At Galois, we don’t have managers in the traditional sense, nor do we operate within a fixed hierarchy of rigid positions and titles. How then do we organize ourselves within this seemingly loose structure?
The cornerstone of the collaborative web and how we work together is relationship between internal “customers” and “performers.” These are evolving non-hierarchical commitments that give structure to how we produce results at Galois.
Here’s how it works: “Customers” are Galwegians who commit to doing something that requires a team’s effort to accomplish. Some examples of this scenario might be, meeting that year’s hiring goals with the support of an interview team, or taking on a project-lead role on a research project with multiple engineers. Customers can then accept offers from other Galwegians acting as “performers” to be contributing team members.
When a customer accepts an offer, the customer and performer negotiate and agree upon a set of results that the performer offers to produce. These results define the customer-performer relationship. An offer might be very specific and limited in scope, or it might have a broader focus and a longer time commitment, but it is always based on a set of clearly defined results.
While a Galwegian might have several simultaneous customers, each customer-performer relationship is based on a unique set of results. A Research Engineer might make an offer to a Project Lead (PL) on a multi-year project involving research, software development, and conference papers, but the same engineer might also make a separate offer to a different PL, in this instance, spending only one month’s time helping with the design of a specific component of a research prototype. This same engineer might also act as an intermittent phone interviewer, occasionally screening phone candidates for technical positions, in this case, the hiring lead being their customer.
This self-guided process allows us to choose the results we commit to through customer-negotiated expectations. How these results are delivered is up to the deliverer.
The roles of customer and performer are often in flux. A customer, such as a PL, to one person in one role might also be a performer to them as an engineer in a different instance. These cycles work because “project lead” is not a position, but a role, and everyone has the opportunity to take on many roles.
It’s important to note that these roles in the collaborative web don’t describe overarching power dynamics. They represent ownership of a set of results, and the accountability to achieve them. At Galois, a performer is accountable to their customer, specifically for the results to which they have committed.
Most Galwegians will be acting in at least one customer role at any given time, usually without any clear hierarchy, because there really is no top of the org chart at Galois. Even our CEO performs for other Galwegians. Authority resides with those accountable for producing the results to which they have committed.
“These roles in the collaborative web don’t describe overarching power dynamics.“
What does this mean for how people work together at Galois? For one thing, Galwegians can dip their toes in a range of responsibilities and explore how they may want to make larger commitments. Engineers can explore different dimensions of research in small increments, and there is no shortage of opportunity to do so. As of now, there are over 40 technical projects underway across our offices, with many roles, minor and major, in each. Learning and career growth are fueled in ways that rigid commitments to specific job positions would rarely allow.
Because Galwegians are free to make offers in the roles of their choosing, and the fact that their roles can change as interests evolve, leadership roles function in a way that could be compared to leading a team of volunteers. There is more thought and involvement required than there would be in a traditional command-and-control hierarchy, as there is a reliance on principles in lieu of standard processes and policies. This helps us develop deeper and more nuanced leadership skills.
To learn more, check out the article that delves into how Galwegians find projects.