We decided to publish part of our internal documentation as a series of blog posts. This article is part of this series. It deals with the way we see management at Memo Bank and how we implemented it.
Why Management is important
We are building for the long term; therefore, we see people management as our most important mission. We know that some people have a negative image of management and see it as a counter-productive, useless job. If you think that, there is a good chance that you have never experienced having a great manager.
We believe that a great manager is invaluable for everyone’s career and personal development; however, for it to work well, we need to define exactly what we think management is and create a compatible structure.
Here are some principles we have regarding managers:
- Managers are neither parents nor teachers. They are mentors.
- Team members are neither children nor students. They are adults and professionals.
- Managers are the go-to for technical problems, but another team member can be approached, too.
- Managers are the go-to for personal conflict resolution, but another team member can be approached, too.
- Managers have no privileges over individual contributors (travel policy, bigger offices, etc.).
- Managers are responsible for hiring team members based on 360-feedback.
- Managers are responsible for promoting team members based on 360-feedback.
- Managers are responsible for dismissing team members based on 360-feedback.
- Team Members are consulted in hiring their managers, but the decision belongs to the manager’s manager (see rule 6).
- Managers are responsible for empowering, motivating, and developing their team members (thanks to 1:1s and Progress Reviews).
- Managers are the default spokesperson for their team, but another team member can be.
- Managers are not necessarily the most senior or skilled person in the team. They are the best person to perform the functions mentioned above.
1:1s (Pronounced "1-to-1" or “1-on-1”)
We believe in continuous management; you should not wait to talk to your manager about any work problems. You’ll have a 1:1 every week to discuss anything that might be blocking your work, any problem you have, or even any non-problem you have.
The majority of companies have nothing other than a mandatory "Annual Review." Most of us can remember this awkward moment of trying to painstakingly fill out a standard form once a year with no real help from the manager.
To make the process easier:
- we make it twice a year so that you don’t have a full year to review (more frequently would be too much though).
- we try not to address all topics; we focus on what matters. Since everybody has 1:1s, day-to-day topics should have already been dealt with on a weekly basis.
- we guide the Review because we know that it is not always an easy exercise.
What are Progress Reviews about?
Progress Reviews are about:
- Recognition: taking a moment to look back at the path we have covered for the past six months. It is the moment to take stock of individual contributions to the team, to the projects and to the vision.
- Expectations: setting personal goals and following up on them in the long term.
- Doing reciprocal feedback about the past six months;
- Assessing personal performance relative to the work done (thanks to a peer review);
- Reviewing management standards.
- Conversations: exchanging between the manager and you as a contributor, a conversation aimed at driving performance.
What is the process?
Preparing the Progress Review (2 weeks ahead)
- Create a Google Document using the Progress Review template.
- Fill in the document. All instructions are in the template.
- Share the document with your manager ahead of your meeting. Please give enough time to your manager to read it and prepare the final document on their side.
Peer Review (2 weeks ahead)
We think it is relevant to have feedback from people you work with, not only from your manager. A peer review is a feedback provided by your peers. They recognize your work and your improvement, and they can also give points for improvement.
Two weeks before your progress review meeting, the peer review will automatically be sent to five peers you worked with.
The peer review feedback will be aggregated and anonymized before being shared.
Progress Review and Documentation
- Review and discuss all the points on the Progress Review document and the aggregated and anonymized Peer Review feedback with your manager.
- Your manager will use your input to create a document that you will be asked to sign electronically. You will receive a notification by email and will be able to save a copy for your records.
Managers & Founders Review
Just as all Individual Contributors, Managers also have a peer review system. Two weeks ahead of the manager’s progress review, the Human Resources team will send a Manager Review to their reports. Individual Contributors have one week to answer. The manager’s manager reviews the results and will discuss it with the manager during their progress review taking care to highlight the relevant areas of improvement.
To provide efficient feedback, the manager’s manager may need some further information on the rationale behind the review responses. The following process will be followed:
- The manager’s manager asks a team member from Human Resources to request interviews with the team members who took part in the review;
- The team member from Human Resources has 1:1 discussions with those who agree to elaborate;
- The team member from Human Resources debriefs the manager’s manager while respecting the anonymity of those providing the additional information;
- The manager’s manager discusses this expanded feedback with the manager.
After their progress review, the manager shall, in the format of their choice (1:1, team meeting, minutes, etc.), communicate about the review with their team.
As founders are also managers, they also have a manager review. As they do not have a manager, the process is a bit different:
- Every six months, founders’ reports will receive a manager review.
- For each founder, another founder (named the second founder) will play the manager’s manager role, but in the following way. If necessary, the second founder may have a 1:1 discussion with one or multiple individual contributors reporting to the first founder (and in any case, only with the agreement of the individual contributors involved). The second founder will consolidate the feedback and report to the first founder actions he deems relevant to be taken.
- If the first founder disagrees on one or more of the recommended actions, he will discuss it with the reports involved.
For this system to work, anonymity is strictly respected. No one will know who answered what. Individual Contributors are always free to choose whether they want to review their manager or start a discussion about their concerns.