When Kitopi was founded over three years ago, building our company structure was simple. As a small startup with a big vision, we began with the mission and identified the functions needed to drive the mission as a company. We then set out to hire the best to drive each function and continued to build teams around these functions as we grew.
Over the years, this structure has served our business incredibly well, enabling us to thrive through not only many phases of growth and expansion, but a global pandemic. Through triumphs and tribulations, our people have come together to bring Kitopi from a startup to a $1Billion Unicorn in just three years.
Yet, behind the achievements and celebrations were lost opportunities and untapped potentials within. This drove us to ask - what could we change, as a company, to do better as we continue to grow and scale? Could we find a better way to navigate change and uncertainty while continuing to generate value in an ever-evolving environment?
A more empowering narrative that expands on our existing Team narrative. For us, the answer is Squads built around Business Priorities- priorities that reflect our mission, vision, and purpose, and which provide direction and guide us on how we work together; priorities that transcend functions and teams.
While teams are essential for solving the needs of various facets of the business, squads can offer a novel way to redefine how people work together. The squad structure sets out to bring together two typically contradictory business objectives: to achieve a common goal, and to do so with autonomy. Together, both objectives generate efficiency without losing flexibility and speed of decision-making- even as the number of employees grows. In the original sense of the structure, squads are cross-functional, autonomous teams that focus on one area of product development. Each squad has a unique mission, a coach for support, and a product owner for guidance. With a vision and common understanding of their collective purpose, squads determine how they achieve their common goal- with autonomy and efficiency.
Adapting the principle to our context, we built our squads around business priorities. Why priorities? In an environment that requires agile responses to evolving situations, priorities can serve as our overarching direction and reinforce a sense of shared purpose. Bringing squads and priorities together, we can better ensure continued relevance even as conditions, approaches, and strategies change.
The change began with multiple strategic meetings among company leaders to identify and define five priorities that will drive us towards our vision.
Squads were then created around each of the five priorities, bringing together individuals, teams, and initiatives to drive each priority forward.
Every initiative in the company was now aligned to one or more overarching priorities, while each priority is served by not one, but multiple individuals, teams, and initiatives.
What followed was a holistic process to translate strategy into practice, starting with communications to cascade the priorities and squad narrative across the organization, then revising how we conduct work activities- our orientation, monthly town hall, daily leadership huddles, and even how we share investor updates.
Significantly, we now have a more empowering way to associate ourselves- with squads, with the business priorities our work serves, and with a much wider community of colleagues with whom we share a common purpose. And with this comes better collaboration, efficiency, and drive to deliver. While the long-term impact of this narrative shift remains to be seen, we are optimistic that this is the way forward.
At the very least, for Kitopians, our purpose and direction is now clearer than ever. And for us, this is already a huge step forward.