Adaptation to change give us the upper hand

Adaptation to change give us the upper hand

As the song goes: Everything changes.

Adaptation to change give us the upper hand

As the song goes: Everything changes.

One of the most important competitive advantages we have as Product Management & User Experience (PUX) at Despegar didn’t come from a management book or a think tank. The most important advantage in the field of the dot com companies, was discovered by a biologist who died more than 100 years ago, when he said: “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” At Despegar we validate Darwin’s theory every single day.

“Change is the only constant” (Heraclitus)

Change is a constant without which evolution and survival of living creatures won’t be possible. It can happen as consequence of our actions or as a result of circumstances beyond our control, but it’s repercussions will affect us one way or the other.

Adapting to changing scenarios

This was the starting point for which I decided to write about how the product and technology teams at Despegar adapt to changing scenarios constantly, and how this dynamism keep up innovating and evolving neverending.

I can say that without using strict Agile Methodologies, the teams here at Despegar use an Agile Mindset that surprise me every single day, and makes things happen.

The freedom to execute our processes with the practices that each team considers best for it’s development, makes us encounter with different ceremonies of Agile that look to potentiate each cell. We can find:

  • Digital or physical Backlogs (on mobile boards or spaces where to stick post-its),
  • Remote and asynchronous daily Meetings (via google chat);
  • Weekly meetings, that be presential, by call or hangouts;
  • Some use Kanban, others Scrum. The diversity of practices is incredibly wide.

This is why, in front of the changing times and markets and renew technologies, emerge new ways to organize ourselves. Also, clients and users are more demanding in their search for experiences, and our teams know it and feel this revolution on the air. They know that for the company to keep moving forward in a dynamic context like this one, we have to reinvent ourselves all the time.

Agile is delivering value. With time, we realise that being agile is not an end. It is a mindset, and when we think that we are agile, we end up missing something, and there’s always a lot to learn. We are a work in progress. — Rox, AgileGeek.

Our challenge here at PUX revolves around how to generate products and services in a more fast and efficient way, thinking in what the client needs, and knowing that their preferences change constantly and are different depending on the region they love, the type of traveler they are, their segment or the channel they approach from.

This is why we oriented our efforts in knowing our travelers. A key element for being competitive is that knowledge is a source of value, and that is why we work alongside other areas. Our teams mutate in their structure, in the amount of members they have, as well as in their way of organizing each business unit. They try, incorporate, and use different techniques that allow them to generate new value proposals.

LIke the books say, in environments like the ones we perform in, with high complexity and innovation, we tend to use agile methods that we adjust to our way of working. Agile methodologies give us that adaptative help, a rolling-wave approach (we deepen our definitions as we advance in a project’s analysis and iteration) inside a frame of planification for our main initiatives from our Backlog.


Work as a clock

Work as a team implies to know and have clarity on every role. This dynamic allow us to make focus on the effort of each member, and on the other hand, the trust on each other is what let us escalate our solutions.

This is why in each initiative multiple teams with different skills come together to add their knowledge, from different aspects of the business and user’s preferences and behaviours, design considerations that cover the user’s needs, to the different alternatives and technical implementations that offer an experience of excellence.

A product team is a group of people who bring together different specialized skills and responsibilities and feel real ownership for a product or at least a substantial piece of a larger product. — Marty Cagan —

We want to execute in the best possible way, and in this aspect, coordinating appropriately is key when we put forward initiatives. That’s why here we also find similitudes with ‘The Agile Manifesto’ from Scrum and the five critical values for high performance teams (Scrum), seeing this more and more spread with time in the DNA of each PUX member.

Reinterpreting Scrum values, I see how this manifest itself in Despegar’s teams:

Each member of the team is committed with the success of the project, and they bring forward their maximum effort, and keep transparent about their progress. This compromise implies the dedication and passion they put in each action.

They manage to focus on their Backlog initiatives, that form part of the Plan. If the Plan is well defined, then the team will work to deliver their maximum potential value at each moment. That’s focus.

The team keeps an open and proactive attitude to improve their capabilities and professional competences.

This is why we search for transparency in the work we do, with the progress that comes with it and the knowledge acquired (documentation). Without transparency is impossible to carry on the inspection and adaptation needed.

The team respects knowledge, skills and professional experience, not only from the rest of the team members, but also from those people they associate with, whether they are from the same organization or another one.

This also extend to the respect of the users, listening them, showing interest in their issues and bringing them their needed solutions.

The team has the courage to do what’s right. That’s why we have to consider change as something necessary to adapt to the world, despite it forces us to undue traveled paths.

The team needs to have the courage to resolve the obstacles that could appear on their path, anticipating risks, bringing to like the issues and thinking on solutions.

In summary

Since I came to Despegar, three years ago, I have seen how PUX teams adapt to every change we encounter, our capacity to reinvent ourselves adding value to relationships and conversations, developing incremental and iterative solutions as we move forward based on our user’s feedback, adopting a focus on team that allow the participation of each member in the solution, giving us the cultural possibility to confront ever changing challenges.

I would say that each team member at Despegar forms part of a larger community inside a very fluctuating world, in a global village where nothing remains static, making it strictly necessary to adapt to the unpredictable each day, because we wouldn’t survive any other way.

In this very competitive, fast and ever changing world, like the current, innovation has become the main ingredient to keep on the path, throughout the constant changes that technology proposes.

While it is true that the fast spread of technology means a positive connotation for growth and development, it is also a double-edged sword, if you are not prepared to deal with the unpredictable changes from the same globalization that our universe deals with and is overwhelmed with every single day, you could end up like a giant mammoth.

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