Imagine this scenario:
It’s Monday morning and you’re a leader at a scaling startup. Whether you’re the Head of Growth, Head of Product, Head of Analytics, or the leader of another function, the start of your week generally looks a little something like this ⬇️.
You just had a wild Sunday night – you spent six hours manually downloading CSVs from your CRM, your production database, and Google Analytics. You then uploaded them into a rickety, v-lookup-filled spreadsheet while praying none of the formulas would break.
Exhausted and almost ready to give up, you hung in there for another half hour to write up your commentary on the progress towards your key initiatives. You feel mildly confident about this (at best).
You woke up at 6 a.m. today, hoping to get a fresh start to the week with a nice yoga or gym session. Instead, you’re immediately drawn into a storm of Slack messages from your counterparts on the Sales and Marketing teams. Surprise surprise, everyone has reached different conclusions about the data outputs relating to the state of the funnel and last month's cohort retention metrics. Your colleagues also have wholly different interpretations about root causes and why those metrics are the way they are (or why they are the way they say they are).
This back and forth between three department heads soon requires help from the data team. Soon enough the dialogue has devolved into a 200-line epistemological Slack debate on the definition of sales qualified leads.
It’s now 9:30 a.m.
Your face looks something like this 🤔 and your brain feels a bit like this 🤯.
It’s t-minus 30 minutes until this group of executives goes into the conference room for your Weekly Business Review.
Everyone on this monstrosity of a Slack thread knows where this meeting is headed because they’ve lived through this scenario the past three weeks in a row.
So, you all head to the Weekly Business Review, knowing that it’s probably going to turn into a 90-minute screaming match between various business teams, the data team, and the executive team. This will inevitably result in:
- At least five follow-up meetings on topics that should have been addressed prior to or during the meeting
- A demotivated data team
- Reduced trust and increasing frustration among all business stakeholders
But, perhaps most importantly, this high-stress approach makes it very difficult for the right stakeholders to make the right decisions using the right data. A failed WBR process results in decisions that are either:
- A.) Made entirely based on the CEO’s gut instincts, which creates unnecessary risk that could easily lead to bad (and potentially fatal) business outcomes
- B.) Kicked down the road, which stalls progress (and can be equally fatal)
Collectively, this can lead to a vicious cycle of numbers that can’t be trusted ↔ wasted time ↔ bad decisions.
There is… a better way.
Weekly business reviews shouldn’t be a nightmare
A Weekly Business Review should empower the exact opposite of the scenario nightmare I described above. Instead, it should:
- Accelerate sound decision-making
- Hasten the pace of execution across the entire organization
- Build trust and accountability between teams and among executives
- Reduce wasted time spent in meetings and manually updating metrics
- Empower developing leaders to level-up
From the scars of my past/lessons I’ve learned, here is an 8-step process to launch and execute a highly effective Weekly Business Review (WBR).
Quick caveat: I don’t recommend embarking fully embarking upon this journey and making this investment unless your company:
- Has reached product-market fit. Ultimately, a WBR is for optimizing the business equation… not for innovating and testing new ideas from the get-go.
- Has multiple teams and/or organizations (with potentially competing demands for resources). Typically, this happens around Series A or B for most companies (or right around 50 - 125 full-time employees).
That said, you can still apply much of what’s included here to companies of all sizes. If you want to track progress on important goals and hold teams accountable, you’ll almost certainly find value in what I’m about to share.
Let’s dig in!
What is a weekly business review?
A WBR is a weekly meeting between a company’s executive team and directly responsible individuals (DRIs) who are responsible for the company’s most critical goals. The meeting’s primary purpose is to illuminate and accelerate progress toward those goals.
When executed properly it should be a frank, but friendly, discussion that sucks all the bullshit out of the room and motivates amplified performance.
Mark Williamson, COO of MasterClass, said it best: “Our jobs are to do diagnostics. We're truth seekers, rather than coming in with an agenda.”
How much does it cost a company to run a weekly business review?
For a Series B company with around 100 employees and an 8-person executive team, you can expect to invest $100k+ per week in hard and soft costs to launch and consistently execute a highly impactful weekly business review.
