A Human Experience at Boldare
The NextGen team interviews co-CEO Piotr Majchrzak from Boldare for an insight on what brought him to adopt Holacracy and why ‘failing’ is part of learning.
The NextGen team: Could you first briefly introduce yourself and maybe the company, maybe a quick history and the specificities of the company that brought you to self-management, self-orgs.
Piotr: Okay. So, Bolder is a company that merged from two companies and before we were doing web design and web engineering. It merged from these two companies and we were all together from 2008. So, we're more than 10 years on the market right now. What we do, we do digital products design and development and I think what really distinguishes us from other companies is that we really work together with our customers.
TNGT: And what are these particularities of your business that created a need to go towards and consider self-organizations?
Piotr: From the beginning, I wanted to open a place where people feel comfortable working and building products. I was always believing that if you give freedom and certain good environment, they will be able to be creative and make good products.
So, we started with agile software development then we were looking for something more because we were still-- we were on the way to find a way to manage company, not only teams. So, it was like – I think it was in our cards and in idea how the company should work and eventually you know starting from the bottom, from agile, we came to be a holacratic company.
TNGT: Okay and so your expectations were about only employees or well, human-driven or could you tell me a bit more about what you were looking for? Transparency, not only well-being I understood and agility, but a bit more of your expectations of the employees related to business.
Piotr: So, it was like half and half. From one side, I believe if you create a good environment for the people, they will do tremendous work. So, this is one thing and of course, the end result like a great product is something which we were striving for from the beginning. So, this is actually – for me, it is a tool to achieve a great product.
At a certain moment, it was also pretty sure that agility was a factor that is also great for a company and obviously, for our customers. Most of our customers are internet driven companies, so things are changing very rapidly and we have to be agile with them or give them agility in order to fulfil their growth.
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TNGT: And then you choose that from their beginning, or it was a path? So you began with agility and then you moved towards self-orgs. Can you explain me a bit how was the journey to holacracy?
Piotr: It was a journey and it was like migrating through different continents. So yes, at the beginning, we started with agile because I looked at Scrum guide and it was like 18 pages and then I looked to PMBOK and it was like, I don't know, 400 pages and I thought to myself okay, nobody is going to understand this second thing, so let's go to this 17-page framework.
It happened that it was a good choice and it was also reflecting my ideas how things should work. Eventually, when we grew to like 50 employees, it was a time to okay let's structurize somehow. And then we asked some of the experts we knew and read a book about management and we came a little bit towards let's say hierarchical management because this was the only thing they thought that time.
So, we had like a period that we had project managers and all kind of – it wasn't a hardcore organization, but the thing was I was the first person who was breaking these rules and processes we even set up. I was the main disruptor of the system we created.
So, after this like one year period, we decided okay, this is not for us. It doesn’t' reflect how we are built like humans, like a group. So, we came back to agility and then we adopted a lot of different ways of working. We were soft of crafting from different sources. We were experimenting with ourselves and our ideas on how to run HR, how to run the finance etc., but at certain moment we were looking for a system that covers all aspects for our company and it was the holacracy that provided that in total for us and this is where we end up now.
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TNGT: Would you have an example of maybe a failure that happened in the past and maybe something that through self-management happened – a good example about how it was managed earlier and now and the difference that it makes for the employees, for everyone in the company and in the end for the business? Do you have a concrete example?
Piotr: I do not have like a side by side example obviously, because the time is the factor and if we talk about failures I think we could spend at least whole day on doing that. Actually, it's like –for me, this kind of questions about failures is hard because I perceive them as something natural.
So for me, failing is something which is nowadays is a cliché, but it's really – the thing is to what they say okay, fail first. So okay, failure is okay, but how you navigate after that is the crucial thing. So, sort of being on that thing in – when we were trying to use that – let's say the old management school, it was that everything took tremendous time to change and the people were sort of really driven into a process and there was not like a thinking behind.
So, this was the biggest obstacle to me and when we went to fully self-org, not only people are asking why they are doing and they try to find the real goal behind something which then creates a good space because they improve the process or the result is better.
Also, I see – I think the best example or how the organization changes is that I see a real great sort of boom of the talents that we had and we have in company. Before it was like okay, something was sort of given and it was – there was the function in which I work, but when we went to self-org, it was that I saw a lot of people who were engaged in different things.
All of a sudden, it came to us okay, we don't have to hire anybody with these skills because we already have it and what is even more important they can use it in time when it is needed. So, sometimes we have things that we would either outsource or it's too much for one person, but in this way I see that other people are engaging in that.
In terms of agility of organization, we have the skills, we have faster, and it's cheaper for us. So, I think this is the most important change, but I think everything is also connected that the people are more – take more ownership of the work in this new organization and it means that they ask, they think what's behind something and eventually, it creates better results.
TNGT: How did you learn about Holaspirit and how did the platform answer your needs?
Piotr: I learned about Holaspirit from our holacracy coaches. We would just ask them what's the best thing on the market and it doesn't mean we didn't check other solutions, but we've checked it and it confirmed what they say to us.
Holaspirit for me personally and I think for most organizations is like a daily tool like Gmail or Slack because sometimes in the morning when I wash my teeth or I take a shower some crazy idea pops up. So, this is my number use case. Then I take my mobile phone where the Holaspirit is and I put attention so my new idea that I would like to ask to my team, all right?
So, that's like a, not only to-do list but something which already will help me to pass to my team. That’s one of the use case. Then of course, you know without Holaspirit I think we – and I’m pretty sure about it, we wouldn't be able to have self-org because we need to have structure which is visible and we need to have some kind of tool that keep us oriented on the goals and on the roles of the people because they are plenty. Without that, it would be completely chaos. So, I would easily say that it's really – without that kind of tool, you cannot run self-org organization.
TNGT: Perfect. If you had to give me one, two, or maybe three main features that you use the most yourself or in Boldare, what would be these features and what is the added value that Holaspirit gave you in comparison to your ancient model?
Piotr: For me personally, number one would be these tensions. It's a thing that helps me – for me the main feature would be my tensions, so the gathering of tensions that I would like to pass or the improvements I would like to pass to the team because then automatically it goes to the meetings as a part of agenda, but also very often I’m just searching for the roles. So, all the structure, all the roles is very important.
I think what's really revolutionized our company is that the Holaspirit helps us to structure the meetings. So, it sort of artificial intelligence facilitator. So, I’m pretty sure that I will be guided by the tool what should I do on the meeting. It's very helpful and we never had it. It helped us with doing metrics or checklist and also gathering these tensions and that's what really changed our life for better at Boldare.
TNGT: What are the effects that you personally saw in your organization when you implemented Holaspirit?
Piotr: Okay. How I observed Boldare change using Holaspirit, I think the biggest change was that we particularly started to work like a peer-to-peer model. So, it helped us, not only going to leaders and then solving the things, but it helped us on a daily basis just working more together even if it's not your teammates from your team, but someone who's let's say across – in another team. That's shortened the path how we go to each other and we work together.
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