building a big idea = lots of very small updates

At Gist, we have a team of just north of 20 very productive people, investors and advisors. We run an Agile development shop and try to apply Agile to everything we do. A fundamental value/activity of Agile is the lowly “status report”. Status reports are critical to keep everyone going in generally the same direction, remain efficient and to get early understanding when things are going sideways. We have developed a bit of a process that includes;

  • status reports every other day (M, W, F) – sent to the team via email before 10am
  • the reports follow the form (persona status (Red, Yellow, Green – so we all know if you need help or are going to screw anyone else up), kudos (nice to recognize good work from someone), what I did, what I am doing, where I need help)
  • we do a “stand-up” every other day – :20 whole team meeting to check in and discuss key issues that affect key milestones, not to solve the issue, just to let the team know it exists.

I believe so much in this process and have been lucky to be advising a Seattle TechStars company trying to make this process even better, Here’s a Scoble video where Brandon explains a bit more about what they are doing. We were early beta users of ThinkFuse and hope to fully replace our ad-hoc approach to status reports with ThinkFuse soon.In addition to running Gist, I advise alot of startups and entrepreneurs. My advice always includes getting into the habit of bi-weekly status reports which include the same format (did, doing, need help) with generally a bit more detail on the key areas of the business (users, product, partners…). Writing these makes you acknowledge all the good stuff you accomplished and set the stage/priority of what you need to do next as well as train your investors/advisors to help you in specific ways. Over time, these status reports become a “board package” but keeping all your supporters (team, investors, advisors…) on the same page with very regular, standardized status reports can really accelerate your ideas and success.

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