After over 15 years of building a successful travel company, Nick Pulley’s passion for the organisation he founded had started to dwindle slightly. Like many founders, he had dreamt of doing things differently but thought ‘it’s too late, you have to do that stuff from the start’.
So in 2020, when travel stopped worldwide, he got his second opportunity at ‘re-founding’ the company of his dreams. Known for it’s caring and personal relationship with customers, he wanted to go a step further by giving team members far more freedom & responsibility. And they did just that.
On this page you will find 2 elements:
One of the first things Selective Asia did was do a 1 month trial whereby they were to stop using email internally and move to Slack with one main rule: always speak in public channels. Assume everybody needs to know everything.
They haven’t looked back since. Sure there has been the odd issue, but the benefits far outweigh the costs: increased alignment, increased knowledge, increased responsibility, decreased silos, decreased waste.
Ever had that feeling in a team, that you are stuck but you don’t know what you mean by that? We did. So all team members brought their individual concerns to a workshop. It was a relief to find out that the whole group broadly shared the same three worries:
3. Clarity on vision
So groups of volunteers took responsibility for each area and went about creating small changes over the coming weeks. Since then satisfaction with the value of technology in the organisation has risen 18% and clarity on the organisations vision has increased 21%.
The pandemic meant that new and different types of work needed doing, new fires needed putting out and new opportunities needed seizing. But ‘which department is in charge of that...?!’
So we deleted departments and put everybody in one circle, asking them the question: “For us to reach our vision, what needs doing?”
The group clustered their ideas, eventually ending up with 6 projects. These projects are owned by volunteers who have chosen to move them forward. They evolve all the time with new ones starting and old ones ending.
The result? A new sales process, a journey towards becoming a B Corp, a new internal knowledge system, improved internal training, flexible working hours, updates to internally developed software and a huge improvement to the organisationsl vision and values.
The goal is to have as many people as possible working on what is most important to work on. To shift where we put our energies accordingly.
To achieve this, Selective Asia has a 'Reps Meeting' on Fridays, where a representative from each project meet and give each project a traffic light colour. Green is full steam ahead, orange is keep things ticking along, red is pause.
This allows the group to put their energies where it's most valuable to the organisation.
For a company to become more adaptive, we often all need to grow as people. And so Nick role modelled that by taking responsibility for his own growth and asking the team to give him candid feedback on a public video call. In turn each team member gave him the good, the bad and the ugly.
Not only did this lead to a real take-up of personal development opportunities amongst team members, but it has helped Nick adjust his leadership. In his words, he’s focussed on:
• Completing projects (before moving on)
• Involving more people (particularly from the start)
• Coaching rather than leading
Aware that we were starting to implement structures and processes that allowed the organisation to adapt, we realised this was the tip of the iceberg. An organisation is after all, more or less made up of its people.
So we created 'Self-Reflection Workshops' where team members took deeper looks at their personal growth.
Then we ran a series of workshops on the topic of Listening, with participants forming weekly buddy groups.
Several members claimed that this focus on their own growth and on listening had led to positive changes in both their professional and private lives.
Roughly every 6 months we have run a survey measuring how adaptive team members consider the organisation.
Over the course of a year, our initiatives in self-organisation (including but not limited to those above), results in a reported 26.3% increase in adaptiveness across the organisation.
Engagement, autonomy and personal growth entered the exceptional category. The biggest improvements were in the areas of organisational change, transparent finances, information sharing, workflow and clarity on vision.
The biggest area for improvement remains speed which was described in comments as a frustration with the paused state of the travel industry during the pandemic.
The people at Selective Asia have achieved an awful lot together over the most difficult period they have experienced. With travel still heavily restricted 18 months after the first COVID-19 lockdown, they continue to fight and use every ounce of resilience they can. Knowing that when people hit the sky again, they will be in a better position as a team to deliver incredible service to their happy and loyal customer basis.
Adapting has become a core part of their culture.