For the past month or so I’ve been working very little with the Geonetric team. We moved to our brand new building last month, and I was pretty focused on that. But I’ve also been working with startup teams on our second floor in the Iowa Startup Accelerator, and will be until November. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know about our 18-month old experiment in which our teams operate without managers. Perhaps this takes the experiment to its logical conclusion: can the teams run without a CEO for three months?Of course the answer is yes.
Today I joined the entire company in our new café for our monthly company meeting. But unbeknownst to me, they had changed it up dramatically. And the modifications they made to the meeting are indicative of the important cultural changes that have been taking place.
Here’s how it worked, and why I was so impressed:
- Every team presented in front of the entire company. Our old meetings were largely Linda, Ben or I presenting a summary of Geonetric’s progress over the prior month. The teams used to present an update on major projects in motion, but it was mostly disconnected from the metrics and financial data. This time, each of Geonetric’s eight teams presented an update on their current status, key metrics, financial outcomes for the month of July and YTD, and areas they’re working to improve. That takes guts–to stand up in front of 60+ people, and spill it all. They did it, proudly and confidently.
- There is now a shared language about performance that everyone understands. When we talk about revenue recognition, virtually everyone knows what it is and how it works. When we talk about client satisfaction metrics, everyone knows what it is. When we talk about revenue growth, net income, release cycles, marketing campaign ROI, or practically any topic–the entire company knows what it is and can have a conversation about it, how to change it, and how to improve it. This is a remarkable effect of the overwhelming transparency we are undertaking, so that everyone can make an impact on any part of the business.
- Teams owned the need to improve. The teams described areas where there were challenges and what they intended to do about them, on their own, in front of the whole group. The need to improve was everywhere and always will be–no matter how much we grow, how big our bottom line is, or how happy our clients are. They don’t wait for managers to tell them where to improve, they own it.
- Teams owned the financial data. In previous company meetings, Chris, our VP of Finance, would report on the cumulative financial status of the prior month and YTD. He has been working with the teams all year to educate them and get them closer and closer to taking control of their financial results directly. Now, the teams presented their own financial data–good or bad or middling–to the rest of the company. They recognize that cross-disciplinary teams can set their own path, deliver value to the marketplace directly (rather than pass it over departmental walls), and be accountable for their own financial performance.
- Teams took constructive criticism from their peers. After each team presented, anyone could ask a question, or have feedback and say it. And many of their peers did, in fact, ask direct, pointed questions about the implications of what was shown or how the impact of decisions could affect someone else. And they did this in front of the entire company, and no one broke a sweat or took a critique personally.
To say I’m proud of this team would be a huge understatement. They have come so far, and have learned so much in the past 18 months! And I’ll admit that perhaps this little step away I’ve taken for a little while has made it possible for me to recognize it more clearly.
Nice job, team Geonetric!