How We're Healing Disease and Dysfunction in Our Startup

The too-fast and too-furious pace of launching a startup breeds disease and dysfunction.

Interpersonal problems like, a lack of clarity, un-alignment, fear of conflict, avoidance of accountability, and inattentiveness to results fester like open wounds in these environments.

Teams guru and best-selling author, Patrick Lencioni has written prolifically about organizational health, which aims for relational wholeness among the team. 

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At my rookie startup we never made time for health. We addressed issues when they surfaced or we'd attempt a superficial end-of-year-review that was always a day late and a dollar short. We were constantly putting out fires – now we're teaching fire prevention.

We've chosen health by changing a lot of what we do, but the biggest impact has come from implementing two new meetings: The Weekly Tactical and Monthly Strategic.


1. The Weekly Tactical

The Weekly Tactical meeting is 60 minutes and held Monday afternoon. This weekly meeting reinforces two healthy traits of all world class teams: alignment and clarity.

Alignment means everyone's agreed on where we're going and what we're doing. There are no competing agendas. When you lack alignment it's almost impossible to accomplish your goals. There is too much unhealthy conflict. 

Clarity means everyone is seeing the same thing – there's no ambiguity. Clarity starts at the top and flows down to the rest of the team. Myopia is a killer in startups. The weekly tactical draws your team together and creates the clarity you need to succeed. 

The Weekly tactical meeting also encourages accountability for the week. Writing on a whiteboard what you're going to accomplish and then doing it is crucial. Without weekly goals you miss holding yourselves accountable to results.


2. The Monthly Strategic

The Monthly Strategic meeting is held at the end of each month for 2 or 3 hours. This is when we review the work completed in the past month, set the strategy for next month, and most importantly, give positive and negative feedback on each other's performance. We have a small team of four so this is easy to do. 

This meeting is important because it encourages conflict resolution. By making space every month for each person to give positive and negative feedback your giving your team the opportunity to work 'resentment' free. We ask questions like: If you were me, what would you do differently? Were there any times this month when you became frustrated with me? How am I doing on relational growth? Am I breaking my bad habits and tendencies?

For example, I've been working on punctuality. I have a nasty habit of being late by 5 or 10 minutes. It's a chronic problem and my team members called me on it. I am glad they did. It's part of our culture to always be healthy and growing for good. 

By talking proactively about the negative issues it reduces the need to address them during rest of the month. There are fewer flare ups and it increases our ability to focus on results.

So if you want to remove all the negative behavioral crap that goes on in your startup, I recommend you start making time for organizational health. I often wonder how things would have been different at my first startup. Although it was a success, could it have become more? What opportunities did we miss out on? How much more effective could we have been? I wonder.