With the BetaCodex transformation to self-organization

Darstellung zum Beta Codex
Photo of Joachim

Published on 23.08.2021 from Joachim
Reading time approx. 0 Min.

Our path to an agile beta company

Dear readers,
In this article, I would like to trace for you our F7 path of elementary change - from a pyramid-like organizational structure to self-organization. Especially in the prehistory, I will describe quite openly how I perceive the structures at F7 at that time in retrospect. One thing should be said beforehand: From today's perspective, I am certain that this change was and is absolutely the right path for us. A serious restructuring of the company organization towards self-organization is extremely far-reaching and cannot fit into any time window. It is a shared journey that will probably never end, but it is a good one. The time from 2018 to today has been exciting, thrilling, at times frustrating, but more than worthwhile. Each company may have a different starting point for why a new organization is deemed necessary. However, the path taken as a result will certainly be a similar one. If you want self-organization, you can't avoid Beta.

Perhaps your company is on a similar path as we are, or perhaps you are currently considering whether such a path could be the right one for your company. What moved us then and still moves us today is written down below. 

OpenSpace Beta 

One more important note: We decided to transform with the help of the OpenSpace Beta transformation approach. This is based on the BetaCodex with its set of 12 principles. In this post, I will not go into more detail about the Beta Codex and OpenSpace Beta, but I will list some further recommendations about it at the end. If it suits me, I will delve a little deeper into our transformation at another time, and perhaps then there will even be a small series of articles around the topic of OpenSpace Beta and BetaCodex.


Back in 2018, my business partner Claas and I thought we were going to be a really great, functional team at F7. But was this perception true, or were we profoundly wrong? Increasingly, we were told by colleagues that there were tensions and that there was a bad mood here and there. This was "strange" for both of us, because when Claas and I came into the office in the morning, everyone seemed to be in a good mood. What was going on?

At some point, the time has reached when it became clear: We have to talk. Ever since we heard about the tensions, our inner scanners were running at full speed. 


What was the initial situation and what finally triggered the realization? 

The order situation at F7 was very good and we were working away "for all we were worth," so to speak. Of course, we were always too few for all the work - but who in our business doesn't know that? So new colleagues joined us and from time to time someone left F7, but always in a good mood.

As a startup, we had made good progress so far. But now we had become a big team and wanted to work more and more professionally. We therefore kept developing our organizational structure. Since 2018, there were of course "departments" and thus suddenly the classic pyramid organization: management, project management, concept/design, backend, integration and frontend. This was apparently great and yes also proven in other companies.
But what didn't go right for us? The schedules somehow never worked out. What we noticed pretty quickly was the daily "resource struggle" of the project managers. Claas – although managing director and "only marginally" project manager – was historically (he used to be the only project manager at F7) the contact person for almost all our customers in the respective project. The actual project managers had to constantly worry about their resources, because the work allocation for all departments was clear:

For our developers, FIRST came the managing director in project manager garb and THEN the project managers.
What added to the negative effect was that everyone was actually following a project plan, but Claas was rather pragmatic in his approach and distributed his to-dos "spontaneously" and as needed. And so the morning project manager run had already become routine. Those who came at the wrong time were left empty-handed or had to wait.

What amazes me in retrospect is that we always got everything done, and always with good quality. This can only be explained by the fact that our colleagues were incredibly committed and patient within the existing system.

At some point, the batteries ran out not only for the project managers, but also for our colleagues in the technical and conceptual departments. In retrospect, it is clear that this way of working can only have a negative impact on people's minds and must have led to tensions in the "background".


Claas and I had always been on friendly terms with our colleagues, the eternal StartUp ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Nevertheless, there was inevitably something in the air and I in particular had to admit this to myself - which was somehow difficult for me. Yes, there was dissatisfaction among the colleagues, and yes, it was time to talk about it! And that's what we did. We agreed that we had accomplished a lot together and that we all liked each other. None of us wanted any of it to be destroyed by further inactivity. 

During the initial discussions, one thing in particular came to light: the colleagues didn't want bosses who were just friends. They wanted bosses who would show F7 a direction, who would lead and make decisions, and who would set a guiding principle and live it. And the colleagues didn't want a boss who was also a project manager. 

Apparently, being a boss has to be learned, because from that moment on, I started to do a lot of things wrong in some way - I'll be honest with you. I tended to put everything into perspective that was very important to other colleagues. Or I suddenly conveyed pure uncertainty because I saw projects and sales in danger. Claas and I also often contradicted each other, which irritated everyone. 

