Reid and I also touched on the necessity of over-communication in a distributed company.
Reid: [The Sunday email is] an example of how you can create rituals that reinforce company culture and identity as you scale. Shishir: Historical context is lost very quickly, and you just presume we've been there for a long time. Everybody must know all these different things, and then the n-plus-first person that comes into the company has no idea about all those things. And I think it's a good example of a thing you should probably be doing even if you're not distributed, but if you are distributed, there's extra reason to do it. I invest a lot of energy in designing communication systems and rituals at Codaーyou can read more about them . One example I gave in the episode is the Sunday email:
Every Sunday night, I write an email to the entire company. It’s a company ritual meant to build culture and identity, and it’s also a bit of a personal ritual. I started this practice back at YouTube, and found it to be a great way to reflect on the focus areas of each time, and a good place to offer big-picture guidance, and recognize good work.
You’ll find my template for these emails below. A few notes:
Written in the first person: Each email is a summary of how I feel about what happened the previous week and what I think is happening the next week. Since the email is in my own words, I fill it with my personal take on things. "This thing happened, and I thought this was great, and I really want to celebrate it. This thing didn't." Or re-contextualization of things. "Hey, we just had this major event happen. Here's what you should take away from it." Drafts in a doc: I like to draft in a doc through the week and send at ~9am on Monday. The note is actually written throughout the week as I’ll note down ideas and observations as the week goes on. I keep it shared with my directs so they can add thoughts and commentary as well, and nudge me to emphasize things I may have missed. Make your company story an open book. Documenting your company journey is always a valuable exercise. Just as important, I think, is telling that story to everyone in the companyーand updating it in real-time. This weekly mail becomes a standing record ー every email you send is another chapter published. And because all employees can read every chapter, no matter their start date, they know their work is being woven into the greater narrative. Provide waypoints for keeping up across the company: In fast moving companies, it can be hard to stay on top of things as the flurry of docs, meetings, emails, and Slack messages pile up. So I’ll make a point to link to key artifacts in these emails. For example, one helpful set is to include a list of Zoom recordings for key meetings. Employees regularly tell me that it serves as the “must catch up summary” to stay on top of what’s happening. You can pass the mic. Occasionally, I ask members of my staff write the email instead; I encourage them to include details about their lives and weekends like I usually do, so the company can get to know them better. I think it’s also great for the company to see our collective work told from multiple perspectivesーfrom an Engineering perspective, a GTM perspective, etc.
My email template
Here’s my actual template for drafting Sunday emails.
To: <all Coda employees>
Subject: Weekly Mail - [update date to latest]
Hi all -
<key updates from this the previous week>
<notable milestones and activities for this week>
<include welcome notes for new Codans starting this week>
P.S. Zoom recordings from last week: [add zoom links from ]
An example email
Here’s a (lightly redacted) example back from February, written a few days after recording this podcast.
To: <all Coda employees>
Hi everyone - hope you all had a great weekend!
On a personal note to start, my daughters' Lego robotics team competed in the regional championship in Sacramento this weekend. A few of you have been following along and know how hard they have been working on it, so I'm excited to report back that they won! They qualified for the World Championships in April and are really excited. Here's a video of . This was a great endcap to an already strong week. As we saw at , each team made great progress. The bizplat team is quickly opening up our addressable market with building out a 1st party email/password solution (complete with recaptcha and 2-factor auth) while also launching self-service downgrade, working towards tri-state editor→maker transitions, and multi-tab. The SSS team is quickly scaling up processes to address our growing conversation load and incoming leads, as well as building out a more branded community experience, while launching a great YOTM email. The DocX team took the week primarily on bug fixes (knocking the count from 178 to 91) while also making progress on some of the publishing related features (folding and word count). The LED and SPMB teams are largely focused on the upcoming publishing launch ー and got another round of maker docs out: , , , and . The People and Ops team welcomed our newest designer (welcome again Jessica!) as well as stacking up a great set of interviews for this week. And I did a pre-recording with Reid for Masters of Scale which was a fun way to tell a lot of great Coda stories.
As you might have seen, we decided to push the phase 1 publishing launch from this Thursday (2/20) to the following Monday (2/24), mostly to give some breathing room on getting the maker docs into the right shape. This may also be a good moment to remind everyone a bit on why I see this set of publishing launches as so important. When we started this journey, we identified a few different needs ー giving makers a new tool to publish their docs as websites, giving users a much broader set of examples and templates to draw inspiration from, and a practical need for our own team to be able to publish more quickly. Our hope is that this enables a “blue loop” flywheel to start much like I saw at YouTube ー makers can be encouraged to publish by seeing others publish. We’ll launch this in phases with the first step being the core mechanic (publish doc as website) and the next step being the gallery (see everyone’s published work). Very excited to see what the community does with it next week!
P.S. Zoom recordings from last week: , Catalyst (, ), , ,