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Being a multi-location company from the start, we always invested in consistent syncing at Mambu. Since we grew exponentially we needed to constantly adapt and improve our alignment strategy. While doing this, we learned that alignment comes hand in hand with autonomy so we addressed it as well.

Implementing our autonomy

Culturally and professionally, Mambu places a lot of importance on making everyone feel as good as possible. That’s why Engineering teams usually have 5 or 6 software engineers. They are responsible for the actual implementation of the new functionality, performing various improvements and all the operational parts (from the actual code development until making sure these changes are properly released into production). We work in pair and mob programming or we’re working in parallel on the same feature, putting pieces together one by one using (how I personally like to name it) the “composable engineering” concept.

We designed our teams to be as self-organised as possible. That’s why, besides the engineering core, each team has four additional roles :

The engineering manager’s responsibility is to enable the team members’ growth. There are regular 1:1s for feedback and discussing constant contribution. The engineering manager defines suitable career paths based on predefined goals, and is responsible for the proper execution of the roadmap. Finally, together with the system owner, the manager defines the ‘how?’ at team level.

Each product team tackles a specific business area to achieve the predefined goals. The product manager handles the communication with the external parties (customers, sales, etc.) that provide input over the required functionality. The product manager also translates all the requirements into backlog items and provides the team with clear details over the ‘what?’.

Furthermore, an engineering team needs a technical direction and someone to provide it. Besides new features, there are always technical points to improve - whether that’s tech debt or technical initiatives that can push Mambu forward. This is where the system owner comes in - a hands-on Mambuvian who works alongside the team, building a direction to follow.

Last but not least, we have the agile coach aligning and solidifying the team, to follow a common direction and to achieve the company’s objectives. The coach evaluates how the agile principles are applied and proposes adjustments if necessary.

Performing our alignment

All the members with a specific role compose a group with a manager. For example, we have an engineering managers group, a product managers group, and so on. They hold regular sync meetings with the goal to share knowledge but also to establish consistency baseline. Each member tries building something on top of this baseline and then shares the learnings.

Change is the only constant

Mambu’s engineering teams follow the Kaizen philosophy and apply the process of continuous learning & improvement, which helps us align at all levels. All improvements are either the result of monitoring internal areas or the learning process we strongly encourage.

The monitoring processes take place within all the tribes and tackle the business, technical and human side. For example, a product manager will eagerly keep an eye on what went OK lately and what we need to improve to successfully deliver new business functionality. The improvement points will be converted into goals for the upcoming period.

We encourage education and self-improvement, both on a personal level and at group level. For instance, colleagues interested in a common topic can form a book club and we offer the possibility to attend various conferences and workshops. All the new and valuable learnings are usually presented during internal workshops boosting team knowledge and improving alignment.

We are aware that any imbalance across the two dimensions ultimately produces some degree of failure at scale. Striking the balance to constantly operate with high autonomy and high alignment requires significant and continuous attention from teams and leaders.

At Mambu, making changes in our operating model, ways of working, and culture is an ongoing process that addresses the three core tensions between individual autonomy and organisational goals. Building an engaging and inspiring working environment for our employees means systematically aligning all elements of our operating model and working environment to create autonomy without sacrificing accountability, getting innovation where it matters most without sacrificing the benefits of scalability, and obtaining alignment without excessive control.

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Ionut Penciuc
Ionut has been at Mambu since its beginnings in Iași, 9 years ago. Back then, we were a small team handling features of all kinds. He’s currently a system owner at product area level, providing a technical direction for multiple teams in lending, the heartbeat of our banking platform.
Ionut Penciuc