Managing small and micro teams and experimenting with holacracy

How to manage yourself as a team is a perpetual issue at BGV. Most of the ventures we support through the accelerator are micro teams (2–3 people) and then grow to be small (4–10 people) before hopefully going on to be huge — the BGV team itself is now six people and we’ve tried quite a few techniques.

When you have very little in the way of person hours available to you as an organisation, it’s vital that you get the best and the most out of everybody if you’re going to get to where you want to be. But there’s not much in the way of orthodox approaches when you’re at that scale. More traditional ‘management’ only really kicks in for organisations larger than tens of people but I’m interested in whether you can set up interesting patterns when you’re small that create healthier larger organisations too.

In the past at BGV we’ve used the RACI framework which we found really helpful. We’ve never had a CEO or line management in a traditional sense so it helped us organise our work very well. Melanie also designed our current system of team development which consists of six monthly 360 degree reviews — which is also a very good exercise for small teams.

After a recent visit to the Fairphone team and seeing how they work with a team of around 40 people (and growing) I started to learn more about holacracy. It’s used by organisations like Zappos, Medium and quite a few others. The basic idea is that you separate out roles from jobs and have semi-democratic ‘circles’ of roles that are self managing. It all sounds a bit hippy but when you dig into it, it actually requires incredible levels of discipline.

We went through the exercise of describing all the roles in the organisation last week which came to 13 pages and now we’re starting to look at organising around the circles that emerged. So far I think we’ve found it a useful approach but the proof will really be in whether it sticks and helps us in the long term.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *