Such a great post! Thank you so much for writing it. You asked:

How do you establish and measure your company’s development cadence?

Here’s what we’re currently doing at Medium, where we’re always trying new things and adjusting to make our process better. For context, as of June 2019 we’re a ~150 person startup, with ~60% of us working on roughly a dozen different product teams across mobile, web, email, core services and infra.

One of our operating principles at Medium is “create clarity and focus.” To do that, we’re constantly iterating on the rituals and artifacts we use to help people understand where we’re going, and how their work contributes to our mission and purpose. We also know that some part of what we’re doing today is wrong (or will be wrong tomorrow) and when we learn how it’s wrong we’ll do our best to fix it and make it better. (Another one of our operating principles is “continuous improvement.” Obviously.)

Anyway, here’s our current cadence of rituals, zooming in from how and when we communicate our multi-year vision to the daily standup.

This looks out 2ish years, and talks about where the world is going, where the company is going, and what impact we want to make on the world in the next two years. This is a fairly high level, big picture doc that talks about mission, purpose and the big investments we want to make.

The big themes of these docs may not change half over half, but since we’re learning along the way, we use the every six month cadence to create more clarity and focus around what we want to achieve. This plan informs the investments we’re making as a business. Our most important investment is how Medians spend their time and focus their attention, so this doc drives how we staff teams (we may create new teams and/or adjust team missions and objectives) and what our near term hiring plans need to account for. It also provides high level roadmap guidance around the different problems we believe we need to solve, and the opportunities we should address.

Every quarter we run a “Sprint Zero” which is meant to give the team time and space for planning. During this sprint, teams set their OKRs, which means (a) refining / revising their objectives (I should write a whole post about this), and (b) set their key results that they’ll hold themselves accountable to. We then run an all-day, open door meeting (with a literal open conference room door and a Google Hangout open to the whole company) where each team gets a 30 minute slot to review / discuss their OKRs for the quarter with leadership, and everyone is encouraged (but not required) to attend and ask questions of each other. (I’m admittedly super weird, but this is my favorite day of the quarter.)

After OKRs are set, the teams will plan (brainstorm and prioritize) their epics for the quarter, and the following week we do an all hands “science fair” style afternoon, where teams show off their plans (prioritized epics in their backlog, maybe some fat marker sketches to illustrate some big ideas), and everyone gets to walk around and ask clarifying questions, challenge prioritization and understand dependencies.

We operate on a two-week sprint cadence, so every other Friday we host an open door meeting (similar to OKR day), where teams:

  1. Present where they are against their OKRs (with red / yellow / green scoring)
  2. Talk about what they got done this sprint
  3. Review what they learned this sprint
  4. Give demos
  5. Review what’s at the top of their backlog

This is an opportunity for everyone to understand how teams are doing, talk about any changes in priorities, discuss blockers / dependencies, and celebrate shipping and learning! Also, every two weeks each team does their own backlog grooming, sprint planning and sprint retrospectives.

This is a little bit different than the product review that Megan mentioned in her post (which is more like our sprint review), but this is an opportunity for teams to get feedback from leadership and peers on work in process — from product proposals coupled with fat marker sketches, to high fidelity prototypes or even code behind a variant that’s close to shipping. We block two hours a week for this, teams can request hour-long slots, and the product manager / product owner owns the agenda and the attendee list.

All of our product development teams do standup every day, and even some non-product teams have adopted the ritual as well.

If you read this far, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that we’re hiring. Interested in making Medium (and how we make Medium) better? Come help us do it.

Written by

Labs @ Medium. Avid reader, long time blogger.

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