Two Fridays ago, we got the team together to kick off our upcoming company planning sessions. With everyone seated around the Sandbox (our nickname for our team meeting room), we openly discussed topic ideas, session formats, organizing action items, and scheduling, among other details.
Last week, each person had a chance to submit their recommendations on topics they’d like to talk about or see covered. Recommendations typically cover everything from the way we work (process, roles, accountabilities), to the things we work on (new industries, clients, special projects), to the things we use everyday (equipment, supplies, studio space). These recommendations get consolidated, refined and turned into a series of presentations, workshops, and roundtable discussions that are led by our team over a course of 2-3 days where the studio closes up shop. It’s like our own internal Jet Cooper conference. And we do it every 6 months.
We started running company planning sessions in this manner in the second half of Jet Cooper’s first year (prior to that it was just Satish and I, so I suppose you can say that we’ve been doing it since day 1). Over the years, the format and approach has evolved and grown to support a larger team and deeper discussions, but it’s always stemmed from the same philosophy. And while in the early days most, if not all, sessions were led by Satish and I, today 80% of sessions are crafted and led by our peers.
This is undoubtedly the best way to grow a business. By getting the entire team involved you’re not only getting ideas from those that are most affected by how things work, you’re also getting natural buy-ins from everyone by virtue of how the decisions are made together. Try changing the way your entire production process works and pushing that down to your team and you’ll immediately understand how challenging (and incredibly broken) that approach is. And yes, we have made significant changes like that in previous planning sessions. Four times, actually.
In fact, some of the biggest ideas that have shaped the way we work have come directly from these collaborative planning sessions. Notable mentions include:
- Our focus model (December 2010)
- Creative recess and Show & Tell (December 2010)
- Our project pod model (June 2011)
- The evolution of our product design process (December 2011)
- The dedicated Product Management competency (December 2011)
- The un-staggering of designers and developers inside projects (August 2012)
This week will kick off with a team-wide review of all the sessions to come, summarized by each session’s facilitators. We’ve got another great lineup of topics queued up and needless to say, we’re really looking forward to putting our world under a microscope and dissecting every detail again in the coming weeks.