3.4 Company-Wide Learning

You won’t be surprised to hear that one of our core values is “quick and continuous learning”, right? The ideal Catalyst is driven by curiosity and able to learn quickly. He or she does not only have a deep technical understanding, but is also quick to grasp business topics.

In a talk at an IT conference in Cluj, I explained that it takes the right people and the right environment, but then also just enough S-S-P to enable company-wide learning (slides with speaker notes available) which stands for:

  • Strategy: the common goal, where to go, what to reach for
  • Structure: who and what, time and money
  • Process: how to approach it, how to organize and do it, how to synchronize

So what do we do to foster an environment where everybody can develop to his/her full potential?

For new team members we have:

  • a personal “Onboarding Coach” for the first 1-2 months, who helps the new team member to get oriented and productive as quickly as possible
  • a set of “Learning Lessons”, i.e. compulsory classes that we teach to make sure that important concepts are understood

For regular information exchange we have:

  • Code Reviews to make sure that 4 eyes have looked at a piece of code before it is committed. During the onboarding we explicitly enforce pair programming. However, typically our development workflow arranges for code reviews. Our developers don’t always work in pairs, but form pairs dynamically when they feel that a certain piece of code asks for it.
  • Desk Rotation: (really) every Catalyst (including the CEOs) is assigned a new desk every week; not just at random but
    • considering important aspects like having enough colleagues from the same team in the same room, and
    • allowing for serendipity
  • Wispris (shortcut for “Wissensspritze”, a newly coined German term): short doses of valuable knowledge explained in a very practical way

For enough coordination we have:

  • Company-wide Virtual Standups: everybody writes a daily standup via CORE, our internal communication platform.
  • Technology Radar: for each project, we draw Structurizr diagrams, we collect who is how knowledgeable about which technology, and we manage the list of technologies company-wide.
  • Development Roadmaps: for each discipline like software development, requirements engineering, growth hacking, etc., we organize the learning via an internal web-application.

Let me expand a little bit on the Development Roadmaps:

For each discipline, we want to provide an environment where every team member learns a lot, where information is shared freely, and where in the end the teams and the entire company learn more and faster than our competitors.

That’s the Strategy, the goal, from the S-S-P acronym.

So what do we do on purpose (and not by accident):

  • We collect relevant material, like books, articles, tutorials, etc.
  • We make that material freely available to our team.

We have made it very easy for every team member to order new material. Whatever someone needs will be bought. Within minutes.

We put the best material on our roadmap which we divide into three parts: basic, advanced, and expert to visualize the learning curve.

That’s the Structure.


By making explicit which books are meant for beginners and which ones for experts, it becomes easier for team members to grab the right one.

That’s the Process.

In the background we organize our books in “shelves” on GoodReads. That allows GoodReads to understand quite well what books, e.g. a requirements engineer at Catalysts is interested in. Hence we get very specific recommendations about what’s new in the field. Much better recommendations that you typically get from Amazon since your Amazon profile will be as polluted as mine (with birthday and Christmas presents for the children, etc.).

Together, that approach supports each team member to develop nicely (i => I => T => ★), see our video “i grow”:

Vorheriger Beitrag
3.3 Do it Right
Nächster Beitrag
3.5 The Chapter Summary

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