How To Scale Teams That Break Down Barriers: Typeform's Simple Strategy

This blog post is part of the Trello Day Replay series of talks given by members of the Trello team, Google, and Typeform about different ways they’re using Trello to be more effective in life and work. For more inspiration, check out the rest of the talks here.

Remember how awkward growing up was? Everything is new and there is so much to discover. It’s exciting, but also daunting. As we move into our teenage years, we think we have it all figured out, but that doesn’t last long; we soon learn we’re just getting started. Then we hit our 20’s. Our new sense of freedom is abruptly contrasted with the need to “be responsible” and think not only about the present, but about laying foundations for the future.

Yup, growing up is a rollercoaster and there are plenty of bumps along the track. Turns out, scaling a business is not too different. But at Typeform, we found a solution in Trello as our company size continued to grow year over year.

Your Company Has Growing Pains

I joined Typeform when there were roughly 40 people in the company. The founders—David and Robert—had just accidentally disrupted the online form space by introducing one-question-at-a-time, beautiful, and engaging forms to the market. It was an exciting time to join. Traction was strong, product/market fit had been found, and the journey was about to begin.

Fast forward a few years and we’re about 200 people, spread across three offices: two in Barcelona and one in San Francisco.

Scaling Typeform has not been without its challenges. Here’s a not very scientific representation of how it might feel as you grow as a company:

growing pains of a company

Up to 10 people: It’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears. You’re working on something you believe in, but it’s probably not proven yet. You’re likely spending your own cash and questioning yourself every single day.

10 - 50 people: You’ve done it, you’ve found product/market fit! You likely get a bit of seed funding and you can stop dipping into your own bank account. You hire a couple of people who can take on things like HR responsibilities, letting you get on with what you care most about—building the best product possible.

50-100 people: You’re a real company now. Employees want “real company” things. They want career development plans and to get paid on time—go figure. You find yourself thinking more about admin than product, which can give you the sense that not much is getting done.

100-150 people: This is what I call the stabilizing stage. You likely have people dedicated to your HR admin, Finance, IT, and all that jazz, meaning people get their “real company” things. You’re small enough to know people’s names and feel agile, but you’re big enough to start making a serious dent in the market.

150+ people: This is when things start to unravel. Decision making, agility, internal communications… it all gets harder.

Dunbar’s Magic Number For Human Connection

According to the research of evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, there might be a very good reason for things getting difficult after hitting the 150 mark—it’s all about the size of the human brain.

According to Dunbar, 150 is the maximum number of meaningful relationships that humans (that’s us) are able to maintain at any one time. Apparently, there’s lots of evidence for it when you look through history as well. Neolithic farming communities would have a maximum of 150 people in them, before creating new communities. Roman army units, who would go off and fight in battle together, had around 150 people in them too. In fact, according to a study, if you want a long, happy marriage, 150 is the wedding guest sweet spot.

Dunbar’s research was so well received that he was even able to put his name to the number. 150 is now known as Dunbar’s Number—and it might just be the reason your business is struggling.

Trello + Typeform Employee Directory Board

Back to Typeform. We’re well past Dunbar’s number now, so how did we fight its curse? For us it came down to a seemingly simple, but critical problem: People just didn’t know each other’s names any more. This meant fewer hallway conversations, less sharing of ideas, less cross-team challenging, experimentation and collaboration, etc. We wanted more of that, so we tackled the problem at its source.

sancar_rounded
"As teams grow, help folks put faces to names and cultivate an inclusive culture." - @iamsancar, @typeform #TrelloDayReplay

Luckily, the solution was right under our noses. With two of our favourite tools, Typeform and Trello, we created a friendly, accessible company directory—a place to explore faces.

typeform employee directory in trello

The workflow couldn’t be simpler:

  1. When a new employee starts at Typeform and they get a link to this typeform:

    typeform gif

  2. They fill in some basic details (name, title, some fun facts, etc—usual conversation starters).

  3. Through the magic of Trello’s Typeform Power-Up, the data is sent directly to our company directory Trello board, where the new starter’s profile automatically pops up.

  4. A lot of awkwardness is avoided in the hallways.

And actually setting up the board and process is just as simple:

1. Create a Trello board

Start by creating a new Trello board. Add a list for each team: Design, Development, Data & Analytics, People Ops, and so on.

Then, add one column to the front called “NEW STARTERS”. We’ll come back to that one in a minute.

2. Create A Typeform

Next step is to create a simple typeform to collect the employee information that should appear in the Trello board.

There are the obvious things to ask: name, picture, contact information, team, and role. And then there are some extras: More human details like fields to add a personal bio (history, hobbies, interests, etc.) and links to personal website and social media pages. Finally, add a field for people to upload their photo.

On the typeform’s Thank You screen, you can add the Trello board’s URL to the redirect button. So as soon as someone fills out their info, they can head over to the company directory to meet the rest of their team.

Check it out for yourself: Who’s Who typeform.

3. Enable the Typeform Power-Up on your Trello board

This is how you’ll be able to actually send data from your Typeform survey to a Trello card. To do this you’ll go to the right of your Trello board and click Show Menu > Power-Ups, and search for “Typeform.”

From there you just link up your Typeform account, select from which typeform responses you’d like to pull, and then to which Trello list you’d like to send the responses. Then hit save.

typeform trello power-up

That’s it!

As new employees submit their typeforms, the cards are being sent to our aforementioned “NEW STARTERS” list, where our HR folks drag the new cards to the proper team’s list.

This simple workflow has helped us break down many barriers in our fast growing company. No matter the size of your company, I encourage you to try it for yourself to help folks put faces to names and to cultivate an improved and inclusive culture.

The strategy to scale its company by Typeform for Trello Day Replay talks
Check out this simple strategy that helps @Typeform scale its company while breaking down barriers between teams by @iamsancar @trello #TrelloDayReplay

Want even more inspiration from Trello users and team members? This blog post is part of the Trello Day Replay series. Check out more talks here.


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