The exact costs will of course vary from one company to the next, but here’s some rough “napkin math” that demonstrates how much a WBR costs:
1 Assumes 15 WBR participants (8 executives + 5 DRIs + EA + 1 Data Lead) @ 6 hrs (prep + meeting time + follow ups / communicate out); 2-3 direct reports per executive (20 FTEs) @ 8 hours (2 hours prep + 6 hours follow up and communicate out) + all ~65 other employees @ 1 hour (reviewing WBR output).
2 Approximate fully loaded weighted average cost of the above team members’ time.
3 You should treat every $1 you spend now as being worth 4x (or at least whatever your intended annual growth rate is). If your company is later stage you may have a lower growth hurdle BUT the WBR meeting cost (in terms of attendees and complexity) typically increases proportionately.
This is real money on the line. Here’s how to maximize your probability of success and the ROI of every dollar you invest in your WBR:
A proven 8-step process for a winning weekly business review
If you want to get the most for your money, reduce WBR-related stress, and empower your teams to level up and crush their goals, this is the 8-step weekly business review process that I recommend:
- Pick your “Showrunner”
- State your goals
- Wrangle the data
- Set the pace, trust the process
- Set up ✨ The Doc ✨
- Train the players
- It’s showtime! Let’s run the weekly business review
- Implement WBR best practices across the entire company
Let’s take a more detailed look at each of the steps:
Step #1: Pick the “Showrunner” for your weekly business review
For a weekly business review to work, and for it to justify the $100k+ you will invest each week, you need to pick a single person who will have accountability for the entire process (aka the “Showrunner” in Hollywood parlance).
This person should be entrusted with enough power to make the right things happen, without (necessarily) needing line authority over anyone in the room.
Typically, the most successful showrunners of a WBR are:
⭐Great at influencing colleagues and leading without authority. They don’t need a person or team to report to them to motivate action.
🌱 Detail-oriented… but not stuck in the weeds. They’re also adept at pulling others in a group out of the weeds when needed.
💬 A good mix of strong quantitative ability and communication skills (both written and verbal). The ability to crack a well-timed joke can come in handy, too.
️ Sufficiently disagreeable, but also sufficiently nice. Your Showrunner should be able to maintain utter skepticism of someone’s claim while earnestly and respectfully hearing it out.
🧠 Skilled at holding the entire business equation in their head (usually someone with a cross-functional purview).
Generally (there are always exceptions), people in these positions are great candidates for your Showrunner:
- COO / Head of Operations / GM
- CFO / Head of Strategic Finance
- Head of Bizops
- Chief of Staff (if experienced enough and a direct report to the CEO)
- Head of Product (I recommend trying to avoid having the Head of Product be your WBR Showrunner, but they might also be the best cross-functional executive that fits the above criteria at a particular stage of the company.)
- Head of Growth (Similar to Product, try to avoid having the Head of Growth run the WBR show, but if they fit the bill the best, go for it.)
On the flip side, there are also people who generally shouldn’t act as the weekly business review Showrunner:
- CEO. Never. Ever. Ever. This will lead to the CEO unnecessarily wading into weeds they shouldn’t be in and all decisions flowing through them, which is the exact opposite point of a WBR.
- Line Executives such as CRO / Head of Sales, CMO / Head of Marketing, Head of CX / Support, CTO / VP of Engineering, or the CPO / VP of Product (if you can avoid it). There are many reasons for this, including span of focus, biases (towards their own compensation outcomes in some cases), and avoiding distractions that aren’t the best use of these individuals’ time.
- Head of Data / VP of Analytics. They will play a critical ownership role in the process, but bifurcating the accountability of data and operations is recommended in this specific instance.
No matter who you pick to be the Showrunner, this person should be accountable for every aspect of the process we are about to walk through.
At the same time, they also need enough authority to be able to delegate the vast majority of the work that will be required to execute a well-run weekly business review. Preparing for and running the WBR should consume no more than approximately 10 - 15% of the Showrunner’s weekly workload. This is not their day job.
Step #2: Determine your company-wide North Star goals
Without wading into the perpetual debate on whether OKRs improve or limit output, it’s important (and a bit obvious when you say it out loud) to establish measurable goals for your company to run an effective WBR.
