. As an example – each time you return to the office after a six month assignment it’s easy to find yourself surrounded by new people you have never met. After a year or two – it can get tiring constantly having to introduce yourself from scratch and never seeing those people you have long standing relationships or friendships with! Our solution to avoid falling into these ‘old traps’ was to form our ‘Clubs’.


In designing our Clubs – we thought about the size, the organisation, location and office space and how we go about building relationships and share knowledge. All of this aimed at making AND Digital a great place to work – not because it’s the obvious way to do it. Speaking honestly – we are about 3 years into the ‘experiment’ at scale and it seems to be working pretty well!


Each Club is formed of about 80-85 people with a wide blend of skills, empowered and capable of supporting our client’s digital needs – be that Product Owners, Product Analysts and Product Developers through to some of the more specialised skills in areas such as DevOps or Solution Architecture. The aim is to be self sufficient in most obvious situations.


Why 80-85? Well, the ‘right’ size for effective social grouping is somewhat disputed. However, having a team smaller than 150 people seems to be generally accepted as a good idea (See Wikipedia on Dunbar’s Number). We don’t want to go over 100 – and around 80 feels good so far. It helps us keep policies simple and bureaucracy to a minimum.


Each Club works closely with its own group of about 10 clients and is formed of 6 Squads (teams). Each Squad has a mix of analyst and developer skills as well as a range of experience (from recent graduate to 10yrs+). When we recruit and onboard our Squads (as a team) we create a social grouping with built-in mentoring and career development support. To help the teams gel and ensure everyone has a home – we also include team members with specialist career paths in the Squad activities.   


Along with a Squad Lead to guide, support and manage each Squad we provide a monthly ‘Socials’ budget to encourage teaming and relationship building, forming a tight support unit and a home for each of our people. The Squads work together on their ‘Bonus Missions’ focusing on learning and sharing, further reinforcing the support mechanisms.


To round out the Club organisation we have our Club Ops team (who do not typically take part directly in client delivery teams). This includes a three person Service Delivery team and an HR Lead focusing exclusively on supporting the Club. Accountable for the Club as a whole is the Club Exec.


With its own P&L (and targets) the Club is responsible for looking after the Club clients and the Squad members with as much operational freedom as is possible in a business that is also growing at near 100% per year!


Each Club has its own office space on its own site (within London currently) to really help each unit foster relationship building and accountability. In the ‘Club House’, each squad has its own responsibility to take part in everything from the weekly recycling tasks to organising of the games at Friday Fun @ 4:44 ([email protected]).


AND – just to really make sure we are working, sharing and having fun together we have quarterly get-togethers called ‘Club Days’ when we step out of our client roles for the day to spend time together. Squads or project teams vie for time to present their own case studies or tech stories, we bring in others from around the business to their share updates and keep us connected to other teams. Then, we have a ton of fun and team building with anything from a Bake-Off competition through tree-top rope climbing or even our most recent Christmas Cheese & Wine tasting event! With these and the Club Christmas party – we really pay a lot of attention to bringing people together!


If you want to find out more on how you can get a place in one of our Clubs – click here!

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