Aligned autonomy or how to manage your start-up?

by bold-lichterman

The main question in a start-up is how to produce more with few resources and a limited team size. This constraint has encouraged the creation of new practices: from lean to agile methods, including the concept of the liberated company, start-ups are in constant search of new modes of organization.

On our side, note were inspired by best practices from the world of techs and developers. This population is at the forefront of organizational methods, management and productivity. We have integrated these new concepts into our daily lives and have adapted them to the whole company, that is to say to marketing, design and project management.

We set goals for short, medium and long term. The goal is to define measurable steps and aligned with the overall strategy of the company. Each validated step is rewarding and therefore motivating. Here is how we do it.

Agile methods: short-term logic

Developers are in constant demand with dozens of tasks of varying sizes, different urgencies and priorities. Their internal or external interlocutors do not always have the capacity to assess the difficulty of the expected production.

Faced with this, the teams of developers have been led to strengthen their discipline in their organization. Agile methods are the result. This hyper-standardized form of organization allows the continuous flow of requests to be managed.

What if we applied these methods to other teams in the company?

The agile method is an iterative and adaptive process where teams work in a series of short cycles, incorporating rapid feedback to deliver solutions tailored to customer needs.

It is in opposition to the “traditional” approach in cascade, which requires detailed specifications and validated by the customer’s needs at the start of the project. There is often a phase difference between the initial need for the project and the application carried out.

Set up rituals

Our work is organized around sprints of a week. Once a week, we meet during the ceremony to assess our performance over the past week and to determine tasks for the coming week, based on assessed priorities.

The tool we use to visualize the progress of tasks is called Trello. For example, in marketing such a week we have to concentrate our efforts on the publication. The goal is to schedule everything we have to do during the week: we arrive at the office every morning knowing what activity we are going to do.

Daily stand-up

The morning is also an opportunity to share your actions with other team members during the stand-up or the retrospective. Each person on the team answers three questions:

  • What did I do yesterday?

  • What am I going to do today?

  • What are the blocking points?

The objective is to maintain transparency on each person’s progress and resolve issues quickly to avoid stagnation.

Marketing and sales teams tend to suffer from context switching and interruptions. We have greatly reduced these interruptions by using Slack, the real-time collaboration tool that allows delayed dialogue.

King of Tokars

The developer team, for its part, is often interrupted in its thinking and loses productivity. She is the holder of a unique knowledge and the advancement of the product and this generates constant requests, from the resolution of a bug to a small modification on a marketing medium. We wanted to channel these daily interruptions and created a gatehouse that protects the developer team. The guardrail handles all emergencies and provides peace of mind to other developers. He is the only developer who can be interrupted in his work. This role is played by a different dev every week.

Define OKRs: medium-term logic

OKRs (Objective Key Results) determine a clear destination for each team (dev, marketing, sales, inside sales, design) so that no one is wasting their time. Three criteria are taken into account when defining our OKRs.


We have obtained peace of mind in our organization, we know what we can produce and in how long. This information therefore allows us to focus on what is important and what brings added value within each team.


The homogenization of best practices allows the whole team to interact easily. We have the same logic and can thus easily work together on joint projects around the same values.


This is the opportunity to assess whether the team is productive, whether it has reached its cruising speed. Each member develops and improves skills on sometimes specific subjects. Let’s use these strengths to forecast our next goals! We then adapt our actions based on these insights.

The OKRs:

  • are public and accessible by anyone in the company,

  • are defined quarterly,

  • are made so that the efforts of a team are focused on specific topics,

  • are developed inspiring objectives and measurable and tangible actions,

  • are ambitious!

Staffing & WTFM b * tch !: long term logic

With us, quality serves quantity: a small but well-trained team will be more productive. In fact, the more people there are in a team, the more complex communication becomes and innovation slows down.

It is for this reason that we were inspired by the management at Spotify. The objective is to succeed in carrying out large-scale projects without losing agility.

We therefore make up teams of 4 to 6 people, “squads”, who are responsible for the project from A to Z. The decisions do not have to be validated by a hierarchy: the teams are autonomous. Innovations are encouraged and projects evolve more quickly.

For this autonomy to be productive, a guideline is defined beforehand. The objectives of the Squad Start-up must be in line with the overall strategy of the company: it is aligned autonomy.

A long-term logic necessarily involves uniting our teams. We have created 5 values ​​that adapt over the years and changes in the box. Among them, “Each one teach one” or “WTFM B * tch!“. The latter is a nod to geek culture: RTFM! Deviated here in Write The Fucking Manual. We capitalize on the knowledge of each team member. We document each discovery we make to feed the common knowledge of our team via our Confluence tool.

Our productivity secret is therefore prioritize. By setting goals to short, medium and long term, we are establishing concrete and quantifiable steps. This allows us to assess our actions for the week, month or quarter and align ourselves effectively with the company’s strategy.

kilian-bazinKilian Bazin, co-founder of Toucan Toco, is a graduate of Ecole Polytechnique and Mines de Paris. He teaches the Dataviz course at CRI and at ENSAE in Paris. Through data storytelling, Toucan Toco democratizes access to performance data for all employees of large companies.

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