Prerequisites to get to an experimentation culture — company structure (2/4)
Companies often find that company culture is the biggest obstacle when trying to scale up experimentation. Shared behaviors, beliefs, and values make an experimentation culture difficult or impossible.
This is the second of four articles covering prerequisites to get to an experimentation culture.
This first article covered the needed mindsets: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/prerequisites-get-experimentation-culture-mindset-14-ruben-de-boer/
This article will cover the company structure.
Cross-functional teams vs. silos
The structure of an organization can hinder or stimulate an experimentation culture.
In the ideal situation, cross-functional teams work together on the same goals, where information and resources are freely shared between the teams. This setup fosters innovation and boosts productivity because skills and knowledge are shared. It also improves decision-making as all teams have the necessary information at hand.
However, siloed structures hinder communication and collaboration. We see these structures, especially in large corporates. Silos are divisions between people or groups. These divisions can be tangible and intangible-for example, departments.
In a silo, teams can work on their own goals and KPIs, which could even conflict with the goals of other silos. Often, there is poor communication and exchange of information between the silos.
Why silos hinder experimentation
Silos are a bad thing for experimentation. For example, when CRO starts from the marketing department, it is too far away from the IT department. This makes it impossible to run complex, innovative experiments and decreases velocity. When this issue is not addressed, the marketing team keeps running small front-end experiments. At the same time, the big changes and new product features are created elsewhere in the organization and released on the website without being tested as an experiment.
Breaking down the silos
You have to break down these silos to get to an experimentation culture. There are several ways to do this.
First, you want teams to make a meaningful contribution to the company goals. Determine together what the team’s share is in this. Instead of working on their own goals, teams start working together on a common goal. If you are a high-level manager, ensure that all departments are aligned with the company’s vision and goals.
Second, bring people together. Ensure they get to know each other, share information, and start working together. You can do so in meetings, brainstorm sessions, inspiration sessions, workshops, and presentations, or have marketers, developers, and product owners sit in one room and watch a usability test together.
Third, conduct experiments that are cross-department. For example, find a new feature planned to launch three months from now. Then, with the product owner, development team, and marketing team, decide you will release this feature through an experiment, with several iterations to ensure it will have the best fit with the target audience.
Fourth, remove barriers. Make it easy to communicate by, for instance, using Slack. And remove physical barriers. If marketing and IT have to work together more often, ensure they see each other. Restructure the office, have marketing and IT sit closer together, and make it feel more open. You could also get a shared coffee machine.
Finally, you could celebrate successes and failures together and offer the right incentives.
Get to experimentation step by step
Fortunately, silos are slowly disappearing. Especially in newer companies, a siloed structure is seen less and less. However, if you find yourself in a siloed organization, it can hinder experimentation. In that case, align goals, bring people together and break down the silos step by step.
Experimentation Works — Stefan Thomke
Growing Happy Clients — Daphne Tideman