Scaling a business is incredible in so many ways. It is also extremely hard and intense for all those involved. Since I joined Gusto in 2015, everything has grown by 10x or more — our customers, employees, and people. This also means more people in different roles and sometimes different layers in the organization, more information. And these mantras exist in tech: “move fast,” “transparency,” “the only bad decision is indecision.” But it’s hard to do all of that while you’re experiencing extreme growth rates on all dimensions.
In many moons of experience in non-profit, big tech, and now as COO of
, there is a common thread amongst successful teams:
a consistent set of best practices that codifies how the work gets done
. Without that alignment, teams are subject to a myriad of frustrations — misinformation, games of telephone, missed deadlines, unproductive cycles, etc.
At Gusto, as part of our Insights & Operations team, we transformed these best practices into a toolkit to accelerate the work of the work. We call it “(GusTo)ols.”
We’ve found getting the operational basics right is a critical (yet often overlooked) step to building, managing and scaling a high performing organization. GusTools is used as an internal blueprint for how we make decisions, execute great work, and communicate effectively.
In recent weeks, we’ve come to rely on these tools more than ever to quickly activate remote teams in response to COVID-19. In a world of constant, unpredictable change, these tools have helped our teams cut through the noise to work smarter and deliver with high standards on both speed and quality.
To help you and your teams do the same, we took Gusto’s best practices and packaged them here to share with the broader community. Enclosed is just a teaser of the tools we use everyday and in every way to get the job done. We hope you use these templates as a starting point to right size the right solution for you and your team.
Before you dig in, let’s first walk through our “soup to nuts” internal roadmap for how and when you might use these tools.
1. Start Things Right: Scoping a New Project
Before diving in, the first step (and sometimes the hardest) is to simply identify the problem you’re trying to solve. To do this, we suggest conducting an
Initial Assessment of the Problem or Opportunity
to scope your potential project. This part includes researching available information, reviewing lessons learned from previous/related initiatives, talking to relevant stakeholders, and identifying high-level risks and constraints.
The goal is to understand what success looks like and how important it is relative to other team/company priorities.
2. Getting into a Groove: Building a Plan
After greenlighting the idea (we use a decision-making framework similar to
), it’s time to crystallize the project scope and resources. You should be able to answer the question “How difficult will this be to pull off and how long will it take?”
We use this
to summarize the project requirements, key outcomes, constraints/risks, and high-level plan. This is a critical step in streamlining your efforts and making sure the right people are involved from the get-go. We’ve found this
doc is helpful when you need to unblock resource constraints and align expectations with key partners on their role and deliverables.
Lastly, set up the
based on your agreed upon deliverables, milestones, scope, and resources. Consider what audits, checkpoints, and controls you will have in place throughout the project to ensure that you’re aiming higher.
3. Stick the Landing: Executing
Now it’s time to manage the execution of the plans you’ve just developed. We recommend a kickoff meeting at the start of a new project with all relevant stakeholders. Provide space for stakeholders to highlight potential gaps or risks. Set norms for how the team will work together (e.g. comms plan, meeting cadence, decision-making process).
You have four goals during this time:
Keep the trains running with high standards for both speed and quality.
to consistently check-in with each team to truly understand if they’re on track or at risk.
Communicate clearly and proactively.
Manage the flow of information across stakeholders with the
and within your team using the
Identify headwinds and capitalize on opportunities
. Keep an eye out for all the “known unknowns” and move quickly when you see potential white space. Use the
doc to unlock quick decision-making with stakeholders and sponsors.
4. Wrapping It All Up
Collect and share lessons learned throughout your project; facilitate a
(otherwise known as
but that sounds really bleak) to uncover any root causes of project disturbances. Sometimes we will send out an anonymous survey to attendees beforehand to help anchor the conversation. Afterwards, summarize key takeaways and opportunities and share out with stakeholders.
We hope this serves as a useful launching pad to help you work smarter as you are building, managing, and scaling a high performing organization.
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