It means having an honest dialogue about how a decision will benefit you, the team, your end customers, and discussing the various ways to achieve it. At Creator Deck Media, we go into every conversation with the assumption that everyone wants the best outcome for the team and every individual involved in the project. With that as our foundation, everyone can openly share their ideas in context of how value is created, distributed, and shared amongst everyone on the team.
Practically speaking, it’s easy for us to facilitate discussions. We have a small office and everyone sits closely with one another. We do have full time employees that work remotely, but they are still very close to the team. Remote-engineering staff is ok too.
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We are built on the foundation that all members of the team have a say in what we do and how we do it. No matter if you’re an engineer or support rep we value all opinions about what shape our product takes and what we sell. Our Atlassian workspace is open to everyone on the team. You have the ability to create a spec, groom it, ask for ideas from others and see your idea come to life. The product team is constantly reviewing our specs and assigning priority to them to set up what’s coming up next. We use Slack at WineDirect and we never leave home without it. It is our life line and the main way we contact each other whether remote or in-office.
Did something throw you off this week? We also have a weekly retrospective meeting where we take time to reflect on what we can improve on and make repeatable for the future sprints to come. We have an office layout that encourages open dialogue. You’ll see the team join up from time to time, chatting about the next feature or discussing a current one.
Being transparent means not running the business like it’s a black box. As an example, we share the company’s finances with the entire team. Everyone on the team knows exactly how much money we have in the bank, how many months we have left before we run out of money, what our go-to-market plans and targets are, and how close we are to achieving those targets.
Transparency means being open and vulnerable with one another. We encourage our team members to come into the office, put their ‘work’ face away, and be themselves. It doesn’t happen overnight, but we are always working on it together as a team. Recently, every team member completed the Myers-Briggs personality test which gave us phenomenal and actionable insights into the different personalities on our team. It changed the way we perceive one another, talk to one another, and how we interact as a team.
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New York, Toronto, and Lexington (just outside of Boston)
This not only means speaking openly with each other about our work and its challenges, but seeking constructive feedback and input from other team members both inside and outside of the engineering organization. During our company-wide town halls, we encourage our newest employees to ask the most colorful questions during open Q&As. Further, we promote transparency across the engineering teams where we openly share everything we can.
While each of our facilities is slightly different, they’re all variations on the open office-style plan with plenty of places to duck-and-hide for a quieter/solitary environment. Often, engineers will “go turbo” for a day or two and work remotely, either from home or a coffee shop.
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A good example of where collaborative decision making takes place at mindmatters is how we staff teams and projects. The entire team is involved in staffing decisions instead of one manager deciding everyone’s fate. Engineers change teams either because people express an interest to work on something different or because certain projects and timelines require more resources. Whatever the reason, these decisions are made by everyone. We come together to review our current teams, what needs there are, and who is available to support.
Teams can range between 2 to 8 people and we typically have anywhere between 2 and 5 projects running concurrently. There is a lot of internal mobility and staffing at mindmatters requires a lot of flexibility from everyone and since the amount of team members necessary for each project varies. We also hire freelancers whenever there is heavy workload, so that one needs to be stretched thinly. In these situations, the team that needs more resources is responsible for interviewing freelancers because they are the ones who will be working closely with this person.
It starts from the beginning of our professional relationship. When we negotiate salary we’ll show you the company’s financials and ask, “How much would you like to take out of the business?” This continues into your employment experience with us: we endeavor to create trust by expecting and accepting the frank truth and seeking and receiving feedback. We encourage communication habits that encourage psychological safety, such as asking questions that seek to understand before offering one’s opinions. At the end of each week, the company writes a public Friday Ship blog post sharing our key metrics and progress with the world. We seek not only to be honest with each other, but honest with the public as well.
As we say, the tribe is not built from 9 am to 5 pm. Trust and transparency set the foundation of our company. Everything is open: salaries, cap table, income statements, bank statements, etc.
Once we make a decision, we all “get on the bus” about it even if we don’t all agree with it. We ensure those dissenting feel heard and understood before we commit to a decision. Any new data that can affect any decision is grounds for re-examining the decision is welcomed.
We highly value retrospectives to improve our future decision making. We retrospect with each other and with our customers on a regular cadence and always at the end of our two week sprint. Retrospectives are a safe place to share, prioritize concerns, and then iterate on solutions. Anyone in the tribe can schedule an ad-hoc retrospective on any topic.
Since our earliest days, Angaza has straddled an ocean. The challenges of keeping our San Francisco and Nairobi teams in sync have shaped our culture into one where we actively and explicitly practice open communication both across the entire company and fractally, within each smaller team.
From monthly all-hands (with video chat linking our two offices) to regularly scheduled office hours held by our three co-founders (where any topic is fair game); from bi-weekly internal, written newsletters to quarterly desk shuffling, we put a lot of energy into ensuring the right conversations are happening between the right people.
