Our business grows when we focus on the “what” and let our SOUTHIES focus on the “how”

By stepping back to reveal the bigger picture, we can plot our course as a company more effectively

According to a certain famous old lyric, “it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it, and that’s what gets results”. While that might apply in some spaces, at SOUTHWORKS, in our leadership team we actually focus exclusively on the “what”, leaving the “how” part for our project teams to figure out. By stepping back to reveal the bigger picture, we can plot our course as a company more effectively – and focusing on what we want to do sets us up for success by creating a framework within which our SOUTHIES can work their magic.

For a long time we focused more on the how – creating clearly defined processes and guidance for our people – but in recent years we’ve realized that in a constantly changing tech landscape we need to pay more attention to the goals we want to achieve, letting the “how” flow from there. And moreover, giving our people on the ground the autonomy to figure out how to get us from A to B brings the best out of them by encouraging them to constantly seek new, more creative ways of doing things. It also makes us more innovative overall as a company.

Placing restrictions on the way our SOUTHIES do things would hamper their creativity, so we simply don’t do it. Our organization is decentralized to the point that we don’t even have a centralized HR function (more about that here if you’re interested) – like many things, it’s left to the project teams, as they are the ones who can make the best-informed, timely decision. We apply this principle right across the company, from the grassroots up. We talk about autonomy a lot, and there’s a good reason for that – it’s a pivotal value that’s ingrained in our company culture and we support it any way we can – we treat our SOUTHIES as independent units within the business, so if they say they need something to achieve their goals, we give it to them and say, “go get it”.

Encouraging autonomy in this way also places a requirement on our team to be proactive and accountable for themselves. A book that describes this brilliantly is Managing oneself, where Peter F. Drucker discusses the importance of everyone directing their own performance and career development. Something we look for when hiring SOUTHIES is the ability to embrace uncertainty, experiment brazenly, and observe what works and what doesn’t, all while working towards the desired outcomes and embracing the goals, structures, and resources set out for them – in other words, the ability to manage oneself. Our emphasis on autonomy creates great personal growth opportunities for SOUTHIES, whether they want to stay on and grow with us or use the skills and independence they’ve developed elsewhere.

With our teams focusing on the how, our responsibility as leadership is to be absolutely clear in defining the what – giving concrete figures and definitive targets, which includes reporting on whether or not we’ve reached them. That makes the framework more mature – how you reach your goal is open to discussion, but its achievement is a provable fact.]

We’re sure our autonomous way of working isn’t unique, but we’ve observed that some companies are more top-down than others and we’re interested in what works best for different organizations and why. How much autonomy does your company give its staff to decide how they do things, and what are the pros and cons of this approach? Drop us a line at hello@southworks.com or read more about how we work on our Careers page.