WorkBoard at Salesroads
Increased urgency for OKRs and faster problem solving
We sat down with David Kreiger, CEO of SalesRoads, to talk about how he’s using OKRs to cut down confusion and eliminate roadblocks for his completely remote company. David talks about how OKRs have helped his autonomous teams stay aligned, avoid the meeting trap, and drive results for SalesRoads.
WorkBoard: Why is alignment important to you as the organization leader?
David Kreiger, CEO of SalesRoads: It’s the difference between making progress as a company and either treading water or even moving backward. Alignment is the engine that propels an organization to greatness — or mediocrity.
For the first several years of running SalesRoads, a lot of things were just revolving around me. And the only way I got alignment was by doing it myself. That’s not a very sustainable or growth-oriented strategy. As the company grew and I hired more people, it became clear that we didn’t have processes or systems to attain real alignment.
As I saw what was happening to us as an organization, I started realizing that I needed ways to make sure that my team was moving down the track in the same direction. With WorkBoard, we’ve started to see the alignment magic happen. We’re now able to create a vision as to where we want to go, create goals and projects to support that vision, and then row in the same direction to make things happen for our organization and employees, as well as our clients.
How do you, as a leader, use WorkBoard?
Among other things, I use WorkBoard as a note to self. It keeps me organized, and it’s also a note to everyone else on the team. I encourage everyone to think in WorkBoard — for instance, getting into the discipline of having the things you want to discuss in WorkBoard during one-on-ones or meetings means we’ll remember next week what we talked about today, and what we agreed would get done and when.
We try to close every single meeting, whether it’s a team meeting or a one-on-one, by reviewing the things we agreed on getting done — and all of those things are in WorkBoard. Or, in our next one-on-one, we can just click on the one-on-one from the last week and remind ourselves of the things we committed to and see what actually got done.
What we’ve achieved by having this process and rhythm in place is night and day compared to where we were four or five years ago without WorkBoard.
One aspect of WorkBoard features that is so amazing for us is that we can put agendas in a meeting and add some of the tasks from our rocks. So, if somebody wants to talk about one aspect of that rock, we just put it in there with a click of the button, and we know it’s on that agenda. We don’t have to think about it — it’s in there, and we can put notes against it or even solve it and check it off. That’s amazing for alignment and for meeting rhythms because we’ve all been in meetings where you talk about certain things you’re going to get done, but you forget to write it down. But if you run your meetings in WorkBoard, there’s no chance of that happening. That’s been key both for our alignment and for making sure we’re marching toward completion of a given rock over the course of the quarter.
What does your alignment practice look like now? How do you drive the motion around iterating on strategic priorities and getting everybody aligned on them?
We have a pretty disciplined approach to setting a strategy over the course of the year and then executing and iterating on that strategy. We spend two days at the end of the year as an executive team thinking through our strategy, looking at what we did over the past year and where we want to go, and then identifying the key things that we need to get done over the next 12 months.
Those two days are spent figuring out which projects are going to have the most impact and what part of them we can get done in the first quarter. Then we meet weekly as an executive team to review the progress of those projects [through the WorkBoard Executive Biz Review SalesRoads created] — how we’re going to achieve success by the end of the quarter and what those outcomes will be. We’ll do another half-day meeting every month and a full-day meeting once a quarter, where we go over what we achieved and how many of the projects actually got done.
Our company would not be what it is today without those advancements, WorkBoard being one of them.
Tell us a little bit about how you’ve matured your rhythm around accountability and working asynchronously as a distributed organization.
These processes I mentioned are even more important in a distributed environment because you’re not running into people walking down the hall and getting status updates on a project. So you have to create a cadence for communication to make sure that everybody is rowing in the same direction, and everybody keeps abreast of what’s going on because that information isn’t going to be disseminated unless you create a standard communication rhythm.
Even if you’re in a centralized environment, there is a case to be made for having a rigorous process in which you discuss the projects that you’re going after and remove roadblocks to move those projects forward. And the best process I’ve seen is having this type of rhythm and a software platform that helps codify what you’re doing and communicate that asynchronously.
