How Reforge Helped Toggl’s Product and Engineering Teams Establish Shared Language
Use cases: Establish shared language, work better cross-functionally
- Toggl's product and engineering teams established shared language.
- Reforge became a remote team-building tool.
- Reforge helped Toggl keep up with their growth by providing a shortcut to experience and team maturity.
It only took Paul Scharf two weeks to come to the realization that he’d finally found the development content he’d been looking for.
As CTO at Toggl, Paul leads a team of engineers hard at work building some of the world’s most loved productivity tools, such as Toggl Track and Toggl Plan. He’s a highly technical CTO — having joined the company seven years ago as a developer. But he faces many of the same challenges as any leader: communicating strategy, partnering with cross-functional leadership partners, and of course, managing and developing the people on his team.
Toggl’s education and development reimbursement perk goes a long way to help — allowing employees to seek out professional development opportunities with the confidence that they could reimburse them. The budget can be used by people as they see fit; it’s not decided centrally and there’s very little by way of approval.
But according to Paul, the perk was not utilized consistently. Paul’s hypothesis was that people didn’t know what was worth investing their budget in.
That all changed after the Head of Product at Toggl introduced Paul to Reforge:
Spoiler alert: They did. And the result for Toggl was a high-powered team that matured quickly, communicated more effectively, and possessed a shared language for strategy that helped Toggl continue to grow.
“Reforge provided thinking tools — patterns, frameworks and language — to simplify and discuss complex topics, and that if the team was all familiar with this content, they would likely do everything at least 5% better.”
— Paul Scharf
How Toggl Grew with Reforge
After completing the Technical Strategy program, Paul started to recommend Reforge’s content to the engineering managers at Toggl. He emphasized that Reforge provided thinking tools — patterns, frameworks and language — to simplify and discuss complex topics, and that if the team was all familiar with this content, they would likely do everything at least 5% better.
The engineering managers started to enroll. They took courses like Engineering Management, which helps new and seasoned engineering managers become more effective, as well as the Technical Strategy course that Paul took to grow his skills at shaping strategy, guiding the product roadmap, and educating peers.
The Reforge content resonated, and the recommendations spread.
From there, individual contributors started to enroll across engineering, marketing, and product. Paul said that “at some point, we just reached a critical mass” and decided to work with Reforge for Teams to access tiered pricing for the larger org and establish a relationship with a Reforge Account Manager.
How Toggl adapted as a team:
of Toggl Employees Are Currently Using Reforge
of Toggl members have taken a live program
of Toggl members have invested in at least one day of content
The 3 Main Benefits of Reforge, According to Toggl
If you ask Paul, the “critical mass” of Toggl teammates using Reforge was an important part of his team's success.
As more and more people signed on, Paul began to notice the team thriving in a few different ways:1
Our Teams Developed a Shared Language
Paul indicated that Reforge helped the engineering and product orgs work more effectively together. “We really saw how shared language isn’t just good for team/culture building, it accelerates shared understanding in service of doing the work.”
Elsewhere in the company, Ilia Markov, Director of Marketing, said, “The biggest thing for me is sharing the same set of concepts and vocabulary to talk about marketing and growth. I can easily refer to “growth loops” and expect everyone on my team to know what I mean.”
Here’s an example Paul had of the improved communication:
Reforge Became a Productive and Unique Method for Team Building
Paul and his team ran their own version of a cohort, where he and several of his engineering managers and senior engineers took Reforge's Technical Strategy program at the same time. They met weekly to discuss the content and how it could be applied at Toggl. He said, “next to being a great team-building exercise it made the content immediately applicable.” Some of the ideas they talked through:
- how to improve team effectiveness by promising less and focusing on delivering high value
- how to make a bigger impact on company growth and goals through better product fluency and using their technical expertise to find new ways of improving acquisition and retention loops
- how to frame technical work in a way that shows their actual impact on customers so that Toggl can better prioritize between new features and scaling or improving existing solutions and deliver the maximum possible value to their users.
Paul said, “Each discussion produced several significant insights and ideas which were carried forward and affect how Toggl works today.”
Reforge Helped Us Mature as Individuals and as a Team During a Period of Hyper Growth
Paul had one major problem at Toggl: their success. They could not keep up with their growth, and needed a shortcut to both maturity as an organization, and additional experience for their relatively young team of developers.
Reforge helped multiple teams of the business level up:
- Paul said, “In Engineering, the number of developers doubles every ~5 years or so, which means that many developers in the workforce have less than 5 years of experience. Reforge adds 2 years of experience in a couple of months.”
- Jan Kucera, CPO of Toggl, said “I see that the PMs in my team are really stepping up their game by applying some parts of key learnings from Reforge into their daily work.”
Toggl has seen Reforge impact the way they work together as a team. They continue to grow as a company, and recently established their first dedicated Growth team.
While Reforge was not responsible for the creation of this team, Bendan Shand, Growth PM at Toggl, says:
“The Growth Series course helped provide a solid foundation for establishing the Growth team guiding principles for what we work on. It completely changed how I think about growth and product management. We're still putting processes in place, but I appreciate that as we grow, Reforge is there to provide support.”
Considering the Investment for Your Team? Here’s Toggl’s Advice
Toggl has a few specific recommendations for other teams considering investing in Reforge.
“Reforge is only one part of the equation. We needed to coordinate the courses and most importantly, coordinate the implementation of key learnings ourselves.”
— Jan Kucera, Toggl CPO
Toggl has made an intentional investment in workforce development through Reforge, and has seen major operational benefits from it. But, as Paul reiterated, “it’s paramount that employees investing the time in it feel supported that they have the time and space to do it right.”
“It’s paramount that employees investing the time in it feel supported that they have the time and space to do it right.”
— Paul Scharf
As a final thought, Paul added: “If you can’t decide if it’s worth it, have someone smart, ambitious, curious, open-minded, who really wants to have an impact and see the company succeed take one of the courses — they will tell you very quickly if the content will be useful for more people on your team, and help convince them to join.”
If your team is looking for a shortcut to industry knowledge and organizational maturity, learn more about Reforge for Teams here.