Like every company, Pilot isn’t flawless. We could always see the signs foretelling certain problems, but we could rarely isolate their causes in order to fix them.
When a lot of small things doesn’t work as expected, tension and the lack of trust starts to show. And that negativity in the atmosphere starts to have an impact on productivity.
Pilot has been there, but we found a few steps that help us recognize and ultimately fix those organizational issues. Let me share them with you.
1. Organize a workshop with clearly defined outcomes
There were several objectives of the workshop:
- To realize what our strengths and weaknesses are.
- To specify the issues and problematic areas within our company.
- Find potential solutions to them.
But our primary goal was to improve the communication between all employees at Pilot, including the management.
When organizing an event like this, make sure you found a date that works for everybody. Our get-togethers are a great opportunity for this. As a remote company, we meet in person 3 times a year.
But before you meet, decide who’s going to conduct the workshop. Ideally, this should be the CEO or someone at a C-level position. It shows the company is serious about solving the problems and help employees open up.
2. Explain why the workshop is taking place
You should transparently explain and invite all employees to participate by bringing up the benefits for them and for the company.
The last time we did it, we sent an email outlining the goals and structure of the workshop as well as the importance of the openness and honesty on both sides, employees’ and managers’.
3. Ask all participants to come prepared
A few days before the workshop, we asked each employee at Pilot to fill in and submit the table below—all while being fair with each other and the company.
As a manager, you should be prepared for negative feedback at this point. But if you really want to change something, let people be honest without consequences.
4. Meet with the team
At the beginning of the workshop, specify a few rules. Ours included:
- Each opinion is equally important.
- Everyone speaks honestly—and in his or her own name.
- We focus on company goals, specific events, processes, and needs.
- Nobody is judged.
Divide the participants into 3 groups, one for each part of the table:
- I need it and I’m getting it,
- I need it, but I’m not getting it,
- I don’t need it, but I’m getting it anyway.
Ask them to discuss and make a list of the things that were mentioned the most often. Once all groups have done that, you collectively created the same table that represents the entire company.
Move all items into a Trello board or Asana and let everyone vote on the issues that they feel are the most important. In result, you’ll have a prioritized list of the things employees value the most and the problems that need solving right away.
5. Nominate DRIs and set a deadline
Take 4–6 items from the top of the list and turn them into projects. Assign a directly responsible individual for each project that would research the root of the problem and introduce a solution.
This doesn’t mean those people should work on their own. Everyone is invited to help and DRIs are only there to coordinate the master plan.
6. Check the progress
We meet on a weekly hangout where we share our plans for the upcoming week. The agenda for these meetings has a designated slot for the DRIs to report the advancement of their projects.
It’s important for all workshop participants to be able to track the progress of the issues that they care about the most. On top of that, showing that the problems are actively worked on is the way to keep your employees motivated.
At Pilot, we organize these sessions once a year. At the time of writing, we just closed the second workshop. Among many issues, here are a few we got rid of:
- Our tasks were so imprecise they blocked entire projects.
- We received overly critical feedback for things of little importance.
- Weekly planning meetings didn’t have text summaries for the absent.
Every company has their own issues. I’m sure there are no problems that can’t be solved, but doing that takes real courage.
Thanks to our workshops, we’ve managed to build a happier and a more productive company. I hope this guide will help you do the same! 💪
Credit goes to the business advisor and my friend, Agata Tannenberg–Ratajczak, who initially pointed me towards this idea.