Salsita Software is always striving for continuous improvement, whether it’s adopting bleeding-edge technology, honing our recruitment methods, or optimizing how we manage the company. Our latest initiative has been focused on the latter.
To improve how we run the company, some of the management team took a hard look at the way Salsita is managed. We have a lightweight approach to management that works great and is appreciated by our staff. But we're always looking for ways to up our game.
One of the current challenges is how to preserve a company culture based on transparency, meritocracy, and flat structure as the company continues to grow. It is vital that people are appreciated, respected, and feel that their voices are heard.
Salsita has always embraced a transparent and flat structure. When we were a team of 25 people, we had development team meetings with open and fiery discussions. Now, with nearly 90 people to manage, that approach doesn’t work as well. Additionally, as the number of employees has increased, so has the number of product managers (PMs), department heads, and company executives.
One of the most appreciated aspects of Salsita is the non-corporate atmosphere, which is why we want to avoid working under layers of hierarchy and management. Over time, PMs have taken on the role of the de facto management team—regardless of experience and seniority—which struck us as unfair towards other senior staff. We tried forming a management group based on department heads (engineering, marketing, finance, HR, etc.). This worked well when it came to exchanging information between departments, but it has not proven to be the best forum to discuss and act on strategic initiatives.
In order for Salsita to successfully implement short and long-term strategy, we needed the cooperation of the whole company with their full support and trust in the management group. If we wanted to drive continuous improvement in all areas of operation, we needed to give everyone the space and motivation to participate in these efforts.
If people feel that the management group is deciding things without their input, they may conclude that the only way to be “important” is to become a manager. Even if they don’t want to. A great developer, who likes their job, shouldn’t be forced into another position where they may be less satisfied and effective.
The current structure produces productive discussions and is composed of smart people, but it’s not fair to everyone. Why shouldn’t a senior developer or senior QA engineer be able to have significant say in company strategy? It also deprives the company of potentially invaluable input from our large number of super smart staff members who are not managers.
A few months ago, Director of Engineering Karel Klíma introduced Salsita Founder and CEO Matthew Gertner to the Applifting “Codex” and how they manage their team via their “Council of Elders.” Matt found the idea interesting and liked the inclusiveness and transparency. Then Director of Product Jan Mikula wrote an initial proposal for a similar elected decision-making body at Salsita. Matt used this as the basis for the Salsita's new decision-making body.
Matt dubbed the new management group “The Saucerers.” ("Salsita" means "little sauce" in Spanish) It has been given explicit responsibility for making decisions about company strategy, policies, investments, resolving conflicts, and dealing with crises.
Here’s how The Saucerers team works:
- Advisory body to help with strategic and operational decision-making. Salsita has not become a democracy. The CEO can still overrule decisions in extraordinary circumstances (but should exercise this right sparingly and with a clear explanation of the reasons for doing so).
- Matt, the CEO, serves as the group’s only permanent member.
- Elections occur every six months to replace half of the body using the Single Transferable Vote system
- Six members are elected to twelve-month terms by staff, with the unelected CEO serving as a seventh member. During the first term, three were elected and three were appointed by the CEO to an initial six-month term. The latter will be replaced during the next election by new members who will serve the full twelve months.
- Meetings are held every two weeks with an agenda proposed by all staff.Meetings are broadcast live via video conference, and meeting notes are available to everyone.
- The group remains flexible and may decide to implement new guidelines if and when the need arises.
MEET THE TEAM
The first election took place in early October 2020 and the winners of the inaugural election are DevOps Engineer Jan Kotrlík, Product Manager Eva Lešková, and Tech Lead Jiří Staniševský.
As mentioned earlier, Matt serves as the only permanent Saucerer and appointed three people to serve inaugural six-month terms. Those three are Office Manager Simona Tymichová, Director of Product Jan Mikula, and Director of Engineering Karel Klíma.
“We are living in challenging times, due both to external events and the need to evolve into a more specialized company that is clearly differentiated from the competition,” said Matt. "We need a group of people who are respected, skilled, and proactive to help make strategic decisions and ensure that we act on them.”
We are looking forward to seeing how this change in our approach to management will affect day-to-day activities at Salsita.