My Company Cut Down on Emails by 30 Percent With This Simple Hack
As we grew, communication via email, video calls, Slack and IM became overwhelming, and I knew we needed a new model for information sharing.
As any leader of a growing company can attest, it gets exponentially more difficult to share knowledge as you add new people, open new offices and introduce new team structures. I've experienced this as the founder and CEO of a company that grew from a two-person team in Tel Aviv to a 200-person operation with offices on three continents.
When I left Israel in 2016 to open our first U.S. office, I made every attempt to connect our teams virtually. But, as we continued to grow, the communication via email, video calls, Slack and IM became overwhelming. I knew we needed a new model for information sharing that wouldn't simply increase the volume of chatter. So I devised a system that would encourage us to curate our updates, connect with our colleagues and regularly reflect on our work: the O5.
Here's how it works: Everyone at the company curates five significant points from the past week -- achievements, disappointments, worries, goals -- and publishes it via Trello, an online project management tool. Each person posts his or her weekly updates to an individual card within a team "board." It looks something like this:
After a year of O5 updates, we've shifted the focus of our team meetings from status updates to strategic discussions and cut down emails by about 30 percent. The habit of reflection and team sharing has boosted morale while increasing transparency. Here's my advice for successfully rolling out a system like this.
Get buy-in from the top.
Company-wide practices are generally successful when they have an executive sponsor and change trickles down from the top. I started with a minimum viable product -- a shared Trello board and rough guidelines -- and introduced it to our senior management team. Once we'd all contributed consistently for a few weeks, I asked the head of a small department to try it out with his team. From there, we gradually introduced O5 to the entire company.
Now that we have a critical mass, I still make a point to regularly read and acknowledge the team's O5 updates and talk about the value of the practice in all-hands meetings. I encourage managers to regularly reference and comment on their direct reports' updates, offering encouragement and feedback.
Go beyond status updates -- encourage real reflection.
The benefits of reflection are well-documented; one study, for instance, found that employees who regularly reflect on their experiences tend to outperform their peers by an average of 23 percent. Writing every week helps you identify trends and areas for self-improvement, hold yourself accountable to goals, observe the evolution of your role and share your unique perspective with your colleagues.
Guide your team to share more than facts and accomplishments. What's going wrong and why? What's disappointing or anxiety-inducing? Lead by example; being vulnerable encourages people to reach out about similar issues they're experiencing and to feel comfortable sharing their authentic experiences.
Add your own flair.
We established the rule that anything goes as long as you're honest with yourself and your peers. This flexibility has allowed O5 to become a tool for employees to share their personalities and get to know each other. For example, Noy, our Android developer lead, posts a haiku every week that describes how he's feeling. Dima, a senior QA engineer, is a great photographer who regularly posts photos from his travels throughout Israel. Everyone is encouraged to bring their style to their O5.
After a year of O5, I've found the system makes me a better manager and CEO. I think about it as a form of therapy in addition to information-sharing: I can reflect on my progress as a leader and share those experiences with my team. Just as importantly, I feel better prepared for one-on-one conversations because I know what individuals are working on and where they're facing challenges.
Today we have 12 O5 boards, some with upwards of 50 members and others with as few as five. There are a million productivity and time-management tips out there, but they all boil down to the same problem: We don't stop to think. O5 has become a tool for doing just that.