If you have had the chance to participate in an early-stage startup, you know it's quite the experience. It's much different than working in a large organization and incredibly fun to work in close quarters with a small team. Things can change at any moment and the pace of execution is like nothing else.
The challenge for entrepreneurs whose business is growing is to find a way to stay agile while continuing to scale. However, the simple act of adding more people means communication tends to get more difficult. Companies have to work extremely hard to maintain their transparent atmosphere, keep everyone in sync, and make sure teams are moving in the same direction. As a leader, these are three tactics you can implement to shape your company's culture of communication.
Transparency: Embrace the open office environment
True communication doesn't happen in a vacuum. People need to be able to collaborate and interact with each other daily in order to get real work done. At our company, we removed the cubes and embraced a total open office environment. No one has a private office, myself included. Walls can encourage "work silos" where employees become disconnected from their teams and the rest of the company.
While the open office environment isn't for everyone, it is for us. We've lowered the barriers for people to interact in order to encourage less formal meetings and more serendipitous interactions. Employees are able to resolve simple issues on the spot without the formalities of long e-mail strings or meetings. The open office can get noisy, but it's something to embrace. While the volume may be higher, it means your team is communicating. My concern is having an increasingly quiet office as more and more people join the company.
Accountability: Make everyone's goals visible to everyone else
To create a culture of communication, there has to be tremendous transparency. Everyone should know what is being worked on and how each part of the organization is performing. When individuals have clear insight into the big picture of the company, it enables them to be creative and collaborate to solve problems.
Make sure everyone's goals are constantly visible. Put up whiteboards that track progress. Send out weekly e-mails that stack-rank progress against each objective. Making goals clear and visible not only helps everyone stay on course but encourages a culture where everyone, including you, is publicly responsible for their personal work.
Prioritization: Company-wide meetings
The weekly company-wide meeting should not just be treated as a news update for the organization. It should be treated as an opportunity to stack-rank the company priorities. At each of our company meetings, we start with a list of our top seven priorities spanning the entire organization and track their progress with clear metrics and data.
The rank of these priorities may change week to week, but the consistent act of displaying them has a trickle-down effect. If employees clearly understand company priorities, they can align their own goals and priorities accordingly.
Building your culture of communication boils down to one thing: enabling people to get work done. Fussing over issues like building internal PowerPoint presentations or long e-mail strings are often the antithesis of getting real work done. Instead of talking with customers and working on building a great product, time is spent on internal garbage that adds very little value. You can have great internal communication without it being too formal or taking up too much time. As a leader, you can enable your employees to get more done by clearing their path of obstacles. By building a culture of communication, you will maintain the essence of a true startup--no matter how big your organization grows.