Week in Review Leadership Comms

Originally posted Jul 31, 2018

As an Engineering Director at Etsy and VP of Engineering at Kickstarter, I sent a “Week in Review” document every two-ish weeks to my whole team. This doc helped me set records straight, disseminate info to lots of people at once, and open up conversation internally, while reflecting on the themes that had come up in weekly one-on-ones, backchannels, team meetings, etc.

What I chose to write about each time widely varied. Sometimes it was clarification on company messages; other times I was rolling out a new process, making a team announcement, or celebrating a milestone. Often, I was simply trying to state, in one place, my Truth™, so that I didn’t have to try to remember to say the SAME EXACT THING to everyone in my organization individually.

Though the teams who reported to me were the primary audience for this doc, I kept it internally-public, meaning that anyone at the company could read and comment in it. I found that some other managers just weren’t talking about hard things that were happening, or addressing rumors that were going around, or giving heads-ups on changes, and often people on my teams would share my Week in Reviews with people on other teams, so that they could have the info too. I invited comments on the document, and didn’t “resolve” or delete comments I received, because I wanted folks to be able to see the answers to questions out in the open.

This Week in Review doc is aimed at teammates who want to gain more context, are frustrated with something that’s happening at the company, or crave some more predictability (one of humans’ core needs at work!). Since an example might be helpful, I’ll share how often Travel and Entertainment budgets (T&E) came up in my WIR; I was laughing as I glanced through my old doc to write this blog post, because the progression of how I learned more and more about T&E is apparent. I’ll spare you the financial lingo:

And so on. I optimized WIRs to communicate three primary messages:

  1. Here’s the stated company line on this topic.
  2. Here’s some facts about what this means, in practice. (What’s changing, what’s not changing, how this relates to our group, all fact-based)
  3. Here’s my personal take on this thing.

And I underlined them all with the message: here is an invitation to comment/ask questions.

When there wasn’t a relevant party line, I would only focus on #3 (like in the “Why Can’t They Just” Week in Review), but more often than not there were things happening at the company-wide level that were helpful to address in a Week in Review. When that happened, it was super helpful to walk through each of those three messages, because it humanized the hard stuff. I wasn’t just sticking to the party line; I was giving my own take too, and talking about real-world specifics. Of course there were times when I wasn’t 100% on board with the party line, and that’s when take #3 became even more important—it allowed me to inject a little bit of vulnerability and honesty while still trying to do my job as a leader.

I wholeheartedly encourage leaders out there to start their own Week in Review docs. Create one internally-public Google Doc that you update every week, or every other week, by the end of the day on Friday. When you’ve updated it, email your team(s) to let them know, and include a link to the doc and a tl;dr of your update. CC others who might be interested, like peer leaders within your function, or your leadership partners in other functions.

In the doc, date each update, and don’t just drop a few bullet points of topics in there—share your broader context! Reference the themes you’re hearing a lot of in one-on-one meetings that week, and detail what your next steps are when ambiguity remains. Just dump buckets of context and clarity in there, and include an estimated date of when you’ll deliver more context or clarity next.

Try out the format below, and continue to iterate as you learn what people respond to, what questions people have, and where you can best add clarity and certainty for your teams.


Date

Welcome message! Be a human. Remind folks the purpose of this doc, and that you invite questions and comments using the Comment tool.

Here’s what I’ve heard (and talked) a lot about this week:

Topic A

XYZ Project Launched, and in the Company All Hands there were lots of questions about how it relates to Topic A. Here’s what was said in that meeting, if you missed it. Here’s how it affects our teams and what we’re doing next. Here’s what I think, and I’m worried/not worried for these reasons.

Topic B

One thing that’s on my mind especially is Topic B. I personally care about it for these reasons. And I’m hearing in 1:1s that lots of folks have very different opinions on this than I do. I’m open to hearing your comments and concerns - please feel free to add them in the sidebar. Here’s a bunch more context that I have, and here’s where that data comes from.

As always, ping me on Slack (‘username’), write me an email (‘email address’), or come to my office hours (‘time, date, room’) to chat with me more on these topics and more!

<3 Lara

Lara Hogan

I'm an engineering leadership coach and consultant. Previously VP of Engineering at Kickstarter, Engineering Director at Etsy.

I champion engineering management as a practice, getting comfortable giving presentations, and celebrating career achievements with donuts.