Within the engineering team, much of our written communication comes in the form of PR comments. We provide thoughtful, constructive comments for our colleagues, while keeping bike-shedding and rubber-stamping to a minimum, and we foster an environment where every engineer, no matter their tenure, feels not only empowered to comment, but also feels truly listened to.
In cases of fundamental disagreements, whatever the decision, our style is to ensure that the cost of course correction is not prohibitively expensive, document the discussion, and then defer to the individual or team with the most at stake.
Can you clearly articulate a difficult problem? When pushed, how do you respond? Are you abrasive and defensive? Do you take a step back, reflect, and consider whether you are right or wrong? Clear and open communication is such an important part of our team’s culture that even the most talented engineers will not get an offer from us.
While our Head of Product, CEO, and I (Jesse) dictate the product roadmap, everything after that is dictated bottoms up. People tell me what they need and it is my job to put it into place. We believe in open communication across all members of the company and my CEO and I are 24/7 and always available.
As teammates, we have an obligation to surface what we believe to be the truth in a constructive and positive manner. Everybody has a voice in this company.
We want members of our team to be comfortable stating their opinions and openly debating the choices that will help shape Jane now and into the future. We want to hire experts that are capable of doing things the current team is not - and we want to trust their expertise and incorporate it into the decision process.
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We believe in giving the team all the information they need to guide their work and make well-informed decisions. We have an open floor plan and plenty of areas to encourage and accommodate conversations. We also have a very active Slack Channel so that remote team members can easily be included in the water cooler conversation.
Our Executive Team hosts an All Hands every two weeks. During this time, they share high-level company messaging, and highlight people, accomplishments, and product updates. An Exec Team AMA is typically held at the end, and everyone is *truly encouraged* to ask anything. This aligns to out company cultural value of “No BS.”
We have an internal version of Medium for all employees to write about any topic, whether it’s technical specs, brainstorms for a product, or even personal stories (that are both goofy and serious). It’s a medium for executives to share their decision-making process and allows employees at all levels to suggest ideas and spark conversation.
We have a company all-hands every friday (“FAM” = Friday Afternoon Meeting) where teams and individuals present what they’ve been working on, events and initiatives, or anything they want to share with the company. There is an “Ask Anyone” Q&A period at the end where anyone from the organization can ask questions of anyone else in the organization. This is a nice way to open up conversation with the entire team, and to hear from leadership and members of different teams about topics that may affect the entire company.
Finally, we at Medium believe in open communication with our community! We publicly share many of our internal documents, and openly discuss how we operate internally. So, if you’re curious about how engineers get promoted at Medium, or how we conduct technical interviews, free of unconscious bias, it’s no secret. If you have more questions for us, we welcome you to reach out and ask!
Our leadership team believes that businesses run better when everyone knows what’s going on. We have a bi-monthly all-hands meeting with both offices (via video-conferencing). During these sessions, we celebrate new hires, walk through company financials, and reserve time for company Q&A. We use an app to let team members submit and upvote questions so that the most exciting questions get discussed first.
When we recently raised funds (a $140 million Series C at an approximate $2 billion valuation), our CEO Josh held an additional all-hands meeting. He walked us through the pitch deck, who each investor was, and the rationale behind each decision. It’s easy to claim that your company believes in being open and transparent, but it’s another thing entirely when prioritized by the leadership.
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We emphasize transparency, not only between teams and departments, but also between leadership and employees. After every board meeting, Sanjit (CEO) runs through the board slides at an all-company meeting, concluding the presentation with an open Q&A session. The founders also hold informal “Ask-Me-Anything” sessions where employees can ask any question about the company, from how we determine product pricing to how we tackle new industries. With things moving fast, we value these open lines of communication as a way to continue to come together to share information and build the company towards a unified vision.
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We believe that open communication is key to success, so everyone is encouraged to speak with candor. We stay nimble and take action so we’re continuously improving. Everyone is given a voice, and we make it so those closest to the problems are the decision makers.
This works top-down as well. Our CEO Ryan holds an all-hands meeting every two weeks to share global company updates, and he actively encourages everyone with a thought or idea to Slack him directly.
Managers and reports meet one-on-one every week, and skip level meetings are scheduled on a monthly cadence. We believe that maintaining an open communication channel enables individuals to comfortably voice their thoughts, and to receive the attention required to maximize career growth.
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We also use Harvest to track time against each task and give these timesheets to the client. We are completely transparent in what we do. We also have open plan offices where all developers can hear all the conversations other developers are having. This helps teams keep up to date with each other and allows for knowledge transfer between senior and junior developers. While we don’t formally program in pairs, junior developers feel comfortable asking senior developers for help whenever they need support.
