John Collison on Stripe's Org Design

This is probably one of the best things I've listened to on the opportunity for Organization Design in the Financial Services space. It's a podcast from Investor's Field Guide, and at the surface is about how Stripe thinks about investing its capital into growth, and generally about running businesses.

I suspect what will be more interesting to anyone reading this here will be the insights into the new ways organizations can orient and distribute their work.

Three concepts that I'll be holding onto:

  1. Small, coherent teams. We obviously know this, but the way Collision talks about it at Stripe is worth porting to other work. "One funny thing that happens is, new things at Stripe are almost always started by really tiny teams. Any announcements that you’ve seen from Stripe, probably it was a team of less than 10 people when it launched...and often less than five people in that kind of core part of its gestation and its development. The classic big company mistake is to throw 300 people at a problem and have them executing for three years before getting any market feedback."
  2. Speed and deployment as a quality of life metric. Of course, speed and scale are necessary ingredients in Stripe's sustainable competitive advantage. But so is reliability – and Stripe's evolutionary, distributed-teams operating model is designed to continuously test its own infrastructure. But these also contribute to the creation of an culture where durable, useful product goes out the door frequently – and Stripers learn more as a result.
  3. The value of the marginal team. Given that Stripe appears to be organized as a number of interconnected but independent, relatively autonomous teams, the business needs some way to help sort out what investment thesis a team might work on. In Collison's words, "You are making these essentially capital allocation decisions – should the marginal team work on fraud prevention or lending or international expansion?"

Subscribe to CPJ.FYI

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.