The main point of this meeting is to accelerate progress toward those goals.
The North Star goals that tie into a WBR might be decided in a quarterly or semi-annual goal-setting process. However you land on them, these should be able to be subdivided down into:
- Monthly targets for the goals and subgoals
- Weekly targets or leading indicators toward targets
- Quantitative (or at least logical) measurements that speak to pacing and progress toward each target
Individual owners should also be assigned at both the goal and subgoal levels.
Again, these goals might be output-related (e.g., ARR or new enterprise logos signed) or input-related (e.g. launch five markets, increase direct mail penetration to 80% of qualified households). The main point here is that you can measure them and break them into smaller component parts or milestones.
Narrowing the scope here is critical. Not every team and/or function with a goal for the quarter should be included. (We’ll talk more about managing the invite list shortly.) In the interest of time efficiency, only goals and DRIs with a significant impact on product/service quality, financial efficiency, or growth should be in the scope of the meeting.
Here’s a good test you can use: Would you include this goal and set of related subgoals in the main section (not the Appendix) of your Board Deck? If not, it's probably something better covered in individual team meetings.
For example, you might report and discuss progress toward a goal at the weekly business review for monthly engineering hiring (a critical input to product quality and growth), but you likely wouldn’t report on progress toward the goal for implementation of a new HRIS software (no offense to our friends at Rippling).
Less is more here. If you can narrow down the focus of the meeting to the 2 - 4 most important goals and their associated metrics, you’ll see a dramatic improvement in focus and effectiveness.
Step #3: Wrangle the data you’ll need for the weekly business review
In this step, your Data team (whether that’s a single mighty Analytics Engineer or a VP of Data) and business stakeholders (especially the Showrunner) must be in lockstep alignment.
Sadly, this is where most teams fail.
The telltale sign that your WBR data is not ready for prime time: one (or more) leaders show up to the WBR with different data for the same metric, kicking off the vicious Spiderman meme cycle I shared above.
This is bad for the credibility of everyone involved, and you might as well be lighting your weekly $100k+ weekly business review investment on fire…
“Why does this happen?!” is a question that deserves a deep dive of its own, but these are the most common data-related reasons WBRs fail:
1. The Spaghetti Stack Problem (Pre-Data Stack Investment): This happens when your analytics and reporting needs outgrow the built-in reporting functionality of your SaaS applications. It’s the default state prior to investing in a modern data stack.
In this scenario, every team pulls data from disparate systems and SaaS tools and there is no centralized data architecture nor documented, accessible metrics definitions. This leads to siloed data that can’t be accessed, analyzed, and used to advance the business.
Oftentimes, end-users need to download multiple CSV files and combine everything into a single v-lookup-filled spreadsheet. This is a complete pain for anyone who needs to work with data. It’s time-consuming. It dramatically increases the chance of manual errors. But, even worse, the data can’t be trusted. Do you know where the most recent version is? Is data latency high? Has the data been vetted for accuracy and liability? No one knows!
There’s another major downside to this siloed situation: It’s not scalable and it’s not repeatable. Your technology and processes can’t grow as the company’s data volume, analyses, and other data-related complexities increase. Plus, you have to do everything all over again next week (and every week from now until the end of time).
Many of these problems can be mitigated with a modern data stack, but that doesn’t mean new problems won’t materialize.
2. The New Dog, Old Tricks Problem (Post-Data Stack Investment): You invest in a modern data stack to centralize your data and metrics. But, business teams still don’t trust warehouse data so they pull data directly from source systems instead (e.g., the production database, your CRM, Google Analytics) and report their own metrics.
This basically reverts you back to the Spaghetti Stack problem described above… which is probably not what you (or the data team) had in mind when you deployed all of the powerful tooling in your data stack.
Often, this is an issue with people and processes. However, some of the tools in today’s modern data stack certainly exacerbate the issue. Legacy BI tools are the biggest offender here. "Drag and drop" BI tools make it easy to build dashboards, but even easier to make mistakes. Black box syndrome, or a lack of visibility into the underlying data and calculations, makes it very difficult for people to check their work.
