Almost every high-performing team we've talked to over the last few years has some habit of sending out team and project updates to the broader company, usually by email but sometimes as a doc or through an internal tool.
These updates are invaluable for sharing context and keeping people in sync. Still, we've also heard they can be time-consuming to write, and the inconsistency can make it hard to process the information. As a result, the substance gets lost in translation.
When writing these updates, there's no need to share every action item under the sun or use a rose-tinted filter to glaze over difficult topics. These updates should inspire ideas, not avoid conflict. Instead, address the impact the update will have on objectives, call out new obstacles or opportunities, and provide ways for anyone to give feedback or ask questions.
These memos provide a kind of historical record, and have the added benefit of being accessible at any time, which is useful for any team, but especially for distributed teams with flexible work schedules. Each member of the team can view and process when it makes the most sense for them. But how you frame the update is vital to how meaningful it is to the company.
Coach your team to success with the GROW model
At Range, we've been using a variation of the GROW model. GROW is an acronym for Goals, Reality, Obstacles and Opportunities, and Wins. Influenced by the work of tennis coach Timothy Gallwey, the model has been in use by coaches for decades. It helps make the act of writing the update a learning experience and breaks through the tension of talking about challenges in an actionable way.
It just so happens to be a super simple model. For each project or objective, the owner gives a brief answer to the following prompts:
Alignment requires knowing where you are going, and what success looks like when you cross the finish line. It may feel repetitive to restate it, but you'd be surprised how quickly people forget.
Sharing your goal helps people understand what you are working on and why you are making inevitable trade offs.
For example, if your goal is to help customers become more efficient with using your tool, thereby improving retention, then sharing this in your update may help provide context for why the team placed a project aimed at new acquisition on hold.
Updates often default to describing the activity, which is generally less useful for an all-hands where people lack context. Instead, share where you are relative to your goal. A description of the current state captures progress and velocity.
So, for example, replace talking about the work done last Wednesday to make a feature faster with context about the current latency numbers.
Obstacles & Opportunities
It's important to normalize the sharing of risks and challenges. This section of the update provides the opportunity for other members on the team to learn where they can help or where more slack is needed. It's also an opportunity to bring up new ideas that might help close the gap between the reality and the goal.
Is there a project that is taking longer than expected because of a process issue or a missing toolset? Maybe you've noticed some low hanging fruit with a piece of content or code that you can repurpose. The obstacles and opportunities part of your update is a chance to share those with the team.
It's all too common to only celebrate big launches or milestones. This section helps us remember to celebrate both small and large recent wins across the team regularly.
So not just the release of that codename project that will transform the user journey, but also wins like someone introducing the sales team to a new lead and the office getting down to zero waste.
The GROW model is about coaching and bringing your team and company along for the ride. It can take a little while to build the habit of using the model, but we’ve found it’s worth it. Framing your updates in this way will make them more useful, and make your organization more resilient in the face of change.
If you decide to try this out on your team, do let me know. I'd love to hear how it goes.