Open communication is part of the foundation for learning and development. If you aren’t comfortable sharing all aspects of your project, then you’re preventing yourself from learning and moving forward. We share demos, send company-wide emails every week about the progress (or lack of progress) of our initiatives, and involve every member of the company when we do quarterly planning. Our feedback during code reviews are candid and everything our board knows, the whole company knows too. We practice a level of openness that gives everyone a seat at the table in everything we do.
This is empowering, because everyone gets a say. It can also be challenging, because it requires patience, empathy, and deliberate communication.
We have two main meetings each week: A sprint planning meeting on Fridays, and a “Kaizen” (“continuous improvement”) meeting on Thursdays. At Kaizen, we look back on the week and figure out how things are going and what we can improve about our processes. Meeting so often in a formal way has allowed us to get comfortable with each other, be honest and open, and facilitate effective meetings.
As an example, our designer Elisha wanted to join a meeting that the product marketing team was having in order to learn more about the feedback they were receiving from a general manager we were working with. She wanted to be involved in that dialogue in order to incorporate his feedback into her design, and we’re glad she did. Something that we often say at Eden is, “We’re all going to die some day, so we have to make it count.” You owe it to yourself to build a company that inspires you. This isn’t a dress rehearsal so make it a place that you’re excited about going to everyday, where you can be your full self. Sharing your ideas and speaking your mind is how we create a company that we are all inspired by.
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We’ve structured our company to enable continuous feedback. We are staffed in pods that rotate, and all pods have equal access to company resources. Our office has an open layout and we have team-wide meetings every other week that end in an open discussion for people to give praise or raise questions. Engineers play a core role in determining the product roadmap, and we define all company OKRs for the quarter together, with each individual team choosing their own key results.
We have a practice of collecting open feedback and sharing feedback openly. It has created a culture of accountability and mindfulness. To facilitate team bonding and conversation, we rarely cater lunch (with exceptions). Instead, we utilize our large open, fully-stocked kitchen and cook meals together.
One of our company’s core values is "hold each other up." Redwoods are the world’s largest tree, and they intertwine their roots to support each other's growth. We take inspiration from redwoods as we build a powerful community that can support each person’s growth by providing thoughtful feedback, celebrating wins, and investing in the personal development of each individual.
We invest in processes that help every employee communicate both with their peers and across the organization, including (but not limited to):
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All hands is our fully transparent company-wide meeting where we discuss what has happened during the week, and reflect on successes and failures. It is a recap of the past week and we go over operations, sales, marketing, finance, and engineering departments accomplishments. We always host an AMA at the end to openly discuss any company issues.
Unlike other all hands meetings that are usually run by a single person, each department head or project lead presents at ours. It is one (of many) forums for people to ask questions and challenge decisions, even around fundraising. Our executive team members are entirely transparent about open business negotiations, and will share updates about fundraising whether they are good or bad.
Lastly, we are diligent about hosting regular retrospective meetings to learn from our mistakes and come together as a team to improve our processes. Our monthly all company retrospectives allows us to have open and frank conversations on a regular basis.
Our work environment is one where everyone can challenge anyone’s assumptions regardless of whether they’re one of the founders, a senior engineer, or a junior team member. We’re still a small team and take full advantage of the fact that we can operate with a flat organization. You can simply walk over or Slack the person you want to speak with. We do a lot of ad hoc meetings to quickly sync on a particular question, and the whole team checks in on Mondays and Fridays to track everyone’s progress and talk through things that affect everyone.
We have an open office space, and everyone sits near each other. As a part of our commitment to having a transparent working environment, all email that isn’t personal goes to mailing lists accessible by anyone on the team. We are all working together and value efficiency, so there are no “rules” around who you can/can’t communicate with. If you have feedback or ideas for Kieran, our CEO, you are encouraged to share them with him directly. Or, you can wait until our weekly all-hands meeting where our founders and team leads take questions on any subject. We try to cultivate a culture where asking questions is encouraged and where responses will be clear and meaningful. Psychological safety is important to us!
We sit as product teams and there is open communication between all departments within the organization including support, operations, and the product organization. We share key company metrics openly with the entire organization including revenue and run rates, as well as the board deck with all employees on a quarterly basis. We use Slack for team updates and async communication, in-person conversations for decision making and direction, and company all hands for sharing company-wide information and metrics.
We work together every day in a shared space, making communication easy and constant. While we make heavy use of Slack, we like to go analog from time to time because face to face communication is never forgotten. When teammates hit roadblocks, others are available to answer questions or bounce around ideas. Every week there is structured time for reflection: general retrospectives and agile forums. The topics covered in these discussions are determined together by the team. As far as planning and execution, we revisit our backlog each week, with a rotating facilitator to share the workload and help every team member engage with our plan. In fact, we rotate the facilitator for each recurring meeting, encouraging engagement and experimentation with different communication styles.
