Crisp DNA

The inner workings of a rather different consulting company

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How do bottom-up initiatives get funded? How do you get money to do something without a budget process?

Answer: If you want something that needs funding, form a Crisplet. That is, find others that want the same thing and are willing to pay for it with their own money. Crisp can foot the bill initially.

What is a Crisplet?

A Crisplet is a loosely coupled interest group of Crispers who want to co-fund an initiative. Perfect for situations where we don’t really need everyone at Crisp involved.

We used to have a more traditional budget process and debate about things like how much Crisp should spend on what. Lots of spreadsheets, discussions, compromises, and not very effective. After a while we got fed up with the whole idea of a centralized budgeting process and abandoned it in favor of something more like beyond budgeting. We decided to just keep the fees as low as possible, give the office team and board full freedom to manage the bank account continuously without any up-front budgeting process. And as for additional projects and expenses: let people group up and spend their money on whatever they want, no need for consensus from all of Crisp. Saves a lot of time!

In some cases it does make sense for Crisp as a whole to fund an initiative, for example a redesign of our website. For smaller initiatives the office team or board can just go ahead and do it. For larger initiatives we may go for a consensus decision at our next unconference.

But when in doubt (or if in a hurry), go for opt-in and just form a Crisplet. Because it’s just so much easier. We may of course decide later this cost should be Crisp-global, and in that case simply close the Crisplet.

Sample crisplets

  • Agile Crisplet Not really an active Crisplet any more, since agile has been embedded in the whole company pretty much. But this was our first crisplet, formed in 2007, when we introduced the crisplet concept. Our goal was to become awesome helping companies (both Crisp and our clients) become agile.
  • Climate Crisplet A group of people passionate about reducing global warming. This was our first open crisplet (membership open to anyone, even non-Crispers). See
  • Supporting Doctors Without Borders. In late 2014 the world was suffering a major Ebola crisis, and some of us wanted to support Doctors Without Borders in their heroic battle against the pandemic. Instead of trying to drive consensus for a decision on this, one person formed a Crisplet (one email was all it took: “Let’s support Doctors Without Borders, who’s in?”). 9 people joined and pooled together a donation of EUR 9,000. Crisp paid the donation, and then invoiced each participant individually. Pooling the donation into a single large payment made it easier to deal with admin overhead and tax issues.
  • Missing People Crisplet: Similar to the above, this Crisplet provides continuous support to Missing People. People can join and leave as they like.
  • Hack summit: Most of us love hack summit, but again we don’t want to force it upon everyone, so by creating a Crisplet we make sure the costs only affect those who are involved.

Benefits of forming a Crisplet

The main benefit to forming a Crisplet is that we reduce the need for centralized decision making, and maximize people’s economic freedom.

But why Crisplets at all? Can’t people just “huddle up and do it”? True, but the Crisplet model offer some advantages:

  • Transparency - all Crisplets are listed (at least the long-lived ones)
  • Engagement - it is easier to get involved if you know what’s going on
  • Established form of collaboration - the initiator and participants of a Crisplet know what it means.
  • Economies of scale - each Crisplet has a Crisplet Account that is administered by the office team.
  • Liquidity - a Crisplet can spend money that it doesn’t have (yet). For example, with our donation to Doctors Without Borders, Crisp paid the donation and then invoiced each participant. This works because Crisp has a cash buffer (although limited), and because we trust that each participant will pay their part when the time comes.
  • Responsibility - Crisplet Accounts only appear when there are actual individuals who are prepared to pay. This reduces the risk that Crisp as a whole spends money on stuff that isn’t important, or that very few people care about.

What is required of a Crisplet

  • A wiki page describing the purpose of the Crisplet, how collaboration is done and who has joined
  • A link from the list of Crisplets to the wiki page describing the Crisplet
  • All Crisplets are open for any Crisper to join.
  • Every new Crisplet is announced via an OBS-email.

Sometimes Crisplets don’t have to pay

Crisplets are expected to run at a loss (they are basically cost centers), so each Crisplet Account can be seen as a short-term loan from Crisp to a group of participants. Each participant should expect to receive an invoice from Crisp at some point, to cover their part of the cost.

However, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes Crisp will waive the debt. For example because:

  • The Crisplet ended up spending money that clearly was to the benefit of Crisp as a whole, so Crisp will foot the bill.
  • The costs were so low that it’s not worth the administrative hassle of invoicing all participants.

The second case is very important, because it basically gives the office team permission to avoid a bunch of micromanagement and administrative overhead. If 6 people get together to form a Crisplet and their costs end up being just SEK 4820 to buy a license for a tool, then we probably won’t bother invoicing everyone. Think of it as our “yeah whatever” budget.

By waiving the debt, Crisp can avoid unnecessary administration of costs that are clearly in the common interest, or clearly too small to bother with.

All in all we are really happy with the Crisplet model, because it make it easy for people to collaborate on stuff without a bunch of upfront budgeting or permission-seeking.