Agile transformation for the Dash, a decentralized cryptocurrency - Case Study

Subject matter and context
Dash is an open-source decentralized cryptocurrency that focuses on the payment industry. Dash offers a portable, inexpensive, and fast form of currency. It can be spent securely both in person and online with minimal charges. Dash is a cryptocurrency based on Bitcoin that aims to become the most user-friendly and scalable global payment system possible. On top of Bitcoin's feature set, Dash offers instant transactions with InstantSend and private transactions with PrivateSend. Dash operates on a self-governing and self-funding model, which lets the Dash network reward individuals and businesses for work that adds value to the network. This decentralized governance and budgeting system makes Dash one of the first successful decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO).
For more information on Dash, please refer to our Whitepaper and Wikipedia article.

Motivation for change
Since 2015, Dash Core Inc. has become one of the leading companies in the cryptocurrency market. From the beginning of the project to late 2016, Dash Core Inc. was a team of only a few people, mostly volunteers. In late 2017, the IT department had growth four times with permanent staff, and the business team is doubled (marketing, communication, business devs, HR, etc.).

As the company has been rapidly evolving, it faced typical growth issues:
  • The organizational structure, business processes, and roles were not fully formalized.
  • Communication was ineffective, both internal and external.
  • Resources were distributed inefficiently, with team members involved in too many parallel projects, or relocated between projects with no schedule.
  • Key stakeholders were overwhelmed with multiple roles.
  • There was no way to track the progress of individual tasks in a transparent enough fashion.
  • Team members didn't have clear goals or priorities.
  • There were dependencies on key stakeholders in a number of areas.
  • Documentation was incomplete.
  • There were problems with scaling the organization.
Most organizations are no strangers to these internal challenges, leading to systemic dysfunctions that endangered the company's ambitious goals. Examples of these dysfunctions in the Dash Core Inc.:

  • Business was not aligned with development; individual teams were not aligned with each other. With no common vision, every team did whichever tasks they wanted to, instead of doing what the business' goals called for.
  • Without consistent task planning or tracking, priorities shifted aimlessly. There was no way to predict what and when it would be delivered to users.
  • The top management could not track which team was responsible for which tasks. This lack of transparency happened because there were no communication channels between the top management and the teams: no reporting, or any other methods to let them know the current task status or schedule.
  • There was no structure in place that ensured consistent delivery. The roles weren't formalized and had no clear description; team members interpreted them differently.
  • Team leads had to be a Product Owner, developer, head, and project manager. Eventually, the key stakeholders were overloaded and couldn't be an expert in all of those areas.
  • The Crypto Enthusiasts community — one of the biggest investment sources for Dash Core Inc., and its immediate consumer — were unsatisfied due to a lack of transparent scheduling and delivery of the promised new features.
The solution
AgileLAB suggested a communication framework powered by Kanban cadences, a three-level decision-making system, and a new role model.

Three decision-making levels
The new modus operandi is a three-level model of organization. Unlike a hierarchy-based organizational structure, this new model can be applied to most companies in equal measure. This works because the levels are demarcated by decisions that every company has to make anyway. The levels include Portfolio Management for investments and strategic goal-setting, Program for what steps to take to achieve these goals, and Team for how to hit these steps.
To design this system layout, the universal three-level model was combined with Dash Core Inc.'s existing structure. The Board members manage the business by setting strategic goals. They delegate how their Vision should be implemented on the ground to another collegial executive body — the Value Team. Apart from business representatives, the Value Team includes IT experts, product management experts, the architect, and experts from other scopes who would be too expensive to have in every team otherwise. The Value Team centralizes their functions into a single body. It also includes Product Owners from every team. In Dash Core Inc., the Value Team must regularly deliver consistent outcomes and make sure that the teams' backlogs are aligned, so that they develop the product to meet the set strategic goals. In other words, the Value Team bridged the communication and management gap between the top management and the teams.

Communication framework
The Dash Core Inc. communication framework is based on Kanban cadences, with the three-level decision-making model in mind. With the framework visualized like this, the company could check whether those relevant experts attend regular meetings, and finalize how regular they are. It could also clarify the meeting agendas and decisions without needing to escalate or seek additional formal approval.
Dash Core Inc. spent 4 months in the active transformation phase. The activities fell within 4 categories: align business processes, train, hold workshops on launching teams, and provide coaching / mentoring support. Also, the distributed geographical structure (before it became mainstream) presented an extra challenge. Dash Core Inc. overcame it by holding all training sessions twice to cover different time zones, while the workshops on team kick-offs involved careful timing in accounting for all the participants' time zones.
Dash Core Inc. proudly presents the outcomes and the reviews provided by the transformation stakeholders:
  • Clear organizational structure of deliveries.
  • Improved collaboration between various organizational layers of deliveries.
  • Aligned vision and strategy, both top-down and bottom-up.
  • Transparent progress and commitments of teams.
  • Deliveries became more predictable.
  • Despite the essentially distributed structure (across 8 time zones), Dash Core Inc. managed to build communication and collaboration processes with aligned goals, vision, and strategy on all organizational levels.
  • Assistance with delivering results and validating the initial hypotheses as part of the first public release.
AgileLAB helped us bring the collaboration between our decentralized cross-functional teams to a new level. AgileLAB's consultants highlighted areas for growth and improvement both for our individual experts and teams. I'm sure they helped each and everyone in Dash Core Inc. acknowledge the real value of teamwork.”.

Robert Wiecko, COO
Dash Core Group Inc
“This was amazing, guys did an exceptional job, and our business succeeded compared to Bitсoin”.

Robert Wiecko, COO
Dash Core Group Inc
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