I remember well that I myself became more and more hesitant and unyielding with myself, because I noticed the mistakes myself. 

So it wasn't long before the prevailing dissatisfaction was joined by an insecurity that was felt by my colleagues.


We began to take selective countermeasures when problems arose and tried to somehow improve the position of colleagues we could not do without. Of course, others felt this quite quickly.

In retrospect, the memory of all this makes me blush, but it is important to me to point out these mistakes openly here. I'm sure that our behavior patterns at the time were part of a development that not only I went through. Do you perhaps recognize yourself?

"Being a boss apparently has to be learned" - that's nonsense and only makes things worse. Management tools, status junk and leadership courses are always just a kind of cloak that you put around yourself as a "boss". When things get serious between people, you either do it wrong, like I did, or your colleagues immediately see through your cool cloak of invisibility and don't feel taken seriously.  

Fortunately, our smart colleagues were wide awake and vigorously pushed the "We have to talk!" And together, the decision was reached quite quickly: We need peace and quiet and external help.



If you're stuck, form a working group. Who doesn't remember this saying? No sooner said than done, but with professional help! Claas and I had already been in good contact with a mediator and trainer since 2017. Gabi was immediately willing to stand by us. After we had announced our idea in the company, there was immediately a noticeable sense of optimism. We wanted to lock ourselves away for a whole weekend and work intensively together. We worked on a collection of topics over a period of two months and then we finally set off to Landhaus Kurzenmoor near Hamburg. 

TIP: Great location for meetings or workshops in a cozy atmosphere: landhaus-kurzenmoor.de

Interesting topics came together that not only gave me a new perspective on F7 and the people behind it - but also confirmed many of the problems described above. Here are some excerpts of topics that were brought up by the colleagues: 

  • Equality of colleagues.
  • The working atmosphere must be improved. If the boss is in a bad mood, then the whole company is in a bad mood.
  • Better agreements must be made - between all departments.
  • Avoid interference in projects.

In total, we had more than 30 topics, which we worked on intensively. (But, to be honest: the work was basically only related to the people behind F7. "You must, we should, you could ..." )

It came to very many good and still usable results. Gabi really did an excellent job here. But also the initiative of the colleagues was outstanding. At the end of our event, a big commitment was written and solemnly signed by all.

When we came back to the office after the weekend, the mood was excellent and there was no sign of the aforementioned tensions. A sense of optimism and team spirit spread across the departments. The signed Commitment stood almost admonishingly on a large whiteboard, posted for all to see in the conference room. Each of us was to be reminded of the good times we had at Landhaus. Great work with people, on people.


After some time, the old patterns in the collaboration crept in again. Many colleagues noticed this and tried to remember what we had agreed on in the Commitment. Partly it was organizational issues, partly it was the work on oneself again. To be honest, we eventually accepted silently that we had fallen back into the old patterns and were living them.

When we wanted to start a new attempt to overcome our problems (the way was still unclear), a colleague in the meeting said directly: "So now the next sow is being driven through the village." This statement reflected the mood in the company - welcome back "tensions".


At some point, the idea of wanting to work agile solidified in our minds. We thought together about how we could best implement this plan. Which path should we take exactly? What prerequisites do we have to create for this?  

Our experiences during and after the weekend in the country house showed that we had better go back to professional help. At that time, I was in an exchange with my colleague Marc on the topic of agile working methods. In an email, I suggested several coaches, including Peter Pröll. Marc knew Peter very well from his work in the Education Committee and I remembered him well from a TYPO3 sprint. So it was clear to me quite quickly that I had to ask Peter if he could help us. 

The first phone call was immediately valuable for me. Peter made it clear that there is a lot of talk about "agile", but that truly agile work only works under true self-organization. I understood that a big change was needed here that would affect the whole company and told Claas and Marc about the conversation. Marc seemed to have an inkling of what was about to happen, because he just sat there grinning with delight all over his face. 

Claas and I were given a lot of time to think about the initial suggestions and offers. In the end, however, it didn't take long: the very next morning, we confirmed our cooperation to Peter. After some preparation, the time had come: our first joint appointment took place in Hamburg in mid-February 2019.


This first on-site appointment in our office served to analyze the current state. Only Peter, Claas and I sat together at the table in our second, really small confi. We worked really hard, right in the center of the company, surrounded by our colleagues who were busy in their offices. 

