Lead Like A Gardener Part 1:
Adaptability and ‘Team of Teams’
by Mitchell Cuevas on June 15, 2023
This post is part of a series dedicated to articulating the strategies and working models leveraged by the Stacks Foundation as we continue to serve and steward the Stacks ecosystem. The series will provide the latest plain language breakdowns of our focus areas and the rationale behind how we prioritize and execute.
As our ecosystem matures and grows, so too can our approaches and strategies. With strong builders and entities entering the ecosystem all the time, our own evolution as a contributor is adapting to this maturation. In this post, we’ll cover the working model we use here at the Stacks Foundation that allows us to be adaptable yet focused, as well as provide an example of this in action. The overarching goal here is to provide additional insight and context relevant to the work we do and the progress we share.

At the highest level, our evolution is a progression much like what many employees go through in the course of their careers (especially in startups). That is, going from something like an ‘individual contributor’ wherein our team directly runs programming, to that of coordinator, where we aim to support the ecosystem’s collaborators in starting and leading key efforts.
Adaptability and ‘Team of Teams’
Enter the model we apply internally: ‘Team of Teams’.

‘Team of Teams’ is an operating model that increases adaptability through a strategic combination of select processes, behavior, and technology based on four key tenets.” The model asserts that one can build an effective team of teams by ‘leading like a gardener’, more on this after the table.

The 4 ‘Team of Teams’ Tenets
⚡ Establish:


Examples of how we do it:

Teams must develop a culture rooted in trust, built by high levels of benevolence, competence, and reliability, and maintained through transparent communication.
Common Purpose
Teams across an organization must have a clear "north star,” a collective understanding of where we are going, why we are going there, and how we are going to get there.
  • Maintenance of the roadmap
  • Significant time and resources allocated to the maintenance of the Stacks brand and core messaging, including managing stacks.co and its moderators
Shared Consciousness
Teams require a regular flow of relevant information to maintain situational awareness of the environment, what other teams are trying to accomplish, and how they can support those efforts.
  • Weekly, monthly, and quarterly updates compiled from across the ecosystem
  • Maintenance of the shared public calendar, forum, and other key channels where the community interacts and gets information
Empowered Execution
Teams must push decision authorities down as far as possible, enabling people closest to the challenge to take rapid action within the bounds of acceptable risk.
  • Integration of community leaders in Grant and Critical Bounty processes
  • Guiding and supporting ecosystem-wide priority setting exercises/surveys
  • SIP administration, funding of the SIP Resident
This brings us to the behaviors behind ‘leading like a gardener’:

  1. Breaking up hard soil
  2. Planting seeds in the right places
  3. Ensuring availability of essential nutrients
  4. Removing barriers that cut off light
  5. Setting a regular cadence for water and feeding
  6. Giving the plant space and time to grow.

If you’d like to understand the model and metaphors more deeply, you can read more in this post, which includes a video breakdown. The key takeaway is that this is the general way in which we approach our work. It’s also the model we chose after researching other models within the world of ‘business ecosystems’ and is the model that most closely resembles our own environment.
‘Team of Teams’ in the Wild: The Stacks Accelerator
To illustrate this model at work, let’s take one example: The Stacks Accelerator. The program was started just over 2 years ago and has since grown into the Bitcoin Frontier Fund. In the beginning, the Stacks Foundation was integral to the launch and our team spent significant time helping the accelerator team build up programming and the initial cohort. Since then, however, the accelerator team has been able to bring on new partners, new funding, and new teammates. Those successes have enabled the accelerator team to continually add to the ways they support founders and they now lead the ecosystem strategy when it comes to attracting and retaining builders.

As their organization matured in its quest to serve builders, it’s also had a positive effect on the team at the Stacks Foundation, allowing us to defer to their leadership in these founder-forward areas while continuing to prioritize more nascent efforts (sBTC being a great example). Working in an open and decentralized ecosystem means nurturing and paying close attention to your colleagues and being open to adjusting the way you work as circumstances evolve. The example above again illustrates how we generally view our role: To kickstart critical functions before transitioning to a mode of empowering others to lead. Most often, we do this by supporting them with a consistent stream of resources, guidance, community visibility and amplification, connections, and more.
What The Stacks Foundation Focuses On And Why
When originally envisioned on the ‘path to decentralization’, the main areas of focus were outlined as such: “The Stacks Foundation supports the stability and growth of the Stacks ecosystem with a focus on developer and user education, research and development of the Stacks blockchain, and helping coordinate the protocol upgrade process to ensure stability and momentum as the technology evolves.” Today, you can find programming and resources allocated to each of these areas as well as paths to further scaling those efforts via the community. And, you may note that while focuses or methods may change or emphases might evolve, the core areas we support in the ecosystem have not.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll share the latest editions of our strategy in those key areas:
  • R&D
  • Community
  • Governance
  • Education

These updates do not represent significant changes to our existing strategies. They are simply a consolidated articulation of the what, how, and why of what we do that builds upon and refreshes "What The Stacks Foundation Focuses On And Why”. For those of you that work closely with us, regularly contribute, participate in Working Groups, and/or follow our quarterly OKR releases and recaps, there isn’t likely to be new information, but we’re excited to have these posts as plain language artifacts to share with folks in community Orbits a little further out. We continue to encourage all Stacks-focused teams to talk about what they are currently doing as often as they can so we can constantly get more efficient as an ecosystem. We thank everyone that contributes to our work and to the Stacks and Bitcoin ecosystems.