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The Big Operating Playbook.

Aug 02 - 2022 | 5 min read
JULIJANA NICHA ANDRAD

An operating model is a practical guide that demonstrates how a particular business is organized and how its daily operations are conducted, delivering value to its team as well as to the clients it partners with. The operating model we adopt should essentially help us deliver the best customer service by materializing our purpose, mission, and vision into action. Effective operating models seek to continuously innovate and experiment - they are not static but remarkably dynamic in order to address challenges, adjust to industry and market changes, and seek out new opportunities for the business.

As a scaling company, The Big Search strives to preserve the way of work and company culture, irrespective of being a company of 30 or 300 employees. Last year, The Big Search grew by almost 100%, and we have similar plans this year too. To make that possible, we need to make sure that operationally we manage everyone’s expectations seamlessly. We also aim to continue our international expansion, and only a clear operational guide will guarantee the success of that effort.

It’s our people who make what we do truly exceptional, and it’s certainly worth mentioning that all our individual efforts have contributed to making the growth of this range possible. After all, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that when bright minds come together, great things do happen! It’s inspiring to look back at our journey so far, to draw encouragement from all the milestones we have achieved together, and also to move forward with gusto. On our way forward to scaling greater heights, we thought it would be a good idea to have a guide of sorts, to easily refer to, whenever we feel the need for clarity in something we do at work. The Playbook is a fit-for-purpose document- a foundation for execution, and a guide for refining and reinforcing group-wide culture, values & strategy. We’ve built this Playbook based on the following underlying principles:

  • Resilience to change
  • Transparency
  • Scalability
  • Objective and practical information

The problems that the Playbook should be solving are:

  • Organizing our leaders → Provide a structure to the LT & other leaders, along with transparent decision-making processes via the guiding principles, and structured, data-driven meeting cadences.
  • Enforcing culture & operational consistency → Promote a healthy working culture, coherent approach to decision-making, problem-solving, and project management efficiencies that would guarantee cohesive client experiences.

Our approach is to adopt what we’ve seen work in the past and amplify that with technology-enabled processes, relying heavily on automation and data-informed decisions. This would ensure that our people can focus on delivering the best client-customized experiences. Moreover, this process combines top-down and bottom-up approaches. They need to take ownership and the liberty to shape and grow into their roles.

TBS playbook is divided into Navigating and Operating documents. The former dives into why we exist and why what we do is essential. The latter is a look at how the former is reflected in practice- essentially, how we operate daily.

The need for this playbook transpired with the accelerated pace of scaling. Previously, we were just a few people in the central and commercial teams and knew precisely who owns what. But now, with 35 members in the central teams and over 100 in commercial, spread over various offices across Europe, we realize the need to work in a cohesive, coordinated approach to keep delivering value to our clients consistently.

Navigating Document

In the works now is a deck that will include TBS’s purpose, mission, vision, values, leadership principles, strategy, and long-term goals. The content here is high-level and drives our strategic decision-making. The values and principles are our basis not only for decision-making but also bind our hiring, performance management, and daily behavior and operations. The document follows the PowerPoint format, to be revised twice a year. No drastic changes to this document are expected, as the content is unlikely to change much over time. The document is set to excite and inspire current and new employees by linking them to our purpose, achievements, and goals for the future.

Operating Document

A well-defined and clear navigating model sets the foundation for effective operations. Simple and light-weighted, but effective frameworks have been put together to guide the day-to-day work of our teams. Specifically, the Operating Document includes an organizational chart, decision-making processes, mechanisms and meeting cadences, key processes & software, and performance measures.

In the organizational structure, we have functional and reporting views, and we include roles rather than names for easier maintenance. The exception would be the chart corresponding to the Leadership Team.

To set clear ownership and accountability, we use an Areas of Responsibility table(AoR). A clear, minimal structure in place will ensure a smooth and uninterrupted flow of delivery. The AoR not only helps everyone to be in the know of what exactly they are responsible for, but also to know whom to approach for what. A regular review of the AoR table is necessary for it to always be up-to-date and also stay relevant for the teams and the rest of the organization. Therefore, each team should check their table at the beginning of H2 while setting Q3 goals, and each team lead must go through the AoRs with every new hire, hand over their AoRs as well as add new ones.

The process of putting together the document is both long and slow, as it compiles the most essential approach to how we work. It is also a highly cross-collaborative project that requires input and buy-ins from many parts of the business. Additionally, it is a document that is heavy on information, so to roll it out all at once could overwhelm the users. To roll out the key operational frameworks, we are planning workshops with all People Managers first, followed by training for the wider organization. These workshops are part of a wider series our People and Learning & Development team has put together to coach our people managers to become exceptional leaders.

Operational frameworks such as hybrid communication are tied to a practical hierarchy of tools to reinforce our hybrid approach to work and communication, where on top of the list are asynchronous tools and synchronous ones at the bottom. A quick win that had a big impact was organizing the quarterly goal setting, retro processes, and monthly goals review of the Leadership Team. We don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel every quarter and for that reason, templates have been created and synced with Teams channels to facilitate easy access to documents. In terms of automation and centralization of data, there is still some work in the pipeline. However, we strive to be 0,01% better in everything we do, and with the right approach to planning, we are sure to get there by the end of the year.

Key functional and cross-functional processes are also being mapped out. We have set a concise, succinct course of action to follow for these processes. It ought to serve as a guide for the central teams to avoid overwhelming our internal users with unnecessary information. The mapping of these key processes helps in efficient cross-team collaboration.

Finally, the document concludes with a section on performance measures. KPIs are used as performance metrics and a process for the same has been set in place for new teams and revision for the existing ones.
This document is subject to more changes than the Navigating Document as our key operating tools and processes need to be constantly updated to be available as a highly useful resource to facilitate the constant changes the organization is going through. Hence, this document is also revised twice a year.

A well-defined and practical navigating and operating document helps our people work in a lean way, also allowing us to position ourselves well in our dealings with clients.

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