Kristo Ovaska

Why Fly 89 Employees to Greece — the Futur.io Offsite

By Kristo Ovaska on September 28, 2016

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Four times a year Smartly.io hosts Futur.io, an all-hands strategy day where we discuss and make decisions about how we can reach our goals of creating a world-class product and service for our customers, and building a flourishing company culture. Two weeks ago, the Smartly.io teams from Helsinki, Berlin, San Francisco, New York and Singapore were reunited under the Greek sun for our first 2-day Futur.io Offsite.

 

We wanted to have enough time — not just to address the most urgent matters at hand — but also to develop our ways of working together as a team and get to know to each other better. Smartly.io is growing very quickly. In less than one year, our team has doubled in size and we’ve opened four new offices around the world. We’re working in different countries and time zones, and we’re hiring new teammates weekly.

This is why we decided to fly the entire team from all our locations to Greece for a Futur.io Offsite. Instead of the traditional 1-day format, we reserved two days for the official discussions and another two days for spending time together as a team and enjoying the fruits of our work. The Futur.io Offsite was an intensive and very rewarding experience — filled with tough discussions, vigorous problem-solving, and amazing team spirit.

 

Why do we host Futur.ios?

One of the cornerstones of the Smartly.io company culture is that everyone takes ownership. It means that everyone, not just the management, has the freedom and responsibility to make decisions that drive the company forward. All Smartlies have a real impact on where the company is headed regarding product, business and culture.

In order to be able to make smart decisions, we need to have a clear understanding of our vision and be on the same page about what we’re doing and why. We believe that success follows, when we discuss and agree on goals openly, and trust autonomous teams to define their own ways to reach those shared goals with their work. Futur.ios play an essential role in our leadership philosophy, because they offer us an opportunity to bring the whole team together a few times per year to discuss and adjust our vision and our long- and short-term goals.

Apart from making important decisions for future, the Futur.ios have a very essential role in our growing company. They support teaming, and offer the opportunity to talk and interact with teammates we don’t work with daily. Even more importantly, the Futur.ios bridge gaps between different teams, offices and individuals, allowing us to learn from each other, understand each other and respect each other’s work better. 

 

Can 90 people have a productive discussion together?

Usually, Futur.ios start with a vision and goal-setting session, where each Smartly has the opportunity to challenge, question and give feedback on the company-level long- and short-term goals. This time, we ended up changing two of our goals for the next quarter based on team-wide discussions. Together we realized how urgently we needed to tackle challenges related to scaling the leadership within the team and finding more efficient ways to work together as a team.

About one third of Futur.io is reserved for Open Space sessions, where anyone can propose a topic they want to address, discuss and solve with the team. There were 16 Open Space topics proposed altogether, ranging from maintaining our code base to supporting self-development within the team. Open Spaces give us an opportunity to dive more deeply into individual themes in technology, customer work or internal work, discover cross-disciplinary solutions to problems and get them into production quickly.

For example, in one Open Space session led by Okko from our Service Operations team, we brainstormed how we could improve the notifications our customers get about bugs. As a result of the session, we came up with an idea of a system to keep our customers posted about bugs, suggest workarounds and quick fixes in urgent situations and reduce our customers’ stress through increasingly transparent communications. The design meeting for the feature has been set for this week.

 

Sanity checking the company culture

The second morning of the Offsite was all about the company culture. We went through our culture code together, and had a very self-critical discussion about whether we’re developing our culture to the right direction, or if we’re steering away from our goals. As a result of these discussions, we found some areas in our culture where we need to improve — one of them being our principle of working smartly.

“Work smartly” means that if we want to be 10 times better at what we do, simply working 10 times more hours isn’t the way. To reach our goals, we need to work smarter — not harder. This should be emphasised even more now that we’re a quickly growing team of 90 people, scattered across different continents and time zones.

We still have a lot to learn about smart ways of working together as a global team, reducing the amount of repetitive manual tasks, and documenting and sharing learnings within the team to save time. Pin-pointing these needs for improvement allows us to take action and stay on track on making Smartly.io not just the best place to learn, but also the best place to work.    

 

 

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