(28 Sept 2023)
I have a set of rules-for-weeknotes that I’ve started sharing with some of the teams and organisations I work with. They’re helpful rules, because they:
The rules work best in an environment where you have quite a few teams working on different things. At least 10 teams - in most organisations, there will be many more than that.
They look like this:
THE WEEKNOTES RULES
1️⃣ Every team must write regular notes (weekly is best; monthly is the minimum)
2️⃣ No individual is required to read every note from every team
3️⃣ All weeknotes must be published in a place where everyone in the org can see them
What happens when you put those rules in place?
This is weeknote superpower number 1.
Every team now has a means of sharing its thoughts, ideas, troubles and successes with every other team. And with stakeholders and bosses. And with newcomers who’ve just joined.
Teams can learn about the things that other teams are doing, without having to book a meeting. (Maybe they’ll want to book a meeting after reading the notes, because they’ll have further questions - but maybe they won’t. Maybe the notes will provide all the answers they need.)
Teams can think aloud, in a way that other colleagues can take in as much, or as little, as they need. Maybe this week your head is too busy with something, and you decide not to read any weeknotes. But maybe next week - or next month - you find you have more time, and you go searching for updates from the teams you care about. Weeknotes don’t mind if you come to them late. They’re still useful.
With teams able to broadcast, you suddenly have a whole new axis for internal communication - genuine communication, directly between teams. Not filtered up and down the hierarchy. Weeknotes help news and knowledge spread further, with minimum effort.
Bosses can learn about the things that teams are worried about, or the things teams have learned, or the things teams are really excited about. (Again, they can follow up with meetings when needed - but they don’t have to. Not all the time, with every team.)
The notes make the work open, for everyone to see. This is a good thing.
Remember the rules: every team must publish. But nobody must read everything. The notes must be easy to see.
It would be really hard to read everything, because in an org with lots of teams, there are going to be lots of notes. It would take a long time to read them all, and everyone’s too busy for that.
But applying these rules is what enables this 2nd superpower: you can choose what to focus on.
As a leader, with the weeknotes rules in place, you can easily focus your attention on the teams that need your help the most. As a colleague, you can see when another team is trying an experiment that you’ve already tried - and offer your advice to them.
And when circumstances change, weeknotes also make it easy to change the focus of your attention. Because team is required to publish regularly, you can change your regular reading habits in an instant, when you need to. You can move your focus from Team A, who have been through a rough patch but are now recovering well, to Team Z, who have just encountered a new serious problem and need your attention more.
You can see these changes happening, via the weeknotes.
I wish I could say that writing weeknotes would destroy silos forever, but that’s not the case.
In my experience, silos are inevitable and unavoidable. They’re a consequence of team-based working. They exist in almost every organisation.
But I can say that weeknotes can help you live with your inevitable silos: because weeknotes are a way of making windows in the sides of them.
There’s now a way for people who are outside a team to peer inside it. The silos are still there, but now they’re see-through.
That’s another superpower. Weeknotes help teams see inside other teams. They help leaders notice more things, both good and bad, happening all around the organisation. They help stakeholders understand things that have previously been partially hidden from view. They help colleagues know and appreciate better where other colleagues are at.
Of course, I’m describing a fictional fantasy world. Real world organisations are more complicated than this. You can’t just wave a magic wand, tell everyone to start weeknoting, and expect all your problems to be solved overnight.
But that’s not going to stop me sharing my list of rules, because I’ve seen them working. It takes time to get them bedded in, and of course they often end up iterating slightly. They don’t solve all the problems overnight, but they can help solve some of the problems, over a few weeks and months.
giles (at) gilest.org