MOIA’s Pacemaker: Enabling Regular Pulses of Change

by Laine Bluma & Joseph Hill

We know the Pacemaker as a device that helps a person’s heart beat in a regular rhythm or as a person who is running in front of the group and is defining the rhythm for them, similarly at MOIA we use “Pacemaker” as a ritual, which enables regular pulses of change and improvements across the organization, to help it grow and live.

A bottom-up culture these days is not a new term. More and more companies empower their employees to share their ideas and to be part of the companies’ success, but the way and tools how they get there might differ from company to company. Each company, the same as each person, has its character, the only difference is that each person creates their own character — according to their background, personal goals and ideology, but the company’s character is made by its mission and the people working there. Every employee from the CEO to the new hire makes the company’s culture, the only open question here is “how to make sure that each voice and idea is heard and acted upon?”

The Pacemaker is a ritual that is open for everyone in the organization to join and it occurs every two weeks on a Monday. We utilize a lean coffee approach to the agenda of the ritual, so anyone with a topic in mind is more than welcome to bring to the round — we rely on it being crowd sourced internally. The only constant we keep from round to round is that it is moderated by one of our Agile Coaches, who helps to timebox discussions and to help steer a topic to have a meaningful outcome.

Now let’s look at this ritual, how it’s run and what are some of the outcomes recently which have highlighted the strength of this format.

It all starts with a Slack!

Slack is our main communication tool internally, where we have all channels you can think about — starting from team internal channels where they share day to day topics, till verticals like for board games, movies and beer. Pacemaker also has its own channel, as we like to keep all of the topics and updates separate, so that it is easier to navigate at the end. In #pacemaker channel we ask people to share topics and ideas beforehand, this helps drive the internal community to be interested in a topic and take part. The session starts with an update from all the open, ongoing outcomes of the past Pacemaker rounds and then is followed by the new topics which have been crowd sourced.

The attendance of the Pacemaker generally fluctuates on a session by session basis depending on the topics being discussed. Generally, we have a wide range of participants from the People and Relations team, Agile Coaches, C-Level, Developers, Designers and Product. We really can reach across the organization to obtain a diverse collection of people who want to drive the organizational culture and are always striving for improvements and feedback. The participation also highlights the remit of the round to make clear decisions and to enact organizational change on a wide array of topics.

Challenges and Insights

In the early days of Pacemaker, there had to be at least one person from a team and department. There is a benefit to having all disciplines involved to build a company culture, but it leaves a place for the question “Why do I have to be here?”. For the early beginning of the company, this might be a good approach, but it also came with its downsides — the mood in the round was down. With time participation became more and more optional, that allowed people to evaluate their time and join when they were truly interested in a topic, what changed the mood in the room — participants got more relaxed and enthusiastic about the topics they were discussing.

Now Pacemaker is completely optional, and even though the number of participants fluctuates, we believe that the people in the room are the right people and the ones who are the most interested in the topics discussed.

Generally, most of the time the discussions are focused around our Product Development Culture and this ritual serves as a catalyst for formations of Working Groups to obtain deeper insights into a specific topic, who will then deliver the findings either back at the next Pacemaker or will create a Request for Comments (RFC) with a proposal which is open for everyone in the organization to comment and share thoughts and opinions on the matter.

With the company shifting to primarily remote work due to the current pandemic, the ritual has become vital to improving the working lives of our internal community. One of the outcomes was a formation of a working group with the focus of “Inclusive Remote Working” which has focused on areas to make our organizational culture flourish and to make sure everybody within our organization is not left out with the transition.

Another big topic that came into Pacemaker was the idea to bring more transparency and visibility to our feature development pipeline. This was a topic which was initiated from Developers and then evolved into a working group to look and find a common and best approach to having an open, transparent and visual feature development pipeline which enables the organization to see what is on the agenda next and to champion opinions and discussions around the overall direction.

The Pacemaker is an overall testament to not only our company culture but to everybody within the organization that believes in our mission and strives for improvements and change to enable a healthy and prosperous working environment.

A company’s culture is part of the organization’s identity, we cannot assume it as self-explanatory, so it is important, from time to time, to polish it and make sure that we live the values that we believe in. With that we can say that the Pacemaker is one of these organisms inside of MOIA. This ritual has become a part of MOIA’s DNA and no one doubts its purpose and the value it brings and enables. This makes the working environment at MOIA healthy and prosperous,

Could you imagine such a ritual at your organization?

Does the Pacemaker intrigue you? We are currently hiring. Come and join to see how inspiring these sessions arehttps://www.moia.io/en/career

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