Before I created all these different processes around meeting rhythms, I set yearly goals that I thought that SalesRoads should achieve over the course of 12 months. And, more often than not, those projects and big goals weren’t achieved. I found we need to meet at least weekly to talk about projects, go over issues, and solve the places where we’re stuck to keep alignment fresh and make sure we’re continually marching toward that goal together and motivated to hit it. And the amount that we’ve achieved by having this process and rhythm in place is night and day compared to where we were four or five years ago without WorkBoard.
As many organizations are finding, creating alignment and collaborating remotely isn’t always easy. How did you address that challenge?
When the company was founded in 2007, the communication tools at our disposal were not nearly as sophisticated as they are today (for example, text messages still cost 25c each), so asynchronous coordination was an immediate hurdle. Not only verifying that work was being done, but that we were driving at results in a coordinated fashion that didn’t create bottlenecks.
Our company would not be what it is today without those advancements, WorkBoard being one of them.
At the end of the day, our workstreams [in WorkBoard] become a windowpane for transparency, which might be another way of saying trust and accountability.
Tell us a little bit about how you think about trust and culture and what you’ve learned as a distributed organization in particular.
This is something I’ve been speaking about a lot recently. It comes down to building a culture of trust and accountability, and you can’t have one without the other. In many ways, trust and accountability are unspoken core values that WorkBoard helps us maintain. I say unspoken because they’re woven into the fabric of our company and are values I strive to embody daily.
When I first started SalesRoads 13 years ago as a totally remote company, a lot of people would ask me how I’d know if people were getting work done. My thought was and is that if people’s key milestones and key metrics are very clear — which I think is the essence of good management — location shouldn’t matter. If anything, location can be a hindrance because it sometimes gets in the way of hiring the best people.
As a leader, you need to trust that your employees are doing the work they say. You can’t visually verify their working hours, but you can hold them accountable for the results they deliver, and that’s where OKRs really come into play — by making sure upfront that everyone on the team understands what the objective is, why it’s important, and what part of the process they own, you cut down on confusion and eliminate bottlenecks.
As long as you create the right type of milestones to manage people and keep them accountable and use the tools at your disposal, location shouldn’t matter at all. That’s the stance I’ve taken with SalesRoads. I’ve encouraged leaders who are transitioning people from an office to a remote setting to resist the urge to micromanage and check-in to make sure people are working. At the same time, I encourage those leaders to make sure everyone’s on the same page with what the goals are and what needs to be achieved over the month or this quarter.
And then support them in trying to achieve those goals. By the end of that period of time, whether it’s a month, period, or quarter, you’ll know whether they were working or not because they either will or won’t have achieved their goals. At the end of the day, our workstreams [in WorkBoard] become a windowpane for transparency, which might be another way of saying trust and accountability.
It’s amazing because you can see the difference in results when something is on the agenda versus when it isn’t.
How else do you use WorkBoard to accelerate results at the organization level?
Another way we leverage WorkBoard to accelerate results at the organizational level is for our meetings, which we also put into the platform. This allows team members to put important topics on the agenda prior to the meeting, which in turn allows us to make better strategic decisions on how to spend our time together. It’s amazing because you can see the difference in results when something is on the agenda versus when it isn’t — when it’s on the agenda, people come prepared to talk about it and bring supporting materials, and as a result, we accomplish more in the meeting and come out of it with a clear direction.
Like many organizations, we have rapidly shifting strategic priorities, and as a result, we are working in shorter windows of time to match those priorities. These shorter windows have actually created more urgency for OKRs and organizational transparency. Especially in a remote environment, you can only have so many meetings in a week, so knowing what stage each project is in, where we are behind, and who might need more help is increasingly critical intel.
What advice would you give to other leaders with distributed teams who are looking to drive results?
My first piece of advice would be to hyper-focus your attention. We don’t know what the business climate will look like in 6 months, so what can you do to accelerate results this month?
Secondly, you need to recognize that your communication rhythms are going to be different when working remotely. It’s more important than ever that your team understands what they are accountable for and why their role is important. They need to be able to execute their jobs without the benefit of stopping by your office to ask questions. That just requires a higher level of advanced planning.
Ultimately, both of these pieces of advice can be executed using WorkBoard.