Deliberate creation of social capital for remote companies

July 03, 2020

Down arrow black
to make it up I can let you dunk over me

Jim.

Operations Director


Well. That’s a fancy title. Another valid title could be “How might we make daily company wide stand-ups less horrible”.

There is great value in company wide knowledge sharing. It may feel slow and painful, but if you can build trust and safety: information can flow and incredible teamwork can be achieved by running a daily all company standup.

I’m also convinced that a lot of people think “hey this transition to remote working isn’t too bad” but really they might now be slowly eroding the social capital they previously built up working together in person.

So let’s get deliberate: Let’s re-inforce that social capital. The way we are currently running our weekly standup roster today at Reason is:

Mondays

The host of the standup is rotated on a roster. Everyone gets a chance to host over time. The host welcomes and introduces everyone’s turn, and sets the two prompts for each employee to give an update against. The first prompt is always:

  • “What are my goals for the week, what would I like to achieve?”.

The second prompt is something more personal, chosen by the host of the day. Something like:

  • “What would you recommend a visitor to your hometown as a must-do?”

  • “If you could pick a new skill in an instant, what would it be?”

  • “Who’s someone you really admire and why?”

  • “What was your favourite band 10 years ago?”

Most updates are actually a minute or less, so a 25-30 person standup is still done in 15–20 minutes easily.

Tuesdays

We take a break from a company stand-up on Tuesdays. Doing a standup to talk about goals every single day doesn’t really work. It devolves into rattling off lists of tasks if it’s daily— and that’s not interesting or relevant. Sticking to a week-view makes people think harder about their goals. What can you really achieve strategically in a day anyway?

Wednesdays

We mix things up on Wednesdays. Rather than work in a large group, we use zoom “break out rooms” to randomly send people together in pairs to a 2-person break-out room, for 8 minutes. There are two prompts:

  • “How am I doing personally this week, how do I feel today?”

  • “How am I going with the goals I set myself on Monday?”

This random connection allows for a genuine, deep conversation as it’s only between 2 people. We’re replacing 2 people meeting randomly at the coffee machine in the office, or 2 people happening to catch the same elevator together. It brings a deliberate serependity to every week.

It tends to be lovely. We wouldn’t otherwise make the space for this working remotely, and real conversations happen and connections are strengthened as it’s 1 to 1.

Thursdays

It’s another break-day. Enjoy your time back.

Friday

We use Fridays for running a “How might we..” session. We’ll once again use break-out rooms but this time in groups of 4–5 people with a prompt such as:

  • “How might we have a great day at work?”

  • “How do we become a team that asks and offers help to each other?”

  • “How might we get better as a team?”

  • “How might we improve diversity & inclusion?”

Once the break-out rooms are done, we regroup, and one person from each group summarises to the whole company.

Then we end up with a typical Kanban prompt to the whole company:

  • “Is anyone blocked?”

  • “Is anyone overloaded and too busy and needs help?”

  • “Is anyone idle?”

  • “Would anyone like to say anything to to the whole company?”

We’re now experimenting collapsing our weekly all-hands into our Friday Stand-up too. SO we have a company wide prompt for anyone to speak up:

  • “Wins of the week — anything success personally or for the business?”

  • “Challenges of the week — anything struggled with anything this week?”

  • “Thank yous of the week — which colleagues deserve a mention? Give them thanks.”

This is kind of complex — how did we get here?

This format has slowly evolved by soliciting as much feedback as we can over a few years of running a company wide daily standup. So thank you to the commitment of all Reason employees! It’ll evolve again.

How did this start? With a standup daily stand-up every day. But there were lots of challenges and feedback on that form: “Why is this relevant to me?” — “Do I even want to talk about my issues in front of 30 other people?” — “This is all very impersonal.” and so forth.

Making this better was an evolution, all in the spirit of continual experimentation and seeking better.

One commitment we ask is, if you don’t like standup, please feedback, and help make it better. Don’t just not come — that’s crap. Let’s make it better!

Thanks for a few peeps that have helped the thinking to create parts of this: