[FRAMEWORK] The Assembly Line of Digital Work
The Simple Framework for Digital Teams to Get Quality Work Shipped Faster
Dear Digital Founder,
Today we are going to touch on a topic that is near and dear to me. Having started in remote digital work in 2015 to founding my first company with my co-founder that I have never met before (yes, we’ve met after the fact and he remains a good friend today) to having led teams in over 12 time zones (I stopped counting at 12) there is one conclusion about digital work that I will stand firm on:
Digital work doesn’t just happen. It has to be coordinated.
In our notification-driven workspace with ads, reminders, pings, and emails clawing for our attention, digital teams are being choked just to get “tasks” done… yet their most important work remains barren.
In this Spark, we will be going over a simple team framework that will allow your team to ship incredible work without delays, chaos, and constant back and forths.
If you are looking for the individual framework to maintain mindfulness in your day and get your most important work done before having your first meeting, you can find that here: The Key Lesson I Give My Clients To Achieve Growth.
The #1 Competitive Advantage In A Remote World
Digital work happens on a bus, a plane, your kitchen table… your main office. It’s happening while you walk your dog, grab your morning coffee, or after you dropped off your kids at work.
From laptop to cell phone, to tablet, and finally the desktop. From the Drive to Docs, to slacks, to emails, zooms… you get the picture.
Digital work isn’t just happening in one location, it’s all around us. And surprisingly enough the most important competitive advantage you and your team has is being organized.
Organized teams work faster, do less, and get more done without the mental drag of worrying if they remembered the last email you sent them at 3:14 am last Friday.
It’s not simply a matter of a clean desk, ordered file system or being an organized person.
It’s all about having a clearly defined workflow of how your team is going to leverage
Touch and go forms of communication (without having to meet)
Real-time communication (i.e. a meeting)
A centralized source of truth for all company knowledge and shared definitions (your company’s Master Brain), key metrics, and initiatives; consolidated into one HQ
3 Quick Tips For Touch and Go Communications
From working with global teams, 12+ timezones: best universal times to check your inboxes (slacks and all) is 10 am and 1 pm. Don’t check messages during off-hours (yes, it can wait) and turn off notifications for everything.
Create your standardized communication channels around the key functions of the team, not projects. Projects come and go while your team remains.
Proactively check in and appreciate your team without an agenda. Yes, you can build strong working relationships without spending hours on zoom.
3 Quick Tips For Real-Time Communication
Structure your meeting times only around peak time availability (usually 8-12 am PST) and stick to it.
Always have a preset call structure for every recurring and one-time meeting. Don’t have one? Copy mine:
Part 1: Touch Base With Team: Share Wins
Part 2: Review OKRs & Work Through Strategic Questions/Obstacles/Opportunities
Part 3: Clarify & Recap Next Actions + Save on Project Management Software With 1 Clear Owner
Politely say no. You can solve 90% of problems without meeting. Native analogs will disagree but they also won’t ship as quickly as you will.
3 Quick Tips For Your HQ
The fewer the tools, the clearer the mind. Use fewer apps to vanquish “where was that saved in? What we the logins again?”
Transparency rules. Give access to the entire team and educate how they play a role in key initiatives and metrics.
Keep initiatives in “verb tense”, with 1 clear owner and 1 clear deadline.
Work is personal and individualized. Teamwork is personalized work orchestrated towards a common goal and purpose.
How To Marry Work Quality & Work Speed
We are not focusing on speed for its own sake.
Shipping work “faster” is useless unless it's quality and relevant.
A sub-par feature shipped early? Useless and redundant (you’ll have to fix it later).
A project 3 months too late? Irrelevant.
The #1 buzzkill of quality work is faux-speed, characterized by a disorganized, chaotic, last-minute duct tape-patched projected that just gets the job done.
Can you really produce your best work like that?
On the flip side, work shouldn’t be dragged on for the sake of quality.
Quality work is meeting (and exceeding) the set expectations (scope) with current constraints (including time).
Speed is measured by your cadence and your ability to ship quality work at a consistent pace.
You can identify a high-performing team by its ability to ship quality work consistently.
Here is how you can do this:
Your Team’s New Assembly Line
I promised you it would be simple.
However, rest assured this is the result of real-world experience (and mistakes!)
Let’s dive into each phase and component.
A new project is either a client project or an internal project for your company.
The most important part of this phase is to define the project parameters:
What success looks like/ what is the ideal outcome
What has to be true in order to have a successful outcome
What are your constraints
Who are the key stakeholders
What resources does your team need to succeed (i.e. tools, resources, vendors, outside counsel)
Ensure you save this into your HQ.
