Table XI Blog

Product Delivery

Restructuring your organization? Treat your company like a product

In August, TXI launched phase one of a redesign of our internal structure and growth path with two major changes: a flexible career grid and a manager-supported organization. Ellen Brast, Talent Experience Lead, and Claire Podulka, Chief Delivery Officer, share their approach to organizational change at TXI.

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I don’t care where you went to school

I care a lot about hiring the right people to join TXI. But I think our version of “right” differs from other companies.

First off, I don’t care what university you went to. Or if you went to university. You can just leave that part off your resume and I will never notice.

What university you went to tells me a couple of things: 1) How well you can answer standardized test questions that research has shown to be biased toward over-represented groups and 2) How much money your family was able to spend for your higher education and/or how indebted you were willing to become for the same experience.

What university you went to tells me nothing about your skills, your curiosity, your passion, your openness to new ideas, your kindness, your dedication, or anything that I vet for when hiring. 

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Why we’re engaging with counter-narratives

In June 2021, the TXI team partnered with InterAction, a Chicago-based educational nonprofit organization, for workshops on both racial justice and counter-narratives as part of our ongoing efforts to become an anti-racist organization.

Our global, national and personal histories are often dominated by narratives that serve the interests of white supremacy and hetero-patriarchy. As InterAction defines them, counter-narratives center “stories told by marginalized people to unearth and disrupt power and reveal collective experiences of oppression.” These narratives provide “a message [or] way forward” from systems of oppression, but they can be difficult for Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) to access.

In this article, we’ll explain why we decided to invest time and resources into a counter-narrative workshop. We’re sharing in the hopes that understanding our motivations for doing this work will help other organizations empower their BIPOC employees to tap into and tell their own counter-narrative stories.

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How integrated teams build more inclusive outcomes

When you look at the research on how integrated and diverse teams consistently outperform their homogenous counterparts, the finding seems obvious: of course bringing more perspectives to problems is a better way to solve them.

This is why Agile development incorporates feedback from people in both technical and business roles. It’s why design thinking weaves in ideas and perspectives from not just across an organization but also its user base.

These practices are valuable, but the diversity of perspectives Agile and design thinking teams gather is often limited because those teams tend to be largely culturally and racially homogenous.

At TXI, as we continue to practice the principles for working differently in our design-thinking-led product development, we’re addressing this deficit by deliberately building teams whose members come from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Here’s a look at why and how we’re doing this work.

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Career growth and development at TXI

Before I joined TXI about five years ago, I’d spent most of my career in education. I care deeply about learning and growth opportunities, and there’s a large body of research that indicates that personalized learning with qualified educators leads to better outcomes. So when I decided to make some significant enhancements to how TXI supports its people, I knew I wanted to incorporate those two elements: diverse growth paths for individuals to choose from, no matter their starting point, and expert training for the managers who would be supporting them on those paths. 

Before this effort, TXI had a linear level model--effectively, a “ladder”. There was one way to grow, straight up a predetermined path. The structure implied that all people at the same level needed to focus on the same kinds of work, deliver the same kinds of value--that they were all, in a sense, the same. It wasn’t true, of course, but it did impact people’s reality: it was how we set expectations, evaluate outcomes, and define titles and compensation. 

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Things we say at TXI

Does your organization have its own lingo? I’m thinking of words or phrases that are almost immediately associated with a particular person, team, or practice. Having worked at TXI for 2+ years, I’ve been reflecting on how our organization speaks to and with each other and why those personalized sayings become the glue that keeps our organization strong.

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4 benefits of moving from a flat to a manager-supported organization

Every company has its stories, the ones that are first shared during onboarding and form the building blocks of what an organization values. For Table XI, part of that story was a literal table, a scratched-up old wooden one that seated six, taken from our founder Josh Golden’s old apartment. In early days, TXIers would sit around that table with wine and Thai food after hours, hashing out company goals and decisions collectively.

Of course, as the company grew, there were points where we needed different structures to help us get where we wanted to go. We adopted EOS to guide company goals and priorities, grew the leadership team to encompass more roles and points of view, and organized our practices and practitioners in different ways. But one thing held true for 19 years: TXI, like that old wood table, was flat. 

Flatness seemed to work for TXI for a while. When the company was just a couple dozen people, most from similar backgrounds and levels of privilege, and everyone knew one another well and worked from a central office in Chicago, the idea of creating a hierarchy felt artificial and unnecessary. It felt more like a burden or a barrier than support. But by the time I joined the leadership team two years ago, I had a hunch that flat wasn’t working as well as it needed to anymore. 

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There really should be an ‘I’ in team: The team agreement

Many of us have navigated our professional lives while being told there’s no “I” in team. I’d like to make the case for the opposite: it’s only after we explicitly recognize and name our individual preferences, communication styles, and goals, that we’re truly capable of being contributing team members. At TXI, this is part of our overall DEIB efforts and we bake this in from the start by kicking off all engagements with a Team Agreement.

Interested in creating your own version of a Team Agreement? Here are a few things to consider. 

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Normalizing hybrid work

Hybrid work, the ability to work remotely or in-person on a flexible basis, was not born from the current pandemic. Many people have been managing this balancing act for years. However, it is new to many organizations, and many were ill-equipped to make the change.  

According to a recent survey, major cities like Boston, San Francisco and Chicago believe hybrid work is here to stay. Otherwise known as “the future of work,” 83% of workers want to remain hybrid even after the pandemic is over. However, this may not be the case for those required to do their jobs in person with colleagues or equipment.  

How do organizations today solve for retaining employees who wish to remain hybrid, attract new candidates who see this “benefit” as table stakes, and set each of them up to succeed? 

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How to survive Zoom fatigue and thrive: A checklist for better meetings

Each time I see an article implying that “Zoom fatigue” is a reason why meetings are draining our last drop of energy, I trap another repressed sigh inside my head. Yes, I get it; meeting on Zoom all day probably isn’t making it to the top of anyone’s bucket list. But let’s not blame our tools, friends. Zoom is a powerful means to connect us, and I think our meeting fatigue may be driven in part by simply over-indexing on a single default method of communication.

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