After carefully considering and deciding to split CEO responsibilities, Mike and I knew we had to create a structure for effective communication flow between us and throughout the organization. We each wanted to have a holistic view of the organization without having to individually deep dive in all functional areas. We also wanted to avoid the downsides of being pulled into too many meetings.
Once again, we used Atomic’s ATOC architecture and Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) tools to develop our approach to communication flow through three channels:
- Impromptu Communication
- Scheduled Meetings
- Information Radiators
1. Impromptu Communication
Mike and I first aligned on our general expectations for working hours and availability. We decided to avoid an “always on” approach to our working relationship. While we make ourselves generally available during core working hours, we also work hard to respect each other’s personal time and family schedules.
- We created an understanding of when we’d be responsive and through which communication channels. For instance, I stop checking Slack notifications in the evenings but pay attention to text messages.
- We have a general understanding that we will make ourselves available at any time if there is an important and time-sensitive need.
- We also aligned on expectations for weekly working hours so we maintain a sense of fairness and equal contribution.
2. Scheduled Meetings
We implemented weekly, quarterly, and annual meetings (based on EOS practices) across different functional areas of the organization. We’ve been managing EOS tooling and documents with Google Drive, which is excellent for managing collaboration and providing transparency. Our company and office leaders have access to all of our respective meeting agendas, issues lists, Vision/Traction Organizers, etc.
Mike and I participate individually in some functional meetings. In other meetings, we both participate. This allows us to divide our work and still have communication flow between us and through the organization.
Mike and I meet every Friday to:
- Align on any emergent issues and opportunities.
- Bring awareness to, and align on, considerations either one of us may be working on in a particular functional area.
- Give or ask for feedback on anything.
- Do a personal check-in on wellbeing both at work and at home.
This meeting reinforces our partnership, working relationship, and trust. It allows us to effectively discuss and debate things so we can align and support each other once we decide on a direction.
The meeting also reduces the temptation to share thoughts in real-time throughout the week via email or Slack. If we have a non-urgent idea to share, we can log it into our weekly sync list and wait until our Friday meeting to discuss it.
Functional Area Syncs
Mike and I meet with leaders of the functional areas we have agreed to individually support. For instance, Mike will meet with our MP teams, and I will meet with Elaine, our director of marketing. These meetings are usually 60-90 minutes and use some form of the weekly EOS meeting agenda.
These meetings allow me and Mike to support our functional leaders, dive a little deeper into functional areas of the business, and create additional opportunities for two-way communication flow between us and Atomic’s functional leaders.
I’ve found that these meetings increase awareness, alignment, and trust. They also provide a sense of momentum and progress by focusing on to-dos and next steps towards quarterly rocks.
Company Leaders Team Sync
Mike and I meet weekly with all of Atomic’s functional area leaders to sync on high-level organizational todos, issues, and quarterly rocks.
At this level, there’s usually a functional area leader related to every rock. The high-level rock may cascade down into other departmental rocks. For instance, marketing may have a rock to increase inbound leads. This rock may cascade into departmental rocks about growing SEO expertise, running a few experiments, and creating a roadmap for future SEO enhancements.
We generally only talk about the high-level organizational rocks during the company leaders team sync. Some deeper details may get brought up from any functional area if a functional area leader would like input or wants to give awareness to the broader group.
I’ve found that this meeting improves perspective and empathy across our leaders team. Like with other weekly meetings, this meeting also feeds relationships, builds trust, and drives accountability.
LLC Managers Sync
Mike and I continue to meet with Carl, Atomic’s founder and chairman, since we transitioned to our co-CEO model. The three of us are Atomic’s LLC managers, and we meet to:
- Stay personally connected and feed our relationships.
- Have Mike and I provide a high-level status report to Carl.
- Allow for mentorship and perspective sharing from Carl based on his historical experience leading Atomic and his current role in a variety of other organizations.
- Make decisions on significant investments.
- Work on long-term planning and initiatives. We call this “100-year-goal work” as these initiatives are focused on the things that will help Atomic reach its goal of being a 100-year-old company.
The first year of these meetings have included work on CEO transition management, alignment on our accountability chart, considering adjustments to Atomic’s ownership plan, a vision for office growth over the next twenty years, and a high-level approach to opening our Chicago office.
Mike and I have found these meetings to be very valuable. They create additional accountability for us and give us access to a smart, experienced person who can share new ideas with us and challenge our thinking. They also provide Atomic with more capacity for working on long-term goals.
We are using EOS practices and meeting structures at the quarterly and annual cadence for Atomic’s Company Leaders Team, office MP teams, and functional area teams.
All teams meet quarterly to revisit their three-year picture and one-year plan, review the last quarter, and plan rocks for the next quarter. We share all of the team Vision/Traction Organizers and meeting notes through Google Drive so everyone can see what others are focused on.
This year, we are going to try an in-person report-out from each team’s quarterly planning meeting to increase awareness, alignment, and potential coordination across the organization.
There is enough awareness and high-level alignment created through our weekly meeting pulse and document sharing that we haven’t established any timing dependencies on quarterly meetings. For instance, functional teams and office MPs can have their quarterly meetings before the Company Leaders Team does.
Office MPs and the Company Leaders team share quarterly rock updates with everyone in the organization during quarterly results meetings held in each office.
In 2019, we experimented with our approach to annual planning. Instead of meeting as individual teams, MPs and the Company Leaders Team met together for an offsite annual planning workshop. All teams did some pre-work to prepare for the offsite workshop. During the workshop, we met together to frame planning exercises and broke out into independent teams. We came back together after our individual teamwork to share results and discuss them.
Bringing everyone together for annual planning helped:
- Build relationships and camaraderie across the organization.
- Foster experience sharing and learning.
- Bring awareness and empathy to challenges and opportunities across offices and functional teams.
- Align and coordinate our capacity to execute on initiatives that will help the whole organization.
3. Information Radiators
Impromptu communication and meetings are great for staying socially connected and discussing complex or detailed topics. They also come with the downsides of interrupting or taking away from deep-flow work. Mike and I realized that it was equally important that we create communication flow through information sharing.
Atomic has always been a data-driven company and has worked to create meaningful information radiators that keep us all aware of key metrics. We’ve continued to create automation and tooling for reports on things like:
- Inbound demand relative to our capacity
- Number of active leads for each office
- Pipeline value
- Future revenue forecast given current bookings and rates
- Weekly billable hours worked and utilization
- Percentage of billable capacity per client
- Accounts receivable
- Health of active projects
We’ve used a combination of in-house tools and third-party tools to publish this information in custom dashboards, Redash dashboards, and Slack channels. These information radiators provide asynchronous communication of facts that allow individuals to make informed decisions. We also use some of these tools for scorecard reviews during weekly meetings.
The first three posts in this series have focused on the rationale, structure, and communication flow for our co-CEO model. You might be asking, “But how does it feel? Are you enjoying it? Does it really work?” Stay tuned for one more post, where I share my summary thoughts and dive into those questions.
This is the third post in a series about Atomic’s co-CEO model that Mike Marsiglia and I started working in during 2019. We are openly sharing our experience to help others who might be considering a similar model.
- Atomic’s Co-CEO Model, Part 3 – Communication Flow - November 5, 2020
- Atomic’s Co-CEO Model, Part 2 – Structure - October 22, 2020
- Atomic’s Co-CEO Model, Part 1 – Rationale - October 8, 2020
- Keeping Sight of True North During a Crisis - May 4, 2020
- The case for detailed time tracking, part 5 – Growth - March 28, 2018