The way we communicate really stems from the founders. We have all-hands with the whole company regularly, and the product team meets often to make sure everyone is in sync. Everyone is encouraged to ask questions whenever they have them. We value transparency and connecting the dots to why everyone’s work is important to the company goals. We have many conversations about the newest strategies, the context for why we’re focusing on certain initiatives, and what feedback folks have about it. We all know that we’re experimenting together and that we’re in this together.
Everyone's opinion at the company is extremely valuable. We are all here working together to build a company. This means that it is everyone's responsibility to speak up about what they see from their vantage point, and foster an environment where others are able to do so too.
We believe our success as a company depends on our ability to learn and correct ourselves. This necessarily requires us to be proven wrong about our prior understanding and to seek alternate perspectives. This doesn’t make us feel uncomfortable.
Our desire for open communication applies across teams. The engineering and business teams are expected to understand each other and collaborate on a day-to-day basis. We have a weekly team meeting where each person reports on what they’re working on, asks questions of each other, and stays up-to-speed on what’s happening elsewhere in the company. One of the prime advantages of being this small is that everyone can still fit the whole company into their brain at once. It would be a shame if we failed to capitalize on that advantage while we still have it.
To us, open communication means everything from individuals feeling comfortable speaking up when their opinion goes against the majority to the process by which project decisions are made. All of our communications are out in the open, and we have a rule that you cannot send emails to a fellow Remixer and instead must communicate over Slack where everyone can see. (Emails are only used for people externally.) We use Slack to the nth degree. We invested in our HR team early on, to ensure that all Remixers can be heard. In our weekly company meetings, our team shares updates, wins, and failures, which encourages everyone to be open and honest too. Our office is thoughtfully designed to promote spontaneous collaboration. Next to every pod of desks, we have a break out area, with couches set up facing each other. The focal point of our office is the large picnic tables, designed to host cross collaboration. We thoughtfully put a projector on the wall too, so people can hold open meetings where anyone who is walking by is welcome to spontaneously join.
We believe that it’s crucial that all team members understand what our collective goals are and what we are doing to achieve them. In addition, everyone should have access to the information necessary for them to be productive. The only way to achieve these objectives is to maintain a culture where communication happens frequently and information flows freely. Starting at the top, Adam (Kite’s founder) will answer any question you have, how much are we trying to raise and from how, what dilution takes place when we raise, how is raising going? We are also, almost to a fault, incredibly diligent about documentation (we use Quip). It’s an opt-in system and no one reads everything, but the point is that you can search through it to find out whatever you want. What decision was made, when it was made, who was involved in making it, etc. There’s a paper trail for everything.
Whether it’s something as simple as cc’ing mailers on correspondence or something more involved like a 2-hour company-wide retrospective bi-annually, we bias towards over communication, transparency, and open-mindedness. We have quarterly surveys, weekly 1:1s and All Hands staff meetings, and daily morning syncs. We believe in talking openly in a group (e.g., our All Hands agenda is set by the team), but we also believe in written dialogue so that individuals who prefer to communicate that way can. We are honest and vocal with each other, however difficult or uncomfortable it can be, because we care about personal development and team success.
We practice a culture of radical transparency in everything we do, from giving people honest feedback when we think they can do better to over-communicating updates and information. Our founders have made it an important part of our culture that everything should be completely transparent both internally and externally. We have bi-weekly all hands meetings to get an overview on the status of the company and get to ask any questions, open or anonymous, to our founders, and they never shy away from difficult or uncomfortable questions.
We also have monthly round tables with the founders where a group of 5-10 employees have lunch with a founder and provide feedback that gets addressed and implemented. As employees, we are never in the dark on how the company is doing - board slides are sent out to everyone in the company before all board meetings. Messaging in open channels is encouraged over 1:1 communication when appropriate and documentation is a vital part of every project we work on as an engineering org.
Open communication goes for our external relationships as well - we open source all of our SDKs and make sure our partners are aware of things when they come up, especially when it’s bad news that may affect them. Open communication builds trust and without that we wouldn’t be where we are. It’s led to an environment with no office politics where people are aware of the direction the company is heading.
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Our conversations are out in the open and the one large conference room we have has walls made of glass. There are no secret meetings and people tend to take meetings in open spaces. Once a month, we also have a more formal demo day where the company meets and anyone can share anything they want to with the rest of the company. We prioritize strong communication from the very beginning with how we hire. If you’re interested in joining our team, you should be personable and be able to socialize with all different types of people and personalities. Building strong relationships at the workplace depends on how everyone having emotional intelligence, being articulate when expressing their feelings and opinions, and constantly being open to feedback.
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