Two Weeks Too Slow
We need to be extremely fast and flexible.
Since going through YC in 2019, we’ve grown from $200K sales in 2018 to $4.75M in 2020 (despite COVID), but only grown from 2 to 7 people. That’s 23x growth with only 3.5x team growth. In 2021, we’ll be growing even faster.
The Plan is the secret to our efficiency.
What is The Plan?
In short, The Plan is our most current, best understanding of what everyone should be working on for the next 3 days. It distills every potential piece of work into one concise list of priorities.
The Plan usually revolves around our 2-4 monthly goals. Everyone has already made plans for how they will achieve the goals they’re working on. So, each Plan is about refining & executing on those goals (or dealing with urgent work that has appeared mid-month).
This works because it is tailored to our cultural values. Specifically, everyone must:
- Feel empowered to make any contribution they think appropriate to achieve our goals (Freedom)
- Use 100% of their time and energy in the most impactful way they can (Impact)
- Take ownership of the plan to achieve our goals (Ownership)
Since we have a team of people who embody these values, we can have a light, fast Plan that maximizes our flexibility without sacrificing our momentum.
The main feature of the Plan is a single meeting at the beginning of each Plan. We keep it very efficient to maximize the time we spend actually delivering. Typically it takes less than 90 minutes (much less than traditional “sprint planning”) and has 3 parts: pre-meeting updates, discussion, decision making.
Before the Plan, everyone posts their updates in our shared Slack channel. These updates include: 1) what happened in the last Plan, 2) new information from customers or things we’ve learned, 3) their top 3-4 priorities for the next Plan.
These updates are posted at least 30 minutes in advance and others on the team will start creating threads to ask questions, give their feedback or pull other people into the discussion. This allows us to resolve all the “status check” discussion and simple questions before the meeting even begins.
We save any complicated debates for the next phase.
In the discussion phase, we go through everyone’s updates live on a call and resolve any more complicated issues. Most of the predictable discussion and updating has already happened, so this lets us surface unexpected issues or opportunities without getting slowed down.
At this point, we have a shared understanding of each other’s work and are ready to solidify our priorities for this Plan. We use a shared Trello board to write down our top 3 priorities for the Plan. It is critical that these priorities are written clearly and explicitly (not “make progress on X”, but “deploy specific feature X for customer Y in cases 1, 2 and 3”).
We don’t force people to scope their priority to something that can be done in 3 days. The Plan is about correct priorities, not a specific release schedule.
Once we’ve finished, we give the Plan a name and get to work.
Does this work?
The Plan system has worked for us to achieve outsized impact with an extremely small team.
We currently make $1.3M in annual sales per employee and that is growing quickly. That’s ~2x more than Twitter (~$700K) and 5-10x more than other companies in our industry.
This system works because of our key values (Freedom, Impact, Ownership) and the high quality team we’ve built around them.
This is just the beginning.
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Maximum Sustained Impact
The Plan is only a routine and does not create success by itself. It works because we have a team where everyone is aligned on making their Maximum Sustained Impact. This allows them to handle the high ownership/fast paced Plan without burning out or dragging the team.
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