As a small startup, when it comes to process (the word itself induces unpleasant flashbacks to sitting in tons of unproductive meetings at big companies) we try to follow the “if it’s not broken, then don’t fix it” mindset.
For a long time, since it was just Eric and I working together, we got by with almost no documentation other than a heap of disorganized Dropbox Paper documents, tons of calls at odd hours (often lasting until 2am), and a bunch of texts and/or Slack messages.
This stopped working when two things happened: 1) we began working with our first contractor and 2) we began onboarding a lot more new customers. Things got a lot busier and resources became more scarce (there are only so many hours in the day!), and because we were so disorganized it was hard to keep focused on our actual goals instead of just dealing with whatever fires came up. Soon it became evident that our lack of process was holding us back.
To solve this, we followed the 80/20 rule to figure out how we could implement a minimal amount of process to help us reap a majority of the benefits. After trying a few things that haven’t worked, these are the 4 tools we’ve landed on that help us plan and execute against our goals each week:
- Notion, for weekly priority tracking
- Cadence, for status and progress updates
- Linear, for task tracking
- Only two scheduled 15 minute meetings to begin and end the week
How we use those tools
At Cadence, we run weekly sprints. We kick off each week with a short 15-minute meeting. This meeting is important because it is where we decide and align on what our top 3 weekly priorities are.
We then record those weekly priorities in Notion and assign each priority an owner. For that week, the owner’s top goal is to achieve their priority, meaning they should prioritize and scope their tasks however they want so that they can do so.
This is what our weekly priority table in Notion looks like:
Afterwards, we break each of our priorities into discrete engineering tasks and add them to Linear. (I will probably make a future post detailing how we track tasks and manage cycles in Linear, but that’s out of scope for now.)
Throughout the week, we use Cadence to update each other on the progress of our tasks as we work on them. Not only does Cadence eliminate the need for daily status calls, it also helps us proactively identify blockers. With our Cadence updates, we can help each other debug problems either directly in a threaded discussion on Slack or a quick, synchronous call.
This is what our Cadence updates look like:
We even use Cadence to praise members of our team, which further helps us stay connected throughout the week. 😄
Finally, at the end of the week, we hop back on a call to assess how we did on achieving our priorities for that week. We also catch up with each other and chat about any fun weekend plans we have coming up. 😄
Ultimately, as is true for any company, the product development cycle is a constantly evolving one. In fact, I am sure I will re-read this post in a few months and barely recognize what I am talking about. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I’d also love to hear from you: how do you run product planning for your team? What do your engineering and product sprints look like? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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