Of freedom and responsibility

At Enigma we pride ourselves on always being up-to-date, always using the latest technologies, and on being able to work from anywhere in the world. The more flexible we have become as a company, the less applicable classical organizational structures have been for us. We therefore took off on a journey to explore new worlds where we found the perfect partner and the perfect- fitting method.

Silos, circles and miscommunication

We are more or less working like digital nomads now. While the physical Enigma offices still exist in Geneva, Bern & Zurich, we mostly work remotely, from home or elsewhere. This modern way of working also requires a modern way of collaborating. Previously, our teams were often thinking in terms of silos, Bern vs. Geneva, Designers vs. Digital team, etc. To improve our teamwork, we needed to start breaking down these silos and start thinking in circles.

But why circles? While searching for an organization system that would be a better fit for Enigma, we found Peerdom. Peerdom is an organization mapping tool developed by Nothing SA, while they were facing the same challenges that Enigma is currently up against. Peerdom is an interactive, visual tool to map out which collection of roles each employee is currently holding, making it explicit who is currently responsible for what. They ask that each employee’s job is defined by a collection of dynamic roles rather than static job positions. This allows employees to better personalize their job to their individual abilities and for companies to benefit from the different, maybe even unexpected, skills of their employees.

However, we learned that you can’t just take your company, transfer it into Peerdom, and expect to have implemented distributed governance. Distributed governance means that decisions are taken by the people directly involved in the implementation of any work or activity. This is in contrast to standard hierarchies which place decision making power at different levels of power in a reporting line. The idea is that all teammates are treated equally and have a voice and vote in the decision making process. This also required re-organizing and changing the way we think at Enigma. That’s when Paradigm21 entered the game.

Implementing change

“Liberating structure by structuring liberty!” – this is the credo of Paradigm21 and describes in one sentence what they are doing with Enigma. Paradigm21 supports companies in adapting their governance and management to match their needs. This was a challenge for us, but we also challenged Paradigm21 in return. Usually, making changes to a company’s governance and management is a process that takes one to three years. We wanted to implement changes much faster.

In the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, Paradigm21 quickly set up their online training platform and guided us through weekly workshops on different topics such as how to improve our meetings and take decisions through consent. This was a challenge for Enigma because implementing wide-scale changes in a short time meant more turbulence and less time to grow into the new way of working under distributed governance.

Welcome to the new world

So what does distributed governance look like in practice at Enigma? We were able to improve our processes and optimize the way we work with the help of Paradigm21 and the use of Peerdom. Our hierarchy has flattened and we now have the tools necessary to enable everybody to suggest changes which can be approved or adapted amongst peers throughout the company as a whole. These changes are a part of a process and we’re only at the beginning. However, we’re already seeing the first results and two big changes have already been made that break away from our old pyramidal organization chart.

Our long-standing teammates Thomas Kendlinger and Emilie Lassausaie were attributed the roles of lead link of operations and lead link of client success. This means that roles which used to belong to the C-level have been delegated to trusted employees. They grew into these roles over time, but only our re-organization enabled us to actually put them in these roles and transfer the power to take decisions in those areas. Employee empowerment leads to company empowerment, and this has a very positive effect on our projects and clients. More changes, challenges and unchartered territories await us in the future, but we are Enigma, we are explorers and we are ready for the new world.