Unfortunately, BI tools and the dashboards they generate are also the medium by which many business and data teams collaborate. Why do I say “unfortunately”? Well, let’s face it – dashboards and visualizations don’t really fit into the preferred workflows of most business end-users. They’d much rather interact with data in a spreadsheet or other operating document.
Presenting data is often difficult in this scenario, too. A common mistake I see in weekly business reviews: people present dashboards that they didn’t create themselves. When someone shares a screen with a bar chart and seven pie charts, you’ll get the inevitable “What am I looking at here?” questions. From there, the explanations generally lead to more questions than answers. Extracting data and putting it in a more presentable medium isn’t what BI tools were built for, so it's often a manual or messy process.
You can avoid this problem with a more integrated process and tooling infrastructure where definitions, queries, metrics, and final mile data-powered assets like WBR docs (as I will describe below) are all collaborative, monitorable, and connected to day-to-day workflows for both the data team and business end-users.
3. The Leeroy Jenkins Problem (Post-Data Stack Investment): A business team “goes Leeroy Jenkins” with a data set that has become stale. This could look like downloading a data set from a data team-approved view and then performing and maintaining their own transformations and “shadow” business logic in GSheets or elsewhere. The result is a second “source of truth” that corrupts the final output when it’s joined to other clean warehouse data.
The data team has no visibility into how and where these “beyond the wall” transformations and analyses are happening, so there’s no way they can monitor or control for quality. A team member jumps into the WBR arena with their own home brew of data and without the full team at their back. Disaster ensues.
You’d be surprised how many Board decks get shipped with incorrect data and therefore incorrect conclusions because of this.
4. The Air Traffic Control Problem (Pre- or Post-Data Stack Investment): To run a high-ROI WBR each week you must aggregate, cross-reference, and analyze multiple datasets at once. Without the right tooling and infrastructure, this is like trying to land multiple jets at the same time on the same aircraft carrier (negative, Ghostrider, the pattern is full).
Coordinating all of the syncs that need to happen here to make sure the right data is coming from the right place at the right time often leads to different time lags and cutoff periods. This makes running the WBR in a collaborative tool (strongly recommended) like Google Sheets/Docs, Notion, or Coda especially difficult.
The solution? Invest in a modern data stack and hire a great analytics engineer. Then, use a tool like AirOps to sync trusted data sets into The Doc from the same source at the same time.
The result? Enhanced data visibility for both the data team and business teams, increased organizational-wide trust in data, improved data adoption, and far fewer data-related headaches.
Additional best practices that you can use to wrangle your data in advance of the weekly business review include:
- Set a specific time for metrics cutoff, such as 11:59 p.m. ET on Saturday or Sunday when the business week ends. Set your business definitions and import sync timing accordingly.
- Create a single live master data source file to power “The Doc” (described in detail below). This document will be auditable by both the data and business teams who contribute to the weekly business review.
- Normalize your “7-day business week” across teams, tools, and time zones. Having customer success run on a Sunday to Saturday business week, while sales runs on a Monday to Sunday business week, is a recipe for disaster. From a reporting perspective, every week should start and end at the exact same time for all teams. There are some caveats and exceptions for certain businesses, like large enterprises operating with multiple global business units, but this isn’t something that a scaling startup should typically be worried about.
Reaching nirvana here looks like this: The right data automatically populates into The Doc at the right time on Monday morning.
This way, business teams only need to write insight-additive commentary and focus on diving into and solving the business problems that are illuminated by the data.
Step #4: Set the pace, trust the process
For maximum impact, you need to turn the weekly business review into a sacred ritual. A moment each week that the whole team both fears yet deeply appreciates.
To generate the most momentum and output for the week, the meeting should take place every Monday, no later than noon in the primary time zone where the majority of the team keeps working hours.
It took me a few years and a few hotly contested debates with my former COO to come to this conclusion, but I now firmly believe it.
Why Monday morning? Well, if you run the meeting first thing on Tuesday morning, people will most likely spend all day Monday wrangling data and writing commentary. That means 20 - 25% of your company’s workweek will be spent preparing for the weekly business review. Run it at 10 a.m. on Monday instead, and you can cut that roughly in half. That’ll net the company another 10 - 12% of weekly production capacity, which has a massive compounding effect. Here’s an example of what that compounding can mean for your business:
- A 100-person company has 4,000 productive working hours per week
- Saving 10% means 400 hours saved at $75/fully-loaded FTE hour (or $30,000)
- If you're planning to grow 4x this year, then compounded weekly that equals more than $120k per week… or more than $6 million per year in output potential!
