BOSSA Nova Leader In Singapore & Taiwan

This article is the fourth in a series looking ING, Ericsson, Spotify, Statoil, Titansoft (of Singapore), Walmart, and BOSSA nova. “BOSSA,” a synthesis of Beyond Budgeting, Open Space, Sociocracy, and Agile, provides an overall framework that can guide probes and experiments for implementing company-wide nimbleness and agility.

Yves Lin of Titansoft contributed his insights to the new book about BOSSA nova called Company-wide Agility with Beyond Budgeting, Open Space, & Sociocracy in which he describes how Titansoft deeply practices its motto “Never Stop Improving!” A 12-year old company with 200 employees Singapore and Taiwan, Titansoft offers games as well as software development and systems services in 10 languages and 50 countries. Yves describes how Titansoft’s motto has made it the first company in the world to adopt the full BOSSA nova synthesis. It is a story of continuous experimentation and learning.

Titansoft and Agile & Scrum

“In 2014 Titansoft started to adopt Agile and Scrum. The reason back then was simple. We just thought that “Agile is faster”. What happened in the next three months after the adoption was unexpected. We started to realize the power of Agile lies in the transparency it creates. We are now able to inspect what we are doing and improve ourselves constantly. We had two product development departments and 5 teams in Singapore then. In terms of organizational structure, we made some changes seeing how Scrum emphasizes self-managing teams. There are no more team leads in teams. No one within teams has authority over other members. The Scrum Master is positioned outside of the team and elected by the team.

“Things appeared to be running well. People started to have more communication and share their thoughts more openly. While these were good signs, we also found ourselves facing new problems. What about communication across different teams? Across departments? Beyond physical offices? We started to see long discussions happening within teams. Decisions not being made due to disagreements. Most critically, the organization goal was not being communicated to teams.

“We needed a way to create common visions and align goals across the organization, and learn how to broaden everyone’s perspectives and understand each other. Early 2016, we started to find ways to overcome these new challenges. The first few approaches we experimented with were facilitation and Open Space. Learning from the experts, we engaged the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) trainers to conduct ORID (analyze a situation Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, and Decisional) and Consensus workshops and trainings for our senior staff.”

Open Space

Driven by its motto, Titansoft did not stop with Agile.

“Our first organization-wide Open Space theme was: ‘As an organization as well as individuals, what can we do to support each other to grow?’ It was a day where the entire company was invited to take a break from work, come together and discuss topics relevant to the theme. Some topics concluded at the end of the day included: training packages for newcomers, what’s preventing you from growing as an individual, building vulnerability-based trust in teams and full stack PHP development.

“Recognizing the positive feedback from staff about our first Open Space, we decided to plan for our next. Our second company-wide Open Space in the same year was themed around: How can we create the most impact in the next three months? Results from both Open Spaces were evident. We saw members raising varied topics that concerned them, heard differing opinions across roles, and most importantly, employees were given opportunities to listen to diverse perspectives beyond their own. The difficult part emerged after the Open Space happened. How do we sustain momentum for the action topics generated?

“Another learning took place, and we decided to try something different again. We hosted our first Participatory Strategic Planning Workshop facilitated by experts from ICA in the same year. A two-day workshop bringing together people across the organization to create strategies for action which will be led by champions to bring back and work on within teams. Through a structured planning process which incorporates consensus building, focused conversations, and an implementation process, we were able to generate a company-wide strategy led by champions in various areas.”

Sociocracy in Titansoft

Although they saw fascinating results from facilitation and Open Space approaches, problems endured: action and implementation plans still failed to be carried out.

“Could it be because the action arenas did not fit into teams’ daily tasks and there were no official chain of controls from departments to teams? Tasks related to products were accomplished; however, organizational tasks related to recruitment, training and public affairs were easily neglected and left in the dust.

“We introduced the sociocracy framework to the organization early 2017 to address these issues, focusing firstly on creating the circle structure and double-linking for more transparent flow of information. The key driving factor behind the adoption was the need to scale effectively. We believe that sociocracy can further strengthen intra-team and inter-team self-organization and communication, and install a communication chain flow from departments to teams, ultimately driving the execution of organizational tasks.

“The double-linking model encourages participation in policy decision-making by members of both circles. Each circle has its own focus and in-links can drive team to move forward. The higher circle and top circle is now more aware of what is happening in teams and able to surface problems earlier. Members have clearer channels to give feedback through two-way communication. Policies, strategies and company-wide goals are more easily clarified and circulated among circles, forging stronger alignment together.

“Yet, sociocracy is not without its limitations. First and foremost, it is a complex framework consisting of many patterns and principles. Many patterns are easily adopted, but prioritizing which one to work on and mastering the framework is challenging. It is difficult to see how far we can go in adopting sociocracy, and success stories are few. The in-links can also easily become the bottleneck for information flow, as they carry more responsibilities including representing decision-making for the team.”

Beyond Budgeting

As of this writing, Titansoft has started experimenting with the 12 principles of Beyond Budgeting to integrate its personnel and financial management systems into its agile philosophy and to reap the productivity benefits that can flow from a deep trust culture. They believe it will provide a infrastructure vital to the company’s future growth.

We can only wonder, where will Titansoft’s “Never Stop Improving” journey take them next!