(This is a business case study. It will be used to guide discussions during the session: “Collaboration Tools” at the Vendo Partner Conference in Barcelona on Wednesday, September 14th.)
When it came to his business Buddy had a fear of the unknown. Throw difficult problems at him all day long – throw wrenches in his plans – and he’ll happily dive in head first and make a solution. But he can’t fix a problem he can’t see. Having all of the resources in the world doesn’t help him if he doesn’t know where to put them. This is exactly the situation that he found himself in last year during his quarterly planning sessions.
At the beginning of each quarter he would get together with each department and plan out, in detail, what they wanted to get done in the coming quarter. The results were always the same. At the end of the quarter they had completed a ton of work, but not hit their goals. To make matters worse it was hard to tell exactly where they were getting off track because the goals weren’t entirely clear and neither were their metrics. Their process was screaming to be redesigned and they needed a new tool to help them stay organized.
In redesigning the process he wanted to shorten the cycle between idea, live product, and ongoing iterations. It turns out that for Buddy and his team a quarter is just way too long a period of time to wait for something to be delivered. He found again and again that they would pivot on their priorities a month and a half into the quarter and projects would be delayed or stalled because of it.
He also wanted his department heads to take more ownership of their goals. It’s vital for his company that each team deeply understands what they are working on and how it affects the company. That way they can make the best choices for how to proceed with their work without needing support from the executive team. Intra-team collaboration was another area he wanted to improve, as hitting their goals often requires the teams to work well together on complex issues. Lastly he wanted a clearer view of their progress as the projects moved along.
Their solution took a few iterations before they felt the effect, but now a year later he says that they’re in a much better place. First, they switched from quarterly to monthly planning. This alone would have made a big difference for them. By tightening up the planning cycles they were able to spot problems and correct course by moving resources or changing plans quickly.
Next they brought the department heads more deeply into the planning process and they also required them to choose only the three most important things from their list to focus on for the month. He wanted them to choose the three things that they thought would best advance the company toward its goals. That narrowing of focus helped to prevent them from letting mundane projects/tasks eat their valuable resource time.
Finally they switched to tracking their projects and collaborating in Basecamp 3, which had just launched. Basecamp 3 was a major improvement over previous versions but included some of their favorite features from other collaboration tools, especially Slack. They customized Basecamp to support their new process and the result was a better view of their progress and less stress from fear of the unknown.