P.I.K — Performance Indicators are Key

Startups, I love you. You are new to the startup game but also the people management game. Most companies hate the idea of key performance indicators, and they think it is just pointless at an early stage.

Early stage teams often have a great dynamic and can often seem like they don’t miss a beat. The opposite is also true and the responsibilities of the core team can often be ignored or fall of the grid entirely, which as we all know is not good.

Performance driven results will always speak more to you, your colleagues, customers and investors. Performance indicators cannot be designed for you, they must be built from the ground up by the team in order to understand how they work so they do not seem arbitrary. See “The 6 Elements of Process That Yield Endless Productivity For Teams.”

All I can offer is a few hundred words of a blog post to help you get your team management in order so you can focus on the hustle. (No doubt Alan Clayton will rejoice that the screenshots are in HBDI green to match my own score.)

Trello — Like it or loathe it, is a free team management software that could save your team.

I don’t know if you are very familiar with Trello, but it’s pretty useful. You have a mobile app available and all workflows can be broken down into separate boards. Below are some examples and rules of thumb to get you started on Trello.

  1. 1. K.I.S.S (aka Keep.It.Simple.Stupid ) — Limit your workflows to that of key areas your team are involved in, ie. Finance/Fundraising (CEO), Marketing/Social Media (CEO, Social Media savvy intern), Operations (CEO, COO), Scientific/Hardware Development (CEO, CTO), Sales etc. Separating each category avoids the chaos of creating a master board where every task gets added and the system becomes unmanageable.
A snapshot of your main team Trello Boards for curious minds.

2. Develop A Workflow Around Each Board — When each board is created, generate the simple workflow broken down into four distinct categories which are: To Do (self explanatory), Doing, Pending Approval (if it requires the CEO’s authorisation or a review in a team meeting move here) and Done! Don’t deviate from this thought process or include additional wants that you cannot deliver.

Your basic workflow for team & task management.

3. Every Card Needs To Be Assigned A Member — As everyone knows, accountability is key, and each card on the respective board should be assigned a member who is extremely accountable for the “task” at hand. Cards should never go unassigned as it can lead to a build-up of unaccountable items that never get moved, go stale and become the walking dead. As an example, in the image below I am “SC” and therefore am responsible for these tasks and aware of what I need to do at any one time. I can assign others tasks on various boards or cards depending on who is responsible, or even share cards. I can generate checklists for individual cards to mark subtasks as needed also.

Various cards and a simple workflow to adhere to and note how each card has been assigned a member (me).

4. Integrate — Resistance is futile when streamlining processes, so get creative and take advantage of all of the useful integrations available to you since you use Trello. Gmail to Trello helps limit the amount of manual entry required to create a card on a certain board. The email thread gets copied into the description of the text which gives your team added context as to the nature of the card or task. Based on your needs you should also explore Zapier and its suite of plug-ins to help visualise KPIs and metrics. (I plan to write more on Zapier integrations and its versatility to benefit startups later.)

One or two clicks enables you to seamlessly link your Gmail client with any exisiting Trello boards and also assign members on shared boards.

There’s Trello for Slack integration for teams who rely on Slack for internal communications. Explore how to get the most out of it when you are conducting day to day operations, and track tasks that may not always hit your email inbox.

The Trello for Slack Integration.

5. Prioritise Your Goals/Benchmarks — Tasks at the top are more important than tasks at the bottom. Arrange goals in order of magnitude, and for time sensitive tasks, you can set calendar deadlines which prompt you if you are falling behind on targets. Explore the various Power-ups on the freemium version, in particular the Google Calendar plug in. The human element is still a key part in all this, so make sure to work on a routine that suits your team to review each board daily and weekly.

Below is a summary checklist to achieve greatness:

  1. Install Trello
  2. Keep It Simple Stupid — Limit workflows to all key areas your business & team are involved in
  3. Develop A Simple Workflow — To Do >Doing >Needs Approval>Done
  4. Every Card Needs To Be Assigned A Member — An exercise in accountability so everyone knows who is doing what in real time
  5. Integrate — Use incredibly useful plugins which can link to Gmail, Slack & visualise tasks/targets or metrics with Zapier
  6. Prioritise Your Goals/Benchmarks — High priority cards at the top, low priority cards at the bottom, find a routine with your team to review the boards daily & weekly

Following these steps will help get companies set up with a productive free workflow. It is worth the effort to work out a reporting and tracking process in order to achieve situational awareness and manage responsibilities. Make a promise to yourself as the CEO to sit down with your team to get it right.