Peter came around the corner with an initial insight: we were far too large a group, unequally distributed in the departments. We could not work like that, we needed teams! In each of the teams, each role would be represented at least once. And this would result in fixed working groups that would no longer be exposed to a resource struggle. 

Wow, that was a real "AHA" effect! Why hadn't we thought of that ourselves? Maybe it was acute operational blindness? Or maybe we as management simply ignored the suggestion of working in teams beforehand, or didn't want to hear it? Who knows , who cares ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .

After we had made good progress in the analysis and also at some point the topic of "agile working" was on the table, Peter told us about the possibility of a transformation towards true self-organization. He made it clear to us that agile software development requires a truly agile company/team. Pyramid-like management positions and "departments" are a total hindrance. If you really want to work in an agile way, you have to be completely in line with the agile idea. 

We talked about real self-organization versus Taylorism, which is probably still the most widespread form of organization in economies. And we talked about Douglas McGregor and his X-Y theory, in which there can be no X people who are motivated purely extrinsically. After all these topics, I realized for the first time why our many previous efforts, while honorable approaches, had been more or less unsuccessful. 

And again such an "AHA" effect! We have worked with good intentions "on the human being". But here it is not the human being who has to adapt or change, here it is the system, the organization, the work environment that has to change so that self-organization can emerge in the first place! We have to work "on the system"! 

We suddenly realized that this approach not only helps us to work in an agile way, but offers us solutions to all the problems we have been just chasing. 

Let's organize work in such a way that intrinsic motivation blossoms, and so people can be Y.

All this and much more was manifested by Peter for us in one day into a term that should represent our new "want": the BetaCodex. And we suddenly had it tangibly in front of us, the possibility of a transformation in 90 days.


As mentioned in my introduction, I don't want to go very deep into the content of the BetaCodex here, so here are two tips (more can be found at the end of the post):



On March 5, 2019, our invitation went out to our colleagues. We really didn't make it easy for ourselves when it came to the exact wording. On the one hand, we wanted to convey how important the topic of transformation to self-organization is to us. On the other hand, we wanted the desire to participate in the process to take over by itself, so to speak. No one should get the idea that it's just "the next pig in the poke" again. At some point we had finished formulating our invitation, which was of course based on voluntariness. The tone was relaxed, typical F7. And the text was on the whole serious, but simple. Here is a small excerpt:

You want to join in? If you want to join us in moving F7 forward, we invite you to an OpenSpace meeting on March 22nd at 9:30 am. Participation is absolutely voluntary. The meeting does not have an agenda, but it does have a topic frame: "What can we improve in the next three months?"

To our great delight, all colleagues said yes. Again, such an "AHA" effect! If you provide an environment that is based on voluntariness, but guided by seriousness and consistency, then everyone wants to participate because they really feel taken seriously.

On 03/22/2019, the time had come: our first OpenSpace started. On this day, we were all full of enthusiasm for work. First, the basics of OpenSpace were discussed. The basis was theOpenSpace beta transformation approach, which builds on the BetaCodex. In it, the set of principles for joint, cooperative work in an organization is applied in the form of self-control and on the basis of decentralization. I see the 12 laws of the BetaCodex as essential. They can be understood as the ideal learning aid for deepening the principles of organizational self-organization and agility. 

TIP: https://www.redforty2.com/deutsch/openspace-beta/

The topic identification for the first OpenSpace at F7 took place partly in advance. However, during the meeting, additional abundant topics were added. In the end, there was so much to keep the colleagues busy that it always took four sessions with a fixed timebox at the same time to somehow get through the first day. 

A hard and an enlightening day. I can still remember that in one session the topic of "salary negotiations" was discussed. Self-organization was picking up steam. It did something to me: at first I got a fright. This is actually a CEO issue, isn't it?! Nonverbally, I was clearly told by the participants "Trust us, we'll handle it". Again such an AHA effect. Self-organization is also self-control in all areas. 

Since I cannot describe the whole day here, it should only be briefly noted that another day with a consolidation and results orientation followed, as well as two more "Deep Dive" appointments to deepen the BetaCodex principles, but also other topics, such as agile working and requirement engineering.
Following the concept of OpenSpace Beta transformation, the second OpenSpace meeting then took place on June 25, 2019.


