Insights / featured, change, innovation, ways of working

From Great Workshops to Greater Impact

Here are 6 ways to build momentum on your most ambitious projects.

Every time I participate in a big-picture workshop, I come away incredibly inspired. I reenter my day-to-day work full of fresh ideas, hacks and resolutions…

…only to watch them get crushed by a mountain of everyday to-do’s and fire drills. 

Years ago, I believed this was an unfortunate inevitability. But today, I treat big-picture ambition as a core driver of my work, not a digression from it. 

This is only possible because my August pals and I have developed intentional practices to keep our most audacious goals front and center.

Here are our 6 critical ways of working, which help ensure that our best new ideas become a reality instead of getting lost in the backlog.

1. Place your bet.

We designate special projects with strategic importance for our business as “Bets”. This label reminds us to stay in learning mode and pay attention, because there’s a high upside, but also some risk.

Success isn’t a given, and we should expect to rely on our creativity and ingenuity to pull it off. By designating a project as a “Bet,” we agree to give it extra focus and resources, and to prioritize it even over other work.

2. Elect an owner.

Rather than letting job titles or functions dictate who leads a particular bet, we have a special process for collectively choosing the best-suited person for the job.

We can nominate any team member, and share our reasons. We then openly discuss each candidate’s interest, approach, possible competing priorities, and how this bet fits with individual and business goals. We then cast votes, and our facilitator proposes the owner.

3. Plan sparingly.

Plans are like cars - they begin losing value the moment you drive them off the lot. We try to plan just enough to get the bet on the road. Beyond that, milestones and schedules are almost impossible to predict. We launch the bet, and then adjust, modify, and learn as we go.

4. Meet to act.

Our weekly action meeting is the heartbeat of our working cadence at August. Unlike a typical status meeting, where team members discuss what’s already been done, an action meeting focuses on next steps.

Complete a task? Check it off. No discussion needed. If you’re stuck, let’s identify a new action to get you unstuck. For new work that has surfaced in the past week, let’s quickly zero in on the immediate next step, and designate the person who will get it done.

5. Work in public.

Share your work as you go. At August we use a shared Google Drive. By default, teammates see new documents from the moment they’re created, not when they’re “ready” for review. Elected owners work on bets in this shared space, and invite collaborators to add their contributions early and often.

6. Demo your work.

At the end of each week, we gather to share our work in progress. Our biggest bets get a regular slot on the agenda, and their owners share the previous week’s work. This way, we can respond in real time rather than waiting for a “grand reveal.”

Weekly demos hold us accountable for making incremental progress, and bring new stumbles and challenges to light before they can get out of hand.

Often these meetings become collective problem-solving sessions, ensuring that our biggest ideas never stand still for long.

Think big. Do bigger.

I love stepping away from the day-to-day grind in order to think expansively about what’s possible. In fact, my August pals and I do this together every four months. We come away from these summits renewed, energized, and brimming with new ideas. 

But rather than letting those ideas get sidelined by “real life” upon our return, we merge them into our daily and weekly workflows using the above methods. I can’t tell you what a game-changer it’s been. 

Try out these methods on your next big idea, and let us know how it goes! I’m betting that your next big bet will be an even bigger win.

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Whats included:

  • How to plan a weekly “Action meeting”
  • Getting the most out of your team retrospectives
  • Staying on-time with demo meetings