Applying this process with these three basic tools will quickly improve your team's effectiveness and highlight areas the need to be addressed within your organization.
Team Size: Works well between 4 to 20 team members.
Scaling Up is a fantastic business tool for creating the constructs of a highly functional business. In my coaching/implementor circles we typically look for businesses north of $5M (ideally $30M+) in annual revenue with a strong desire to 10x growth in the next 3 to 4 years. However, a smart business owner can implement these tools at an early stage, with or without the assistance of a coach. I've take what I consider the essential elements and tools out of the 30+ available to distill out what I call The Scaling Up Quickstart Framework. Consisting of just 3 essential custom tools that can leverage the largest gains. It should be noted I've taken great liberty in modifying Scaling Up, in some cases adding in elements of what I've learned at Techstars and from running my own businesses.
For those in the tech space, you likely recognize the term "framework". For coders, this term conjures up images of tools like Bootstrap, Ruby on Rails or Angular. Scaling Up is no different, but rather than code we are applying it to business systems and conversations. For those unfamiliar, think of a framework as a set of pre-constructed parts that are commonplace in your day to day work. Rather than recreating the wheel, these frameworks create a shared language of team communication and expectations around how work gets done.
Four primary categories represent Scaling Up, these are Cash, People, Execution and Strategy. In early stage companies, typically the most important category is Cash. A strong cash position will allow for mistakes in the other three areas. By contrast, if you are weak in the Cash category, your margin of error is reduced for experimenting in the other three areas. That said, it might seem we should jump right into Cash but first we need to lay some groundwork and bring up Cash later.
At the most basic level, we're going to pull from the teaching of John D. Rockefeller and the concepts of Priorities, Data and Meeting Rhythm. Think of these as the three pillars that the entire Scaling Up system is built on. On top of these pillars sits the Scaling Up process and tools, an implementor/coach like myself, often comes into a company to help them setup and adopt these tools over time. In this scenario, you are going to implement a greatly distilled version of Scaling Up, which I call the Scaling Up Quickstart Framework.
The Scaling Up Quickstart Framework consists of three tools, the Vision Summary (Priority), Quarterly Sprint (Data) and Weekly Huddle (Rhythm). We're going to start at the core of the company's vision and work out to the weekly meeting rhythms. Adapt this process as you see fit, let's go.
This is where I'll add a huge disclaimer, all of these tools are designed to work together. For instance the Vision Summary document is part of a larger template called the One-Page Strategic Plan, which is in-turn created by assembling several other templates. For the sake of the Scaling Up Quickstart Framework, we're distilling. I need to drive that point home.
While the tool might look easy, there is plenty of work needed to clarify each of these boxes with the correct data. Let's break down each of these area in the manner required to implement. Fill these out as you go.
- Purpose: Why does this company exist? Simon Sinek is well known for speaking about your "Why," but for some companies in the earlier stages there is a lack of an inspirational "Why" and I believe that's ok. If you can't find your "Why" then I propose looking at your "What." What is the difference your company is making in the World. Heck, scale back your ambitions to even your local geography. The goal here is to draw a line in the sand, to tell the World where your company stands and how your company is uniquely different. In the longterm, we want to think of things that are truly unique, defensible characteristics that stand up to competition over a prolonged period of time. For the purposes of this exercise, I just want you to find any difference that serves to distinguish your company from the thousands of others out there.
- Core Values: In my experience, the fewer values the better. They become easier to remember, therefore easier to embody and ultimately easier to execute. These value must be authentic. We're not looking for values to hang on a motivational poster in the office lobby. Each value must resonate with the team, deeply resonate. If it doesn't, then keep searching. Later you'll make your hiring and firing decisions on these values. I firmly believe most companies do this because they think they should, and they lack the conviction and experience to see how powerful these simple terms are in dramatically aligning teams to the company mission.
- Brand Promise: This is your company's version of "The Golden Rule." The promises you make to your customers. A brand promise must be one that you can keep, not only with the customer but within your team as well. Your Brand Promise must resonate with both groups, if it doesn't then it will fall flat and ultimately fail down the road. In the case of the Brand Promise it's the difference between doing things right, and doing the right things.
- Three-Year Goals: I've intentionaly left out the Scaling Up Five Year Goals as well as the BHAG. They have their place as your business grows but in this implementation of the Scaling Up Quickstart Framework. In my experience, five years out is forever for an early stage company. Therefore, these Three Year Goals need to stretch your comfort zone similar to a BHAG. A good practice would be to write down goals that feel attainable in three years. Then start increasing the goal to the point you start to feel discomfort. Go one notch further, and set your numbers. Those are your goals.
- One-Year Goals: Work backwards from the Three Year Goals. Ask yourself or your team what's required this year to put your company on the path to hit those Three Year Goals? Resist the urge to go past three primary goals. At this point it's not about World domination but rather building fundamental practices in your team that will create the momentum necessary to scale up. Once you have this system under your belt and some experience to look back on, then do the heavier lifting.