At the beginning of the 90 Days Transformation, we learned two techniques that were, or rather still are, essential for change in our organization: Tandem Conversations and Flipps. I mention hereafter these two tools only as examples important for us. There are many other tools that are very helpful for transformation. However, in my opinion, Tandem Conversations and Flipps lead to tangible change very quickly, which keeps the overall RPM tremendously high.


If a colleague has identified a topic for him or herself that can be of value to the organization, then he or she looks for a tandem partner to work on the topic. The tandem meeting takes place in an open round, interested colleagues can participate. However, it is a prerequisite that the other participants can contribute something to the tandem and, in the best case, also bring expertise, i.e. are familiar with the topic at hand. 


If change requests or ideas arise from tandems or other formats that develop over time (e.g. knowledge camps), these are "tried out" as flips in the organization. If the change proves successful, the innovation may then be adopted by others in the organization. Flipping means trying things out and then either discarding or adopting them, depending on the results.


I had mentioned that Peter had advised us to form teams. Now the time had come, but not because we had specified the formation of teams, but for a completely different reason: Our colleague Simon had a new customer on the table as a product owner and now wanted to implement the experiences from the OpenSpace. He formulated the wish to form his own team with which he could work permanently. After a few rounds of discussion, it was then clear that we all wanted teams - and we wanted them now.

Each team had its own room in which all team members could work together. The teams found themselves surprisingly quickly. It was not just a matter of sympathy, but also of sensible compositions so that the customers could expect optimal performance from the teams.

The next AHA effect for me came right away. This was a facet of self-organization! By not controlling, the result was better than if the management had exerted influence. And whoops, where are our "departments"? They "abolished" themselves. We had structurally collapsed the pyramid, formed cells and took a seat in a peach. Now all we had to do was let the BetaCodex genie out of the bottle.


TIP right off the bat: If you listen to music I recommend switching to AC/DC Live At River Plate now and Loud!

A lot has changed at F7 since the transformation began. We no longer work in silos (departments), but in cells (teams). Leadership levels, status stuff, planning, budgeting, goal setting, staff meetings and all the other meaningless time robbers have been abolished. Formally, there is still a core working time, but this only forms the framework so that the market knows when we are "also" still available. All colleagues have been working at home since the beginning of the Corona pandemic. Recently (as of August 2021), some vaccinated and recovered people are slowly finding their way back to the office.

Our teams have given themselves names to create identity (and because it's just mega fun): Apollo, Sputnik, and Voyager.  


The teams work in a self-organized way, which means that each team uses its own tools and its own techniques. The focus is on what is best for us and our customer in each case. The teams work with "their agile method". They are constantly changing or developing it. And our project managers now call themselves product owners. 

Best practices are inherited among the teams as needed. Everyone exchanges ideas with each other, is networked and helps each other. For example, Lean Coffees and Knowledge Camps are held. Anything that goes beyond that finds its space in "hallway talk" (Slack, kitchen, elsewhere) or in tandems. Teams set their team times and meetings where they do not want to be disturbed. This time belongs to concentrated work, because value creation and avoidance of waste is always in the foreground. Successes and failures are actively exchanged between the teams and thus lead to learnings or innovations. There is no management influence on this organization. 

The teams are in direct dialog with their customers. This leads to minimization of information loss and fast results - it welds customer and team together.

There is full transparency on sales, costs and cost implications. To this end, we have greatly expanded our in-house software. Teams are constantly reviewing their profitability. If information for assessments is missing, the teams request this information from Team Gravity (see below). Wage increases or personnel decisions are discussed and decided in the teams. The team members continue their education and exchange what they have learned with each other. An F7 lounge is held regularly one afternoon (online in the pandemic). The framework of this lounge is completely informal. We talk about everything over a beer, the music plays, sometimes guests or family members show up.


Claas and I, only formally "the management", and the other administration have also found a new place in the company. We sit in the middle, so to speak, surrounded by our cells/teams. We call ourselves Gravity and we've never had it so good!

Stilisierte Darstellung eines agilen Modells mit Raketen

We see ourselves as a service provider for our teams. Our tasks include, for example, providing assistance at the formal level. We support with legal and contractual issues, take care of the accounting and the tax stuff. We place job ads and transfer the wages, because this is also a service to the teams. 

Gravity is on the way to narrowing down the hierarchical structure to what it is good for. Compliance is dictated by the economic system and cannot be abolished. Management, data protection and similar requirements are easy to comply with externally. Gravity therefore provides the absolutely necessary hierarchy to guard compliance. If necessary, Gravity must then use its veto "unfortunately, it doesn't work that way" to prevent conflicts between self-organization and compliance. However, I do not believe that this veto will be used. 

