‘Igniting agile store teams with Spark at bol.com’ Blog Harm Jans

3 min.
4 juli 2018

Viral change

Harm Jans has been working at bol.com since 2008 and is a leader in E-commerce logistics and supply chain management. Recently he became the leader of ‘the way of working’ team, focusing on this transformation.
He has a strong vision and a Knack for getting things done. In this blog he will tell more about Spark at bol.com.

In my previous blogposts I’ve shared how bol.com is transforming to a network of self-organizing teams using our Holacracy-based Spark framework. Since we started with just two teams in Logistics in 2015, Spark is now used by over 120 teams and 1.000 people at bol.com. I’m happy to share that the speed of adoption of Spark has greatly increased in the last year (see graph). In this blogpost I’ll share with you how we managed to speed up and how Spark is evolving into a framework that’s becoming richer and is now widely adopted in commercial, cross-functional store teams.

Organizational growth and functional silos

After introducing new product categories at a higher pace from 2011 onwards, the bol.com organization grew at an accelerated pace. The increased complexity of offering over 16 million products in dozens of categories was a key driver of scaling up our organization in IT and Logistics, but most of all we needed more commercial experts who really knew the new products and the market. In just a few years, our Merchandising & Sourcing division quadrupled in size as a result.

Historically at bol.com we organize in functional departments: such as Buying, Merchandising, Online Marketing and Supply Chain Management. Within these departments however, fast growth in number of employees led to an increase of organizational complexity. With the fast increase in numbers and added hierarchy also came unwanted side effects: Silo thinking, bureaucracy and ultimately, even in a high-energy company such as bol.com: the first signs of employee disengagement. High time for change.

Re-iginiting the entrepreneurial spirit

In the summer of 2017 a small group of leaders at Merchandising & Sourcing and Marketing, led by Oscar Hundman decides to do something about it. They want to reform from large and clunky functional departments to small cross-functional teams, focused on a specific product category. Running the commercial operations part of bol.com should feel like working in a small company again.

So, they decide to launch the SCORE program that reforms the Merchandising and Sourcing division and part of our Marketing division into a new Stores division. Within that division 42 cross-functional store teams are formed within 6 clusters, grouped by a shared customer journey. For instance, we now have 6 store teams focused on product groups in a cluster we call Sports, Style and Baby. Each team owns their specific product group and runs the commercial operations for that product group as autonomously as possible. We aim to make this feel like working for a small company within bol.com. Within their cluster, they share a strategy, prioritize changes to the bol.com platform with IT and share best practices between teams. People are still in their functional departments as well, where the focus is shifting from strategy and operations to professional mastery and supporting the teams with process automation and better tools.


Just using Spark is not enough

I joined their effort at the start of 2018. After three years of combining my work on Spark with my work in Logistics, this gave me the opportunity to follow my passion and focus on Spark and agile transformation in business teams for 100%. We are currently helping the teams achieve 4 goals:

  1. Learn to use Spark to take ownership and self-organize the commercial operations of your store as a cross-functional team.
  2. Learn to create your own strategy plan as a team using OGSM and supercharge the execution of that plan using the Spark tactical meeting format and GlassFrog.
  3. Learn to structure data into weekly metrics, create insights and initiate experiments to continually improve the shopping experience for customers.
  4. For teamleads: learn to lead in self-organizing teams by inspiring the team and setting clear goals, but letting the team figure out how to best reach those goals themselves and manage their progress toward those goals autonomously.

How is it working out for us?

It’s still early days for us to evaluate the SCORE program, but we ask teams their feedback all the time, scoring NPS, so we have a pretty decent idea how teams are experiencing the change and if it’s sticking. More than half of the teams have achieved all 4 goals now. Some teams are faster than others, but that’s fine, it’s not a race. Teams seem to pick up the pace along the way and are motivated. They tell us that motivation comes mainly from working more closely together with all specialists they need to build and run an excellent store together. Most teams start of in a phase where running Spark meetings feels awkward, but this only takes a few weeks. After the first few weeks they find their way and tweak the meetings a little and start to prize the refound team effectiveness and the ability to address any sparks they might have.

Want to learn more?

I know this post only scratches the surface on our agile transformation with the bol.com store teams. I’m proud of the teams who have come a long way in not even a full year. Of course there are some hurdles along the way and we had to adjust our plans a couple of times, but that story is for another time. This post already became longer than I thought it would :-). If you’re interested to learn more on agile transformations, especially in business teams, then please join us at the upcoming bol.com Spark Meetup on July 19th. You can sign up here. Hope to meet you there!