Aligning Remote Startups

Remote work has become more common recently While being fully remote has its advantages, it does make certain things - like staying aligned across the whole company - harder. As a founder of a remote startup, you have to overcommunicate to ensure that everyone keeps working towards the same goal.

Aligning Remote Startups
Photo by Chris Montgomery / Unsplash

Many startups rely on Zoom meetings to stay connected, but we believe this approach contradicts the benefits of a fully remote organization. Zoom meetings force everyone to work during certain hours, regardless of their time zone, and limit flexibility. Asynchronous communication through tools like Notion or Slack can bridge the gaps and keep everyone up-to-date with each other's work. As a founder, there are several important asynchronous communication practices you can establish to align your team.

The Weekly Update

A weekly update from leadership to the entire team can be helpful for several reasons.

  1. It ensures that everyone is informed about the progress achieved during the week. The focus here is not on individual tasks, but rather on giving a high-level update to prevent any surprises. To keep people on track, leaders should also outline progress at a metric level (e.g., "we gained 15 more subscribers and have achieved 42% of our quarterly goal").
  2. The weekly update helps clarify priorities for the week ahead. Startups are known for rapid changes, which can sometimes lead to confusion among team members about where to focus their efforts. The weekly update should clearly lay out the top items on the backlog and tie them back to metrics where possible (e.g., "we want to improve our landing page by changing the content to achieve a 10% improvement in our conversion rate").
  3. The update should mention anything else going on in the organisation, such as new job positions or someone's birthday.

We also recommend that the written newsletter be accompanied by a short video message from leadership to allow for some "face-to-face" connection, which can be challenging to achieve in a remote startup.

However, it's not just leadership that should give a weekly update - every team member should also provide a brief update to leadership on their progress during the week. This update should be concise and to the point, taking no more than 5 minutes. A simple template for this update can include:

  • Biggest Achievements
  • Biggest Challenges
  • How can the Organization support my work?

This will help leadership stay informed about the challenges team members are facing and how they are spending their time. Having this knowledge is necessary to ensure that everyone is on the same page and to proactively make any necessary course corrections.

The Daily Standup

The daily standup meeting has become a common practice at many tech companies. It's a chance for team members to quickly share updates on what they've done, what they plan to do next, and any roadblocks they're encountering. However, this format can feel one-sided, with team members mostly reporting to each other. Discussions about issues often end up happening between just a few team members.

While it's important for everyone to stay informed about each other's work, holding this kind of meeting can be time-consuming. Instead, team members can share updates asynchronously by writing them down. This approach allows people to read each other's updates on their own time and frees up more time for focused work. If needed, discussions about issues can be held asynchronously or in a reduced daily standup where only issues are discussed.

To make this approach work, it's important to set clear expectations that everyone will read each other's daily updates. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and can work collaboratively even when not meeting in person.

OKRs & Metric Tracking

It is important for startups to have a set of OKRs and metrics to ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals. OKRs, which stand for Objectives and Key Results, are a management methodology that sets ambitious goals and drives change within the organization. In contrast, metrics, also known as KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), are measurements of the organization's high-level performance that are regularly taken (and often fall into the category of "business as usual").

Here's an example of how OKRs and metrics can be used:

  1. Define a KPI that tracks the number of subscribed customers.
  2. Set an ambitious goal to increase the metric from 100 to 500 within the next quarter.
  3. Based on this goal, the team (and individuals) should come up with an objective that reflects something that they can directly influence. For example: "Increase conversion of free users to paying users."
  4. Based on the defined objective, the team can identify measurable key results that will be tracked regularly. For example: "Increase the number of customers making use of the premium-trial version by 50%."
  5. During the upcoming quarter, the team can prioritize tasks that link back to these key results. For example: "Create an ad for the trial that is served every time the user finishes one chapter."

For more information on OKRs and metrics, check out the "Further Reading" list at the bottom of this article.

Notion Template

Covers Weekly Update, Daily Standups, OKRs and Metrics – designed to help you keep everyone informed and on the same page

Get it here

Ways of Working - Team Agreement

A "Ways of Working" agreement outlines how a team collaborates to efficiently complete tasks. The rules should be concise and understood by all team members. In a remote organization, this document could include guidelines such as:

  • Start and end meetings on time.
  • Post daily standup messages promptly.
  • Respond to Slack messages within 24 hours during working days.
  • Indicate your "working" and "not-working" times in your calendar.

This agreement clarifies expectations and facilitates onboarding for new team members.

Meetings & AI

If you must have a meeting, it's essential to make sure that everyone in the organization is up-to-date with what was discussed, what decisions were made, and what follow-up actions need to be taken. Recording these details can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Fortunately, you can use AI tools to simplify the process. For instance, Notion AI can automatically generate meeting summaries from the notes you take during the meeting. This feature saves time and ensures that the summary is accurate and comprehensive. Additionally, you can use Otter AI to transcribe the meeting. Once you have the transcript, you can use Notion AI to create a summary based on the transcript. This approach makes it easy to share the summary with everyone in the organization, even those who couldn't attend the meeting. By using these tools, you can streamline the meeting process and ensure that everyone is informed and aligned.

Further Reading

  1. How Gumroad Operates without Meetings:
  2. Overview over OKRs:
  3. The Differences between OKRs and KPIs:
  4. Pros and Cons of Async Daily Standups:
  5. Working Agreements:

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