Moving in the same direction is the hardest challenge.

• 3 min read

A few days ago I was reading to my kids a parable about crawfish, swan, and pike that got together in a team attempt of moving a cart. They had the same goal, but because of their nature moved in different directions.

Long story short, it didn’t go well.

These are very basic principles that I’m teaching my kids and should not experience in my grown-up life. But often I feel like I’m living this parable in my own company.

“Swan, Pike & Crawfish" tale illustration

Moving in the same direction has been the hardest challenge after delegation.

And transparency is key.

But it's hard enough for a founder to keep sharing and make sense of what you are sharing. It's even harder to have everyone to keep attention.

To keep everyone on the same track we do 4 things:

  1. All-hands meeting once a week with all the team
  2. 30-minute 1on1 meeting once a week with one's manager
  3. Daily text-form stand-up in slack.
  4. A weekly email with plans for the next week and report on the tasks of the previous sprint

1-3 work well. But the weekly email became a graveyard of information that no one cared about, and it lost its purpose.

Here is the note I emailed to my team to fix the situation.

The email itself is long and has examples relevant only for us. TL;DR:

We send the weekly planning email to everyone on the team. It helps because:

  • You spend time planning and including only important projects that will move the needle
  • Your team to be aware of what you are working on and plan accordingly
  • Transparency so the whole team moves in the same direction.

If the email is uninformative, includes your every move instead of just important things, or unformatted, people will stop reading it and it would lose its purpose.

My suggestions to avoid this:

  1. Instead of including your every move, describe specific tasks, add context: what you are trying to achieve, why is it important, what are the challenges, indicators of the reached goal, etc.
  2. Share insights of the past week: what did you achieve, what didn't work.
  3. Include only important tasks in your planning. It would be much clearer what is your goal for the week.
  4. Break down a big project into smaller tasks achievable for 1 week of work
  5. Format your text, so it’s easy to read. Separate topics with paragraphs, use short sentences, highlight important text, use bullet points, etc.
  6. Don’t afraid to use emojis or gifs.
Good and bad examples of weekly update

That's why it's important to pay attention to things like uninformative emails or miscommunication between departments early on. Otherwise, it would feel like you all have the same goal, but in reality, you would be like crawfish, swan, and pike trying to move the cart.

We’ve been there. It ain’t pretty and it’s hard to come back.

And don’t be afraid to be fun at work

I love the story of Ryan Begelman, founder of BisNow (sold for $50m in 2016).

Early on, he hired an illustrator to make boring internal docs that described processes more entertaining, so people on his team would actually use them.

← Update on progress July - October (lots of wins and a big fat churn)
Killing Ninjas: why and how we did a rebranding →

Subscribe to Aleksandr Volodarsky

Subscribe to the newsletter and unlock access to member-only content.

You've successfully subscribed to Aleksandr Volodarsky
Welcome! You are now a Aleksandr Volodarsky subscriber.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! You are now a paying member and have access to all content.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Billing info update failed.