The cyclic heartbeat of the program…
Most of the working hours during the 10 weeks is unstructured, left open for teams to meet with mentors, meet with each other, and in general to get work done. Interrupting this time is a series of structured events.
Stand-up Status Meetings
For the first 2/3rds of the session, Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays begins with a “stand up” status meeting. This serves five purposes. First, it encourages the participants to get to work in the morning. Second, it subtly enforces the co-working philosophy, as the meetings are held within the co-working space, steps away from the area where people work. Third, it allows all the teams to hear each other’s progress, pushing the slower teams along via the peer pressure of falling behind. Fourth, it is a daily opportunity for teams to ask for help from their peers or provide ideas with their peers. Fifth, it allows the Managing Director and Program Manager to keep up to date on the needs of each team, without having to meet them individually.
The format of this meeting is simple. Everyone stands in a circle and within a minute or two, answers the following questions:
- What did you do since the last status meeting?
- What are you planning to do today?
- Is anything blocking your progress?
Progress is obvious as participants who repeat the same plan day after day are noticed. Most participants openly talk about not succeeding at the previous day’s plan, and when that is due to blocking issues, those issues are aired and either discussed immediately, or deferred to after the meeting.
On Monday’s, the status meeting is modified slightly, to cover what was accomplished the previous week, the goal for this coming week, the same question of blockage, plus to announce to the whole group what the participant did over the weekend.
This “weekend update” comes from the Method soap company, and has the wonderful effect of humanizing the participants. These tidbits from people’s lives outside of work let us learn about them as individuals. Plus this one sentence sets a tone of work/life balance, putting peer pressure against those participants who work all weekend, rather than take a break from the intensity of the 10-week program.
The Next Step is taught twice weekly for the first 5-6 weeks of the program. This is scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, the days that do not begin with a status meeting. Thus every day for the first half of the program starts with a structured meeting, forcing the participants to get started early every day.
During most of the week, the teams work through lunch. One day per week (Monday’s in Seattle), the teams are invited to each lunch together. This is an opportunity to go beyond the 1-2 minute updates in the daily status meetings, allowing a few of the companies to share issues for which they desire a group discussion.
Learning: Originally, this event was called “Lead Lunch”, with only the “team leaders” were invited to the Tuesday luncheons, following that format from TechStars. It was quickly determined that conscious companies tend to be far less hierarchical than tech startups, few with a dominant leader. The participants rebelled against the elitism of “Lead Lunch” and suggested it be open to all participants.
Friday afternoons include a 90 minute block of time set aside for an “all hands” meeting. These events are either used as a time to get all the fledglings together to teach an extra lesson, or to help (re)name one of the companies. These events are also used as a time to invite in guests, including potential investors, guest speakers, and vendors who would either be of interest or be of value to most of the fledglings.
Past All-Hands included visitations by local impact investors, by Fledge graduates, well experienced Sales and Marketing executives, and by the local representative from B Labs, explaining B Corporation certification.
Occasionally, on some weeks the teams are busy with work, have no desire for yet-more instruction, and are skipped.
For the last three weeks of the program, the Classroom time is instead devoted to pitch coaching and pitch practice. For the two weeks before Demo Day, these events are daily. All participants are expected to attend all of the pitch coaching, with the participants providing much of the coaching for the other companies. Outside mentors are invited in to provide “fresh eyes” and alternative opinions.Next Chapter »»