I remember the first time I heard about Booking.com’s “organized chaos” during my first round of phone interviews. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. I thought – with my startup background – it was just one of those catchy phrases big corporates tell their candidates to sound hip and less hierarchical.
Now, a year after joining Booking.com, “organized chaos” has become a lifestyle for me. I see it as one of our internal keys to success, something I want to protect and cherish, and a part of the Booking.com culture that I feel fortunate to have. Sometimes I even feel that organized chaos has become an essential right to how I want to work as a Product Owner.
So, what does it actually refer to?
Essentially it means that there are virtually no rules. You can see this attitude reflected in everyone’s workspaces. You see Macs, PCs, good old MS Office, next to Linux & Co. You see some people working standing up, some sitting on big plastic balls, some surrounded by huge monitors, others typing on a small laptop they can move around easily. You get to decide what works for you.
Organized chaos also extends to our teams. Each team is different and has it’s own spin on how to work together. Some do strict scrum with regular sprint planning meetings, managing one week, two weeks or longer sprints. Others have an open backlog that is only loosely prioritized, or decide what to work on next in ad hoc meetings. Some use a whiteboard. Others use some fancy software. I’ve seen color-coded Post-its with tasks scribbled on them hanging around. What counts is working together to achieve a common goal. You put in your best effort and strive to grow every day. No need for a uniform way of doing things.
For me as a Product Owner, organized chaos has a deeper meaning than simply which gadget I use or how I work with my team. This way of working expresses a fundamental value of Booking.com’s internal culture. As a PO, it is your responsibility to strive towards making a vision come true and to constantly think about how to deliver value to our customers. Simply put, there isn’t one way dictated by someone at the top. No one is telling you to do A, B and C, in that order, by the end of this quarter. We have the flexibility to decide for ourselves.
Organized chaos means that you are empowered to extend beyond your comfort zone, follow opportunities, be innovative, be agile, and come up with what you believe will get us closer to bringing home the vision. That can mean to constantly challenge business as usual and to solve customer problems better. It can also mean trying something bold, surprising and completely new. The way your approach your work is up to you.
Organized chaos provides the freedom to pair your individual uniqueness (the reason you were hired in the first place), with an understanding of the customer to create something amazing. It influences the way you work with your team, what you add to the Booking.com community, and the impact you have on the customer experience.
Not restricted by rules
We have the opportunity to thrive in a culture of different perspectives, opinions, and (lots of) data that can help shape how we can achieve the ultimate mission – to provide a product and service that our customers love.