In this, the second of a series of blog posts, Sköna’s Jenny Sagström shares her experience of EOS® implementation and the tools that she’s used to grow the company – the good, the bad, and the surprises along the way.
We are now almost 2 years into our Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®) implementation and we’ve, to some extent, tested and tried to implement all the different tools. To a large organization, a variation of these types of tools already exist. None of these are perhaps revolutionary in and of themselves. But to a small company such as ours, you either have to think through all the systems and processes in your organization and try to invent something new – or – you can use something like EOS® which gets you at least 80% of the way there.
I think this goes for all tools we use… for instance, five years ago, we used a whiteboard and an excel spreadsheet to track our jobs and their status. We used old-school envelopes where we printed out job information and physically carried it from one designer to another.
We’ve gone through a digital transformation ourselves and for the past three years, we’ve moved all that functionality to Wrike which has since become the backbone of how we do things. But I digress, what I wanted to do here was to give a quick review of the EOS tools we’ve used and what has worked best for us.
The Accountability Chart™ – 8/10
Not your standard organizational chart outlining hierarchies and managerial relationships.
Instead, the beauty of the Accountability Chart™ is that it helps you envision the organization you’ll need to do the work you need to get done – and it’s focused around the core functions of any organization. When you map out your accountability chart, you’re also forced to think ahead and to try to work out what your organization will need over the next 6-12 months, not just today.
Before EOS, we really had no structure. Everyone kind of reported to me. Or maybe more accurately, they didn’t report to anyone. And that was by design. I wanted it that way. I wanted a flat, non-hierarchical organization where the best ideas would be heard, regardless of where they came from.
I think like most mom’n’pop shops, that works when you’re small. As long as you’re less than 10 employees, you can keep track of what everyone is doing and you can directly have conversations with each of those 10 people. But that’s the breaking point. Anything over 10 and you’ve lost track. You don’t have enough time to regularly check-in with each person, meaning that the distance you were trying to avoid – happens anyway. Where it gets even more complicated is when you’re lucky enough to have smart, resourceful people: Every company wants self-starters who can think on their feet and execute on initiatives, but without good oversight, you can get duplication (or even worse) people working on opposite initiatives, which is a major waste of resources.
The accountability chart has more or less solved that. But the struggle has been how to implement the structure authentically. Having prided ourselves for so many years on being a non-hierarchical organization, how can I now authentically implement this structure with levels and decision-makers like your typical 1965 Mad Men Agency?!
It’s not been easy and it’s taken a while for people to become accustomed to the idea of having a boss that isn’t me. But overall, 2 years later people are on board and realize the benefits. Or at least I hope so…
People Analyzer™ – 10/10
This has been a great way of thinking about people and trying to figure out how to help employees grow and flourish inside an organization. It starts with your company values, so for this purpose, we’ll assume you’ve already gone through the exercise of figuring out what they are and why they’re important. It took us a few months to really get ours right but currently, they are:
Team Sköna first
Fun to work with
Creative problem solvers
We still debate whether we should add something around customer-centric and creative – but we keep landing on it being table stakes for an ad agency…
Anyway, you take your company values and make yourself a chart. Does the employee in question adhere to each of those values – plus or minus? And you set a bar for what variation you will allow. This approach allows you to look at each employee objectively. Do they live and represent the values you have deemed as crucial for your business? It’s a simple yes or no answer and it takes the emotional aspect out of it. You like someone but there’s something not quite right, perhaps they need to be in a different chair doing a different job. The employee might be generally performing well, but there are areas that glitch. The people analyzer has been great in helping us see and have the right vocabulary around what we want to work on and improve.
One of the things we do to encourage people to live our values is to use a specific Slack channel to nominate their coworkers when they have specifically lived the values. Nominations get rewarded with gift certificates at our bi-weekly all-hands meetings. Although activity here has slowed a little in isolation, this has been a great way for people to really internalize our values and recognize their coworkers. It’s also been a great way to realize that everyone interprets the values differently and it’s also allowed me to clarify and expand.
Rocks and rock setting – 9/10
Every quarter, we use EOS to set goals – or as they’re called, rocks. We start in the leadership group and set the corporate rocks – those of utmost importance for the entire company. These involve initiatives outside of our normal jobs, but still, things that are of importance and keep our business moving forward. From there, each department sets rocks that flow up to and support the company rocks.
The goal is to complete 80% or more of the rocks every quarter. One of my rocks this quarter is… to write 6 blog posts. Hence with this, I’ll be about 17% of the way there.
The beauty of this has been that we have been able to accomplish more than I ever imagined possible. We have documented almost every process we have. And in many instances, that has also meant actually inventing the process as we go: We have to think through how we do things and whether there would be better ways of accomplishing it. That starts with Finance processes but goes all the way through our Creative and Strategy processes.
In many ways, I think this is where it feels the most different to me. Personally, I’m not good at process or structure. I wing things, do them fast. Forget to tell people what I’m doing as I’m getting excited by the project at hand. I get carried away by the onset of new projects. But truth be told, I’m not great at completing them. Or I don’t get a great sense of satisfaction from it and can easily be persuaded to move deadlines or benchmark. Procrastination in favor of more urgent items tends to be my motto.
Creating all this process makes it feel like Sköna is becoming a real company. It’s making it easier to onboard new people and it’s helping us create a better product by ensuring we’re all consistently following the same process. And it’s putting some guardrails around my own behavior. Long term – this is where I begrudgingly believe EOS will have the largest impact for us as a company.
Before we started our EOS implementation, we didn’t have an executive leadership team and we didn’t have regular meetings. Today we have both – and we also follow a set agenda which (amongst other things) looks at our scorecard (or our KPIs), provides high-level news, or gives updates on individual projects. But more than anything, the time is spent solving problems.
I think the hardest thing to get used to inside the EOS system is that each event, problem, conundrum, is called an issue that is discussed and solved. It’s intimidating to classify things as issues – especially if you just want to discuss or get other people’s take on something. You have to get past the feeling that ‘this isn’t an issue’.
The most important thing the regular meetings have provided is transparency in communication. So much communication is missed because you forget who you told or what you said you’d do. Having the weekly meetings keeps moving the business forward, and most of the time, we capture things before they become big problems.
As a leadership team, we’ve been running our L10 meetings for 2 years and as an organization, we’ve rolled L10 meetings out to each department this last year. It does seem to gel each team together and also allows a good forum to solve problems where they’re happening. We seem to improve how we’re doing things based on issues that have come up and been solved in each team L10.
I think in the beginning, the overall team felt intimidated by EOS, as well as overwhelmed by an unknown sense of bureaucracy. I think today, across the board, people feel like they have a better understanding of our business and what works from a business standpoint more than we did before the implementation.
Every quarter, we try to do the Delegate and Elevate™ tool, which is a great way to look at the work you do every week. It gives you a sense of what you’re doing and are good at… and then, of course, the things you’re not good at but are still doing! It’s quite surprising running through the results with other people on your team and finding out that you usually have someone on your team who loves to do what you’re not keen on. Likewise, in looking at your colleague’s list, you’ll often wonder why they don’t like doing XYZ – which in your book, is what’s fun about a project.
The beauty of it is that there are quite a few things you can barter with your colleagues which continue to make your workday better and better. In many ways, this really has been my favorite tool. Apart from getting some, as we call them in Sweden, “sourdoughs” off my table, it’s also opened my eyes more to what my teammates are good at and who I can lean on for certain expertise. But I’m only giving it a 7/10 as it’s actually quite a hard tool to fulfill and complete.
Next week, Jenny looks at the importance of values and how EOS implementation can help a business become genuinely ‘value-driven’.