So we are a beta company that is on a good journey.


F7 has changed. From the initial question of where the tensions between colleagues come from, a transformation has emerged that is more than worthwhile. In a nutshell, it can be said: There is now already full trust, a lot of responsibility, a great deal of dynamism and flexibility. We have become faster in everything and sales have increased. Only those who can do their work in a good environment and under the best conditions will hopefully experience satisfaction. And only in this way can value be created, which is so much more than making money. 

There were many "AHA" effects that matured me in particular. Here are a few examples:

  • Every start-up basically has the best self-organization to survive in complex markets. This strange compulsion to build a pyramid after a certain number of employees almost became F7's undoing. Taylorism had its time, now it's beta.
  • Today, Rosa von Praunheim comes to mind on the subject of the "country house": "It is not the homosexual who is perverted, but the situation in which he lives". This can be well reinterpreted: "Not the man is the problem, but the system in which he has to work". We made every effort in the country house to understand and change the person. This was highly manipulative and encroaching. The only thing that helped us was working on the system. And one more thing: language triggers our thinking and behavior. If you can find yourself in my emotional world before the country house visit, then you'd best think about your language right away, too, because the one I used at the time further reinforced my misbehavior. There is a language of light that can turn a lot to the positive already at the beginning. Panic and bad moods only make things worse (see literature tips).
  • Even the first action in the direction of self-organization, namely team building without the influence of the "management level", was enlightening. Leaders help colleagues feel safe, they encourage thinking. F7 creates leaders!
  • People are Y! If you provide an environment that is based on voluntariness but guided by seriousness and consistency, then much else falls into place. Colleagues in such an environment never care about the well-being of the company - quite the opposite!
  • Self-organization is self-control in all areas. For owners and management, this means: transformation all the way or not at all. Sure, a fair amount of trust is required, but most important is your determination. If you do not exemplify beta, it will never be able to unfold in the company. The sad truth is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to start a beta transformation from within a department. The internal resistance is simply too great unless the invitation comes from the owners/managers.

A good transformation does not generate losers. This remains my guiding principle throughout our journey. F7 has done great, but there is still a lot to do. Of course, there are many things we are not doing right yet, but we are willing to learn and keep our eyes open, and it is our transformation! Next up, hopefully soon, is another OpenSpace meeting. Corona has slowed us down a bit, because such a meeting is only really fun if you sit together and create with everyone who is interested. In my opinion, a lot of potential is lost in videoconferences, because the rule cramp (netiquette, etc.) and connection problems simply inhibit concentrated and fair work.

Oh: Maybe one more thing at the end of this article: Our colleagues now offer Claas and me completely new possibilities. Loss of control is suddenly a positive term in such an organization, the greatest thing in the world. Everything is running smoothly and we have time again for the really nice tasks of a management. At the moment we are planning a small tour of Germany in September. Finally meeting our customers again, even if Corona is not quite over yet. Of course we also hope to make one or two new contacts. 

The planned route is Berlin - Dresden - Munich - Augsburg - Ulm - Düsseldorf and back. Maybe we even cross your way and you would like to meet us Beta guys? Then just contact me! Otherwise I am of course happy about a feedback via e-mail.




Red42 GmbH - Silke Hermann and Niels Pflaeging

here especially the following reading from the shop:

Booklet No. 1: The 12 Laws of the Beta Codex
The 12 laws of the beta code - concise, handy and clearly explained! 

Brochure No. 3: Cell Structure Design
The basics and principles of time and complexity appropriate organizational design

Complexity modes
Clever ways to (re)energize organizations and work in complexity.

Organization for complexity
How work comes alive again - and high performance emerges.

The Power of Language Poster
3rd edition - German version 2020. Now in a new design with more than 320 terms. 

In every company there is a better
Time-oriented business management with the Weichselbaum system.

Alinbu Consulting - Peter Pröll

Sichtart e.U. - Podcast by Elisabeth Sechser


David Marquet, Turn The Ship Around! v

Organization for complexity: Niels Pfläging at Innovation Day 2017

Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

The BetaCodex Online Meetup - Be sure to join!

The Slack BetaCodex Group

Your feedback

Write us your opinion about our blog post. If you have any questions, we will be happy to advise you and look forward to hearing from you!

Your email address will not be published.

* These fields are required

Write comment

More Articles