Rituals & Cadence
Put these in your calendar and you'll never miss anything important.
This section outlines some of the key rituals in Octopus - the things you can set your calendar to.
Most months, we run a company-wide all-hands where you can get the latest from senior leaders on key topics, recent wins and challenges, and how we're tracking toward our goals, including financial performance. This is also a chance for synchronous Q&A - though you can always reach out on Slack to anyone at any time: no need to wait for a month.
You can gather a lot about what's happening across Octopus by lurking on Slack channels, but it's exhausting. Sometimes it's nice to get a high-level overview of things that are going on outside of your team. The R&D and Customer teams run weekly knowledge-sharing sessions.
R&D Weekly is a series of short presentations - typically 5-10 minutes each - about what's going on. We encourage teams to present something at least once every couple of months. We aim for a really high "signal to noise" ratio and for content that's generally useful or interesting to everybody, not anything too technical. After R&D Weekly, presenters can run a breakout session to go into more detail about how something works or how to do something. Examples in the past have included how to write automated UI tests, how to write high-performing database queries, how a team runs continuous discovery, usability study outcomes, and more.
Customer Knowledge Sharing uses a rotational roster. Solutions Engineering, Customer Success, Account Executives, Techincal Account Managers, Support, Renewal, Marketing, and Sales Operations take turns each week. They share customer stories, product concepts and scenario walkthroughs, as well as other notes from the field.
Attending is open to all and optional, though attending live is neat. We always record it so people can watch it back later at their pace/convenience. Attending breakouts is similarly optional, though attending live is better if you want to contribute to the conversation by sharing or asking questions.
Having a company with distributed team members has its benefits. However, it can often be a challenge to ensure that everyone builds relationships, communicates, and shares important information easily and effectively. It's easy to avoid healthy conflict or leave important issues unaddressed in a distributed environment. When we were smaller, it was easy to organise an annual in-person kick-off once a year. We still believe that bringing everyone together regularly helps to realign us, so now we budget for teams to get together when it works for them, as well as departmental or cross-functional planning events.
A co-location week gives you a chance to really get to know your teammates without a computer screen. You'll learn that Henrik is taller than you realized, that Shane has amazing stories to tell, and that your colleagues aren't just a 2D face on a screen. You'll start to feel like you work for a real company.
It's an important time for your team, as it's often used to get together and have important conversations about goals and plans for the year that are hard to do over Zoom. So while we know it can be difficult, and sometimes you won't be able to make it, as much as possible, everybody is expected to attend their team's co-location week for the entire week.
Flights and accommodation will be arranged, with the week happening in the city that makes the most sense based on where your team members live. Each team will do this on a cadence that makes sense for them.
Being distributed introduces barriers to getting to know people on a human level. Like many other companies, there will be small talk as people join meetings, team social activities, and fun channels for people that share a hobby or interest. For cities with a few Octonauts, you are encouraged to organise co-working days at a shared office space.
To add to the mix, we have an opt-in Donut bot that pairs people to get to know each other. You choose to be matched with people in your time-zone, or Octonauts anywhere on the planet. Our one rule is no shop talk - we have other ways to connect on work. Whether you are a social butterfly who enjoys talking to new folks, a connector who builds bridges between people, or a curious sort who wants to learn about other parts of the world, you are sure to find something. We hope it helps you appreciate the diverse set of humans behind the Slack message or Zoom call.
All teams set aside a planning week each quarter. During this week, we look back at the quarter and celebrate our achievements. We will draft plans for the next quarter, including deciding what we won't do, then gather feedback and finalise the plan. In the end, everyone should feel proud of our achievements in the previous quarter and feel aligned with the plans for the coming quarter. This coordinated time ensures that teams can focus on getting significant chunks of work done during the quarterly without introducing too much planning overhead.
Each R&D team dedicates a portion of their time - about 20%, though it varies by team - to "sharpening". This is time to upskill on new ideas and frameworks and work on unplanned things or things that we might otherwise not find time to do. Sharpening time is self-directed and protected from the pressures of day-to-day work. We take a bet on providing our people this time and trust them to use it as effectively as possible so that our axes are sharp and ready to go for the next block of delivery work.