Sending weekly 5-15 updates.

November 3, 2019. Filed under management 129

The trendy thing to do on the internet is to start publishing a newsletter. Trendy enough that even I started sending out my blog posts each week in email format.

I've consistently noticed that emails generate far more discussion than other distribution methods, which really shouldn't have surprised me: I've been sending company-internal updates for some time and they've frequently created important, spontaneous conversations.

About a year ago I started my most recent approach to sending weekly updates to relevant public (within the company) mailing lists. This practice is sometimes called a 5-15 report, reflecting the goal of spending fifteen minutes a week writing a report that can be read in five minutes. Personally, I create a new Google Doc each week and record anything I complete there, spending ten minutes polishing the list into something readable each Friday.

These emails have a few goals.

First, it's easy for folks to become detached from their leadership's priorities, and having a weekly update, sometimes a pointed weekly update, is a good way to close that gap. For this purpose, it helps to be as honest and direct about focuses and concerns as you can be without rocking the boat too much. (You probably should be rocking the boat a small amount.)

Second, one of the important contributions of leadership is creating ambient connective tissue across teams and projects. By sharing what I've learned about a new project, I find that often there are other folks who benefit from knowing, and that they wouldn't have learned about the project otherwise. Is reading a huge number of status emails the right way to learn everything? No, absolutely not, but it's a good supplemental method.

As an interesting note, these emails do not need to be widely read to be useful. I often find myself ignoring them initially but then going back to find the latest update from someone to answer a specific question later. Further, a small amount of sporatic reading goes a long way: I've found there is herd-immunity for missing information. If just one or two folks in a given group know something important, it'll end up where it needs to go.

Finally, each half around performance review time, I use these emails to compile my brag documents for the preceeding six months. Inevitably I've forgotten most things I've worked on, and these emails remind me of what I've done in a concise format.

As is often the case, we drove adoption by modeling the behaviors, without ever asking folks explicitly to send them. Most of the folks I work with directly have taken up the practice of sending out similar updates. Which have reduced status updates in one-on-ones, and been helpful to refresh both their and my memory when writing their performance reviews.

I do recommend rolling out this practice, but if you're considering rolling them out, I'd propose two quick rules to ease your initial rollout: (1) create a new mailing list for folks to send them to, not cluttering up existing lists, (2) make them optional to read, as their volume can grow quickly.

Let me know how if goes!