The Membership team is maturing, and so are our ways of working

On the Membership team we’re switching up how we organise ourselves to help us be more effective. Here’s why and how we’re doing it.

Evolving with the product

As teams mature, ie, they get bigger and the scope of work widens, it’s not hard to figure out that they’ll need to reorganise. American investor Ben Horowitz famously wrote about this in the book ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’. He said he believes that every time a team doubles in size, it should review its ways of working.

We’re doing something similar in the Membership team. Back in September, the product management team was just one person, Derek Harvie. Since we relaunched Membership, the scope of work has been getting larger so the team needs to scale up. The product team is now 4 people to reflect the change. One of those newbies is me.

Realising we’d outgrown stuff

When I joined, we had 3 teams: Blue, Orange and Pink. They were named after the colour of the post-it note that corresponded with what they were working on in the backlog. And that all made sense when the team was starting out; being lean and nimble negated the need to be aligned. But as our ambition for Membership grew, the team became more and more thinly spread and it became more difficult to properly focus on one thing, and really do it well.

Clarity around where we’re going (and how to know when we’ve got there)

We’ve introduced OKRs (objectives and key results) to make sure that everybody is moving together, in the same direction and aiming for the same things. Now, each team has a set of objectives and has agreed on a set of results that will show when it’s achieved what it set out to.

We looked for natural ways to split up the work so teams don’t have competing objectives. It means they can be in control of their own scope of work without lots of dependencies.

4 teams, 1 direction

At this point we naturally fell into 4 teams. This time, we’ve named them in a (slightly) more self-explanatory way. There’s:

  • More members (recruiting more members)
  • Member trading (looking at how our members shop with us)
  • Member engagement (engaging with Membership, causes and community)
  • Member services (managing the membership platform, ie, the backend infrastructure)

With clarity comes better prioritisation

Now we’re all on the same page we’ll find it easier to prioritise. Before, it was hard for the team to understand what to work on next because the tasks in the backlog fell into different areas.

Prioritising will be much simpler now we have the 4 teams working on different areas. Tasks are compared against other tasks from within that area so now it feels like we’re comparing apples with apples rather than apples with pears!

Better for us. Better for stakeholders

Working in this way is also really good in terms of how we’re working with stakeholders. The old way of working meant we had 30 plus stakeholders all wanting the tasks that fell under their area to be the priority. Hopefully, things will be calmer now each team has around 10 stakeholders to work with and include in decision making.

In a few more weeks we’ll be able to see if we’re achieving our targets and back it up with data, but at the moment it just feels like the right way to be working.

The team will continue to grow. Keep an eye on our work with us page.

Adam Warburton
Head of Membership Product