Focus on priorities and make ambitions practical.

By Neil Cooper

How might we focus on what’s most important during this pandemic?
How might we find opportunities with the spectre of recession?
How might we ensure the business emerges stronger?

These are a snapshot of the questions we asked ourselves in early March. We knew there would be unprecedented disruption to the global economy, we knew we would have to adapt to a new way of working and collaborating as a team. 

Fortunately, we have a tight knit core team and a globally distributed network whom we collaborate with on all our innovation engagements. We were well set up to respond to the new practical considerations of remote working under lockdown. 

However, much of our work requires collaboration; face-to-face communication has been an important and enjoyable part of the way we work. We needed to find a way to help every member of our team know the business priorities and be able to make a meaningful contribution towards our collective progress. 

Focusing on our priorities.

“We don’t know the answer but we do know how to get you there.”

This is our mantra at Sense Worldwide. It is loosely founded on the principles of lean working; on testing, learning, iterating. But this approach does need direction. We have 4 core areas, or pillars’, to our business and we have a stated ambition for what we will achieve in each area. For example, the ambition for our Culture and Team pillar is:

“How might we create a culture with balance? One where we enjoy what we do, grow professionally and do the best work of our lives?”

The other three pillars of our business are: The Sense Network; Workflows & Craft Skills; Acquisition & Retention.

Having a lofty ambition is a great way to inject energy and a sense of common purpose into the team. It’s even better that these are shared ambitions, developed collectively in our off-site last November. It means everyone is vested in the direction the business is headed. The challenge is how you operationalise these ambitions and how you make consistent meaningful progress.

Making our ambitions practical.

In addition to our pillars, we have created 15 internal projects; each designed as an essential building block of our business ambitions. It is to these internal projects that we turned our attention when lockdown struck and the prospects for building our business pipeline began to look more challenging. We would prioritise new business pitches but we knew we must look after our own initiatives if we were to emerge from this period stronger.

With this renewed focus on our internal projects we needed to create some light touch process to make it all work smoothly. Process that would bind this newly distributed team, and the work every one of us is doing each day, to our longer term ambitions and goals. This became the start of our weekly Ship and Scale meetings.

Ship and Scale at Sense Worldwide.

The idea was simple. Two meetings to bookend the week; one to share priorities, one to share progress. On Mondays we have an all-hands meeting to share the tasks and activities we want to prioritise for that week. The team shares their priorities and explains how they will contribute to tangible progress towards our longer-term goals and ambitions. One person updates the rest of the team on the overall progress we have made towards the ambition for each Pillar. This gives us our reference point.

The questions we then each answer are:

  • What will we do?
    Our top 3-5 priorities for the week.
  • Why will we do it?
    e.g. Internal project, Key Pillar, Key Metric.
  • How (well) will we do it?
    What does success look like?

On Fridays we all reconvene to review the progress we have made. We each respond to the questions:

  • What tasks did we complete?
  • Did we achieve what we intended?
  • What will we do next?

These meetings have galvanized our team with common purpose. They give us all a clear sense of what’s important to the business, what we should focus on and how our work contributes to our collective progress. All incredibly important for any team that can no longer maintain those intangible bonds formed through working together in person.

So far this new way of working has helped us get a lot of good stuff done …

  • We hosted our first webinar.
  • We have hosted two virtual meetups.
  • We have welcomed and onboarded a new Head of Marketing.
  • We united creative talent to respond to the UN’s Covid-19 challenge.
  • We have pitched for 5 new projects (yes, some clients are still doing business!)
  • We pivoted from an in-person workshop to deliver an innovation pipeline over 3 remote innovation sprints.

As an innovation business we help our clients to innovate everyday. We knew we had to do this for ourselves if we were to set ourselves up for future success. If you’re a business trying to find opportunities to secure your future we would love to help.

Contact Anthony today to set up a call: 


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