At Sendtask, we are a completely virtual company. There are no two people in the same place or office. We only talk to one another once a week – for less than 60 minutes. We are very strict about that limit and often keep the weekly call to 45 minutes or less.
Every Wednesday we all get on a synchronous video call on appear.in to discuss the topics that need to be discussed synchronously with the group as a whole.
Why do we limit the time we talk to each other to as little as possible?
We are building a company that allows everyone to work when they are most productive. And take time off when they’re not. Also, we build a tool that allows people to work together without friction in a mostly asynchronous way. We have that vision embedded in our company culture and naturally get as much done in an asynchronous fashion through Sendtask as possible.
Also, we are going to grow quite a bit in team size over the next few months and in anticipation of that, we want processes that scale well. Finding a 45’ minute spot once a week is considerably easier than finding several or much longer ones – especially as people work from many different time zones.
What happens on the weekly call?
Even more important than what happens on the call is what happens before the call. Until the evening before the call, everyone leaves their update on Slack. The update consists of three parts: What have I accomplished last week? What am I working on the coming week? What would I like to talk about?
Before the call, everyone has read everyone else’s update and there’s no need for us to update each other on what we’ve worked on and what we’re going to work on. The third question is important though and an integral part of what we do on the call.
1. The one-word open
We start the call with the ‘one word open’, a technique we borrowed from EO (Entrepreneur’s Organization). Instead of just asking everyone how they’re doing (their answer would usually be ‘good’ and not tell much), we each state the predominant feeling at that point. It could be ‘calm’, ‘tired’, ‘excited’ or any other feeling. We’ve found this to be very powerful as it allows to immediately connect with each other in very little time. If someone is not doing well, we clarify if it has anything to do with the team and/or if the team can help. Especially in a remote setup, it is important to be aware of everyone’s state of mind.
2. Talking points
We then go through the topics that people listed under ‘What would I like to talk about?’. These are typically things that need group consensus and are not easy to discuss via Slack – because they require demos or an extra level of creativity for example. The topics range from ‘I need feedback on the screen designs’ to ‘What do you guys think I should focus on between a, b and c?’.
3. User feedback
The third part of our call is someone presenting their learnings from onboarding a new user. Every week someone onboards a new user to Sendtask and interviews them about their three most positive and three most negative impressions in the process. It is paramount for us to provide a great user experience where our users immediately and intuitively understand what they can do with Sendtask and how. This is why a) we want everyone in the company to be confronted with that process on a regular basis and b) want everyone in the team to hear about what we do well and what we do poorly.
4. The weekly riddle
The fourth part is fun – it’s our weekly riddle. Similar to the feedback on the onboarding experience, we also have another person each week preparing a riddle for the group. We all love riddles and logical challenges and this part of the call is more of a reward and group fun activity. It’s something we all look forward to and preparing the riddle is as fun as solving it. We try to find tough riddles to really make the team think. This is not easy nowadays as we’ve gotten quite used to a lot of different types of riddles. Next week will be my turn and the solution to my riddle will be the destination of our next retreat – which we’ll fly out to the day after.
5. The one-word close
We end the call with the ‘one-word close’ which is very similar to the ‘one-word open’. We go around and everyone shares how they feel.
When we started Sendtask we did not think that 45-60 minutes per week would be enough time to update each other and discuss the topics that need to be discussed in a synchronous fashion. However, we quickly learned that we can boil down the topics that we discuss during the call to the most important ones and with good preparation, we can discuss all those, have some fun with our weekly riddle and still sometimes be done in no more than 45 minutes.
How often does your team meet and how long do your company-wide meetings typically take? Are there any important agenda items we forgot?