How the pods approach can be an effective project management strategy

Read about the benefits of using the pods method for project management, and get tips on implementing this strategy.

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Globant is a tech services firm that has more than 9,200 employees worldwide. This conjures up immediate images of administrative bloat and myriad levels of management, but Globant is anything but that.

"We've organized our workforce into teams of no more than eight people," said Martin Migoya, Globant CEO and co-founder.

The idea of "thinking small to think big" has characterized Globant's management approach for years. "We believe that everything ultimately comes back to autonomy, and that autonomy motivates people," Migoya said.

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The concept works like this: The company sets up rules for its project management teams and for its teams' engagements with customers. These goals give each team a great deal of autonomy in deciding how it operates, who on the team gets rewarded, and how customer interactions are conducted—with an ultimate goal of keeping customers happy.

"Each team or pod has its own name or identifier," Migoya said. "The team members pledge to a constitution that defines team objectives and revolves around their commitments to their customers. There are individual roles assigned within each team such as QA, programmer, analyst, etc. The team also has an identified primary customer interface person, a "Professor" who manages the team. and a "Polisher" who takes care of all the project details before launch. Each team member has a vote, and the team members vote for one person other than themselves whom they feel is most worthy to be rewarded for performance. If an individual assigned to the pod is unhappy, he or she can also resign."

Migoya believes that giving teams this degree of autonomy is at the heart of the service levels his company is able to achieve with customers.

"We implemented the pod process six or seven years ago," he said. "Since that time, we have seen the quality of our projects improve and the level of customer awareness throughout our organization grow."

It starts at the top

Migoya also said that a cultural transformation of this magnitude must begin with the CEO.

"Our entire organization has two, three levels—maybe four levels at most," he said. "We have an inverted organizational chart—with the CEO at the bottom and the teams that all of us support at the top."

In daily work, project members are connected with goals and reward each other with stars for a variety of reasons—from "thinking big" as a strategist to accomplishing a difficult project task to being a strong team player.

The employee engagement produces both public and private feedback; it also helps Globant predict attrition as much as 20 weeks in advance.

"This allows us to address potential issues long before they become major," Migoya said. "We can be proactive. In so doing, we have beaten our attrition estimates year after year."

More employee autonomy

What recommendations does Migoya have for others who might want to try the pods method?

"The largest motivating factor for employees is autonomy," he said. "People want to get away from the old 'command and control' structures in organizations so they feel that they have a voice in the work that they do. This makes them feel that they are in charge of their presents and their futures.

"Second, effecting a transformation like this begins with leadership. If you want to effect a cultural change in the organization, you have to live the work environment that you want to create. If you pretend by just say the right words, it isn't likely to work.

"Finally, what we've learned in our company is that our employees are smart. We can depend on them to make the right decisions for our customers."

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By Mary Shacklett

Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...