- Company Quarterly Goals: Every quarter you'll want to reprint this bottom half of the worksheet. Write down no more than three company goals for this quarter. A good quarterly goal will involve multiple members of the leadership team. It will align with your One Year and Three Year Goals. It will require coordination, clear communication and will be one of the most significant items you and your team work on this quarter.
- KPIs': The key performance indicators (or KPIs) are the numeric representation of your company's purpose. If you've done your research right they will align with your values, goals and provide insight into how well your team is executing on a regular basis. Focus on "leading indicators," these are indicators that foretell benefits to come, as opposed to "lagging indicators," which highlight something which has happened, and the ability to change it is past us. For instance, "Revenue Collected" is vastly different from "Expected Revenue," one you can adjust, the other is in the past. Write down up to six KPIs, the team member responsible, then note the associated goal tied to that KPI. The Waypoint is the value you need to obtain or exceed by the end of the quarter. Each month you'll enter your actual value and compare it to the Waypoint. You are either Red, Yellow or Green with your metric and how it compares to the Waypoint target.
Once you've completed the Vision Summary, set it aside for reference for our next tool which starts to add granularity to the data, the Individual 13-Week Race, or what I've called, the Quarterly Sprint.
Print multiple copies of this tool and pass it out to your Leadership team to complete for themselves. Here we're looking at the needs of the company and how they break down to the individual parts. In other words, what your individual team require to achieve success. A few questions you may want to ask:
- Based on our 3 primary goals for Q1, how will we know when we've succeeded?
- How will I (or my team) know if I am successful this quarter?
- Who is accountable and how are we tracking the progress?
Let's begin by transcribing the Vision Summary data over to the top of the Quarterly Sprint tool. Ideally, each team members transcribes these values to the top of their own sheet.
The Quarterly Sprint serves as a tracking document that is aimed at collecting goal relevant data at the individual level. As a leadership team, break down the company quarterly goals into sub-tasks, projects, and measurement values that can be owned by individual team members. Note "My Contributions" aren't necessarily KPIs. The purpose here is to define up to 6 items per team member for which that members has agency over. Each week the team members will report their contribution as either red, yellow or green. Red is off-track and in need of help. Yellow is concerning and might be an issue. Green is great and in no need of discussion. These colors begin to mean something when it comes to the weekly team huddle.
The last tool of The Scaling Up Quickstart Framework is all about creating a regular rhythm to your company meeting, focused on what matters most. Start by transcribing the company goals (by hand), to the top of the Weekly Huddle sheet. Set up a regular date and time each week to quickly move through the Huddle. Most teams can accomplish a Huddle in less than 60 minutes. Each week a new member of the team takes over the Facilitation duties of taking notes from the meeting and moving the agenda along.
The Facilitator begins by asking a team member for a shout out. This should be a positive praise of another team member, bonus points for mentioning the company goals or core values in the process. Next, that member will read off the status of their Contributions (C #'s) for the week as either Red, Yellow or Green. There is no discussion here, simply read out the status and the Facilitator will capture the red and yellow items in the table along with who raised the item. At the end of their read out, the team member has a chance to raise a Flag on an item or highlight where they are stuck. Be sure to keep Flags and stuck items relevant to the company's bigger goals. It's up to the Facilitator to toss aside any item which don't feel relevant to the group. Once done, move to the next team member.
Once all team members have read off their statuses, the Facilitator will rank the priority of the Reds, Yellows & Flags as they see fit in the service of the wider company objectives. Start working down the list. If your team is unable to address all the items listed in the Reds, Yellows & Flags then make sure you leave enough time in the meeting to assign an owner to the item. Once an Owner is assigned, it's that owner's job to resolve that item by the next meeting. More on this later.
The Commits are the one item that each team members resolves to accomplish by next week's meeting. When introducing this concept it's easy for team members to set a low bar on their Commit so they feel safe. It's the job of that week's Facilitator to call out members that make mediocre Commits. The goal here is to push the team to strive for higher achievement and these Commits should be high priority items.
To gamify the meeting, start the meeting off with 0 possible points. For items that are Green, or Flags dropped into Red, Yellow & Flag, give your team 1 point per item. For all Red and Yellow items in the Contributions, deduct 1 point for Red and 1/2 point for Yellows. Tally the score and write it in the "Points Earned" at the top of the page. The goal is to stay on the positive side and maximize your points.
Next Week's Meeting
When the next week's meeting rolls around, refer to the completed meeting sheet from the previous week. Read down the list of Reds, Yellows & Flags and make sure these are now Resolved. If they are not Resolved, write them down again this week, at the top of the list. Keep repeating this practice till item is off the list. The team will eventually get the point that items won't go unresolved.