Kick-off time!

To get started, we aligned on the project direction, learned more about one another, and set formal expectations and norms as a team.

After weeks of settling on the right team, I was excited to finally start our startup studio experiment! However, we felt that there were several things we had to do first to make sure the team ran smoothly. So, we decided to do a formal kick-off, with a four goals in mind:

Project Direction

The first thing we discussed was what the goal of the project is. This sounds easy, but there’s actually a wide range of goals that individuals had about the project. Some of us felt that success would mean starting a company at the end, while other were more interested in the venture design process, regardless of whether a venture came out of it. After some discussion, we agreed that the goal is to come up with a single working venture idea. Whether or not this iteration of the Core Team then starts that venture will be decided at the end of the project. While some team members are still primarily excited about the process, agreeing on this final goal will keep us focused.

Team Learning

An important part of working with new people is understanding how they work best. Both Vince and I used to work at McKinsey, where every new project starts with a “team learning”, so we decided to try something similar for BSS. During a team learning, the members of the team talk about their working preferences. For example, we talked about when and where each of of us are most productive, down to the tactical details of time of day, location, and best communication channels. We also discussed our working preferences and strengths more generally (spoiler: engineers, product people, designers and business people often work differently!). To make this more concrete, we also each took a Meyers-Briggs personality test beforehand and discussed what our various MBTI types meant for what would make each of us most likely to be productive. Finally, we made sure to discuss what our individual goals and aspirations are for the project, so we can make sure each team member feels like their time is being well-spent.

Team Agreement

Another important piece of the kick-off was the team agreement. We wanted to make sure that team norms were explicitly understood and agreed to by everyone, so we didn’t end up with a major disagreement down the line — especially about something that seems obvious. We ended up discussing and drafting a document, which we all took a week to think about and sign. The team agreement included things like:

  • What do we do if someone isn’t pulling their weight?
  • How do we handle team disagreements?
  • What are our expectations on time put into the project per week?

We hope that by writing down and agreeing on these items ahead of time, we’ll be better equipped to handle any tough situations that arise. Things like equity splits we’ll draft at the end of the project.

Tactical Team Norms

The last element we discussed were the team norms — in other words, how the team would actually run and stay organized and on track.

  • One 3-hour meeting each week
  • Asana for project management
  • Slack for team communications
  • Google documents for ongoing project research
  • Google calendar for ongoing team meetings
  • Medium for our blog posts

Once aligned on the nitty-gritty, we were ready to get started! We knew that coming up with a target population was critical to start doing actual work. So, for the first week, we decided to spent the majority of our time thinking about what populations we were excited about and doing macro level research (think research papers and article vs in-person interviews). Stay tuned on which one we chose!