When you move into the Strategy Phase, you want to have your high-level stakeholders who will be directly involved with the project get together for a real strategy session.
High-level stakeholders include: team leads, directors, managers, strategists, and operations or project managers.
For example here is the strategy team involved in my teams that execute digital marketing services:
With this strategy team, you will review the project parameters and map out the strategy and components that the rest of your team will need to build into a Build Map.
Once you work through the strategy the key to this phase is communication. To clearly communicate the strategy, component build, timelines, and project specs to the rest of the team.
A great strategy is useless if it isn’t fully understood and exists in the mind of those executing the strategy.
The best way that I found to communicate initiatives and strategies to teams, remote, with less back and forth and drag is to model the formula I use to create a One Page S.O.P.
I have extensive video training, templates, and an entire chapter dedicated to creating One Page S.O.P.s in my book Productive Profits. You can snag the eBook, audiobook, and trainings with zero risk here.
The Proven Formula of Why the One Page S.O.P. Is The Ultimate Communication Tool for Remote Teams
The main reason why the One Page S.O.P. formula works as a Build Map is that we use all modalities to communicate information for all types of learners: audiovisual, visual, written, kinesthetic (do-ers).
I also keep the written portion extremely simple so anyone can 1) review the information 2) understand 3) execute.
Here’s the formula for your Strategy Team to follow when capturing strategy and all components that need to be built for the rest of the team to understand and execute.
Clearly defined purpose for the strategy
Clearly written roles and ownership for each component build
Diagram (similar to the one on this Spark) of the Inputs, Outputs, Phases, and Key Action Items that need to happen
Written Step-by-Step actions condensed into 3 Phases (that way it’s easy to read instead of 20 steps. No one wants to do 20 steps. But everyone can do 3 Phases with 20 total steps but broken down into 20 steps - it’s all about perception)
Resources for the project
Video overview of the entire project (this goes at the top of the page but you will have to execute Steps 1-6 first in order to give a clear and concise video overview)
If you value your time, quality of your work, and want to ship projects on time and at a consistent pace I highly recommend doing this work.
The return on time invested and dollars saved is incredible using this. It only takes a solid 20-30minutes to put together and can save you hours of unnecessary meetings, delays, and costs to fix issues that could have been prevented.
Now we get to the exciting stuff.
Here we get to simply brief your entire team involved with the build on a real-time meeting.
You’ll go over each component you mapped out on your Build Map during the Strategy Phase and answer any clarifying questions.
Note: if you can send your Build Map to your team without meeting and they can execute on the dot, you may have a unicorn team. I learned the hard way (especially with larger teams) that a briefing meeting is not only necessary but will also save hours (and headaches) during the project's lifetime.
The Build Phase is pretty self-explanatory, with set timelines and communication the team goes off to execute.
It’s imperative, however, that communication be a central focus during the Build Phase.
To learn from my mistakes, I highly recommend you set a weekly cadence Check-In meeting to give real-time status checks on specific Builds/Projects.
Async daily check-ins work however, these real-time meetings will save you enormous amounts of time and will keep you agile for the inevitable: change.
Change requests can seem like a nemesis to a successful project, however, we have to learn how to deal with them and properly move through them.
When change requests happen we need to see who is requesting them, why they are requested, and if they fall in line with the original project parameters and strategy.
Not all change requests need to be executed (even if it’s from the CEO) and it’s up to your team to prudently decide if a change goes through or not.
When changes are made, ensure your high-level stakeholders review its implications to the overall strategy, adjust your Build Map accordingly, and rebrief your team on the weekly update call.
Change happens and the ability to handle, communicate and navigate changes quickly will keep your project from being turned inside out and imploding - allowing you to ship faster (and more frequently).
Congratulations! You’ve shipped. Now what?
Once you’ve shipped, decide with your team if the project goes to maintenance mode or if you go back to the start and start a new one.
Finally, I would suggest a recap with the team of what worked well and what didn’t. These learnings will help you for the next go-round.
The bulletproof mentality is healthy to have here:
Every day resets back to 0 and today is a new day.
Finding Your Stride
Running this simple framework will allow your team to be on top of their game allowing them to produce their best work and allowing you to ship quality products and deliverables without experiencing unnecessary delays.
Put in the reps of this cycle and find your team’s pace, then find how you can improve it and you’ll create a competitive advantage and reputation for quality and speed.
It’s an honor to be a small part of your journey.
Do Good Work,