Octo Technology's tribe-based approach

Written by Chloé Benyayer Witukiewicz, on 27 February 2019

Loss of meaning, need to strengthen the sense of belonging...: that's what emerged from the 'True Place to Work,' an internal satisfaction survey created by OCTO to address more specifically the challenges and concerns of employees (the 'Octos'). Eager to better meet the expectations of its employees, the firm decided in 2014 to experiment with a new tribal organization in 4 months. And it works... We'll tell you everything!

About fifteen people (directors, managers, and consultants) pondered the question: how to restore more meaning and belonging to the Octos? The 400 employees at that time expressed a strong desire to belong to smaller teams more focused on their areas of expertise or competence. The think tank was inspired by the book ‘Tribal Leadership’ and proposed to the Octos to create self-organized teams of 4 to 10 people motivated by a common project or challenge.

To do this, it was necessary to involve all the Octos in advance. This organizational and consultative work took about 4 months: designing the life process of a tribe and its performance, calculating the collective bonus, governance instance... The fruit of this work came to life at its official launch in April 2014.

The most challenging aspect of implementing this in such a short time was completely changing our habits, collectively. Even after 12 years, I am still impressed by OCTO's resilience - Nelly Grellier, Partner at OCTO.

Indeed, the desire to test quickly, adapt, and collectively improve a proposal is ingrained in OCTO's culture. The key was to empower the consultants, to self-organize according to their affinities, and to build their teams on the innovative expertise of their markets. The approach was pushed even further: the tribe leader is elected by their team... not appointed by management.

But concretely, what do we mean by "tribe"?

Four prerequisites were identified to set up a tribe:

  • A self-organized team of 4 to 10 people (the limit of 10 is no longer valid at the time of writing this article).
  • A subject that makes sense for Octo and its clients: Big Data, UX, Blockchain...
  • A leader who is the entry point of the tribe: responsible for the team's smooth operation, they manage the tribe members.
  • A common challenge for the tribe: creating a new offering, becoming the best team of Data Scientists in Paris...

How does a tribe function on a daily basis?

For a tribe to form, the project is submitted to the management committee, which triggers its creation or not. This can be done at any time, and everyone can change tribes as they wish. A tribe can also be incubated by another tribe or even die... without it being stigmatizing! At OCTO, we test, we readjust, in short, we adopt an agile approach internally.

Once a tribe is formed, members work autonomously: they define the tribe's purpose, formalize their project, communicate, and organize events. Each elected leader chooses a senior manager who helps them grow and coaches them on the project to be carried out.

The life of a tribe is composed of rituals: tribe members meet together about once a month to align, for example, on a project's direction, their R&D project, exchange ideas, convey messages, write a book on an expertise or the tribe's vision... On a daily basis, tribe members have regular team meetings, organize themselves using collaboration tools like Trello or Slack.

Finally, every 4 months, the tribe leader reviews the project's progress with the management committee: updates on the set objectives, sharing successes, calling for help (need for profiles, need for time to reformulate the offer)... Regular questionnaires are also sent to measure happiness levels (monthly and every 6 months).

Two years later, the results are more than positive!

Turnover has decreased by 8 points, responses to qualified bids are faster, clients are reassured by each tribe's expertise. R&D and mentoring are promoted, the sense of belonging and meaning in daily work has returned, external communication has been amplified, recruitment is facilitated as it is clearer, and the integration of new arrivals is smoother. Finally, leaders have emerged!

Since then, tribes have evolved: they are no longer limited to 10 people. OCTO now has nearly 630 employees and must address several challenges: leader overload, tribe growth (some now have over 40 members), a certain inertia among employees that can hinder knowledge transfer between tribes, the need to make OCTO's offering more comprehensive and readable, and not appear as a sum of OCTO's offers... And this will undoubtedly be facilitated by the Guild, a tribe that brings together the cabinet's "business" forces and manages all interactions with OCTO's clients: it centralizes their requests, support, and all interactions on their projects.

To address these challenges, the creation of "Triads" has been implemented. Two or more tribes work together more regularly: responding to a bid, promoting common work between areas of expertise, or boosting R&D. To promote skills development, an Open Mercato is available all year round: each employee can choose their tribe and manager.

Today, the challenge for Octo is to maintain this organization but to further promote the movement of employees between tribes and to build bridges between them with the help of the Guild.