It didn’t just happen overnight. Most of us at uintent have known each other for many years. Similar, self-determined teams with ideas of keeping low or less hierarchies have been around for quite a while. Reflecting the speed of digital transportation and modern employee demands. However, we believe we have added style to the development of a free-thinking company within the bounds of a united-ownership structure.
Understanding the past to build the future
We have been in UX for over 20 years and through that time, we have experienced ebbs and flows. Our first 10 years were like the famous “blue ocean”; UX was a new, growing business and we were right in the middle of it. Starting as a three-person shop, we grew to 60 people quickly. We were UX evangelists and our footprint couldn’t be big enough.
Consequently, we partnered with a large market research organization and growing pains kicked in. We found most of our energy went into organizing ourselves and managing relations within that huge organization, instead of spending our energy where we wanted to – on our clients! Evangelists turned into managers. Missions turned into “products”. Fun, creativity, and flexibility turned into processes, security, and mental saturation.
As it turned out, this is not the future we imagined.
What we wanted was an environment where employees are motivated by their work and not corporate benefits. We wanted a working environment where taking a risk was applauded and supported. We wanted long-term commitment to a sustainable business idea rather than being a flow heater for careers. We wanted “fun” to be a core USP rather than a side effect. And we wanted to continue working with our talented friends around the world.
Ultimately, we wanted to create something with shared responsibility on the shoulders of many empowered co-workers.
How we make it work
Recruit a team of people we know, with skills and characteristics that complement each other.
Remove all hierarchies. Everybody in the team has equal say.
Everybody is a shareholder. Consequently, everybody takes personal financial risks.
Salaries eventually become equal.
Establish streamlined processes.
Have faith that clients eventually prefer “no bullshit” over unrealistic promises.
…the company has two controlling shareholders. One is a German corporative (Genossenschaft), which makes the (re-) distribution of shares relatively easy and where all corporate members have the same vote independent from the amount of shares they hold. This corporative is equally controlled by all employees.
The second shareholder is Resight Global which is our global vehicle that allows all employees from all our sister companies to belong to one global family. Resight is owned by the founders as well as all of our employees who are interested in investing in the international status of our community.
Practically speaking ...
…of course it’s not as easy as it sounds. New challenges crop up every day of the week that we have to meet and master.
Taking away hierarchies is a major change in mindset for both former leaders and those who have been led. Leaders need to acclimatise to not managing at will anymore but rather by reasoning with arguments based on experience. Former employees need to learn how to make decisions and accept their consequences. We all have to leave our comfort zones.
We needed guidelines on how to render decisions. What kind of decisions need to involve everybody, just some people or nobody? What quorums are required for which decisions? As a consequence major decisions now take up more time than previously as potentially everybody needs to be well informed, with enough discussion time to think things through.
We needed a clear definition of roles to avoid everybody taking care of everything at the same time, or - more probably - nobody taking care of anything.
A lot of communication is necessary in order to make sure it all works well. Sitting in one big open office helps a lot as you can share information on the fly. Aside from purely organizational meetings we get together quarterly for two days in an offsite location to review workflow, fix imbalances and plan further ahead.
The benefits for us
Self-responsibility augurs freedom. Nobody cares about your office hours or where you work, be it at home on the balcony or in a beach tent.
There are just two conditions: 1) Keep our clients content 2) Take care of everything that helps us be successful
We make money for our own benefit. There is an inherent, long-term financial reward for the energy we put into uintent.
We can design our own work environment as we want it ( an often extensively overused facility.)
This also allows room for creative fun and nonsense.
HOW TO GET IN TOUCH
Enough about us, let's talk about you!
Our preferred contact channels are carrier pigeons and smoke signs. But we believe in listening to client needs, so we have also set up a phone number and an e-mail address!
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