The yield you generate here stems from a concept called Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands so as to fill the time which is available for its completion.”
The more time you allot to weekly business review preparation, the longer it will take to complete it. Teams will waste time “polishing turds,” aka formatting charts, wordsmithing commentary, or (worse yet) massaging numbers and narratives to conform to their (typically organizationally-biased) priors. That’s time spent not talking to customers, fixing bugs, signing deals, closing tickets, or giving concrete direction and feedback to your teams.
Establish a clear run-of-show with strict SLAs. Here’s what that looks like:
Once you agree on the run of the show, you must communicate that this is not optional. Your CEO has a vital role to play to announce and then reinforce to the team how sacrosanct the weekly business review and weekly run of show should be.
The big caveat here is that the data must be ready to go and reconciled by open of business on Monday morning. This is no small feat (which you already know if you’ve attempted step #3). And while a Monday morning WBR might elicit groans at first, it’ll be worth it… especially once a well-executed weekly business review starts to reduce the need for extraneous meetings throughout the week.
Step #5: ✨ The Doc ✨
Written docs (e.g., Word, GDocs, Notion, Coda) vs. slides vs. GSheets/Excel is a personal and team preference. Whichever the choice, you should use a prescriptive template that forces teams to present sound, logical reasoning in their written comments. Require concise but complete thoughts.
Things The Doc needs to have:
- A clean and simple format for visualizing numbers and sharing commentary
- More tables, fewer graphs (this is one reason why a dashboard is not the right format for the weekly business review)
- Traceability to a master sheet of all underlying metrics and the queries used to derive them
- Easy ability to dive into the underlying data (e.g., tickets, deals) to sense check numbers, identify examples, and gain more context as needed
- A malleable format with the ability for collaborative commentary (i.e., not a dashboard)
- Manual entries from DRIs that attest to all goal’d metrics (this increases agency and ownership and serves as a secondary quality control step for the data)
I recommend creating a template that you can update and reuse each week. There’s an endless number of ways you can format your Doc – here’s a peek at my favorite setup:
Want to automate your WBR metrics into an easy-to-use operating template like the one shown above? Learn how here.
Best practices for written commentary from DRIs:
DRIs are responsible for adding written commentary to The Doc prior to the weekly business review. If your WBR process is running smoothly, this should be a pain-free process for everyone involved.
Written commentary should:
- Use a relatively standardized structure.
- Be “insight-additive” and focused on exploring and solving the business problems that are illuminated by the data.
- Be concise but complete – commentary should be understandable on its own without requiring someone to speak to its meaning.
- Never be a status update or a regurgitation of what the metrics table says (writing, “We had 430 new MQLs last week” isn’t telling anyone anything they can’t already see from looking at the numbers).
- Be based around a framework that works well for your team.
Here’s an example framework that DRIs can use to write their commentary in The Doc:
I like this framework because it encourages teams to continue to up their game, even when they’re already hitting their numbers.
Once commentary has been provided by DRIs and finalized, The Doc is ready for questions and comments from attendees and company executives.
Best practices for questions and comments:
High-quality comments and questions from attendees and executives are one of the most critical components of The Doc. They should provoke thought outside of participants’ comfort zones, highlight cross-functional issues and tradeoffs that must be addressed, and celebrate wins 🎉.
A couple of pointers here:
- I recommend distributing The Doc and opening it up for comments a half hour before the meeting. Additionally, it can be helpful to give attendees thirty minutes of quiet reading and comment time at the beginning of the WBR (I’ll share more tips on time allocation and agenda-setting in Step #7.)
- Always @ the owner of an action item.
- Comments should be specific. Writing “I don't agree” or “That seems off” without saying why is not helpful and not the vibe.
- Encourage participants to “poke holes” in the logic being used and to ask for clarification on what's being presented.
- If a comment can’t be addressed or resolved in one response, take it offline (or to the appropriate Slack channel, person, etc.). You don’t want 35-comment nested threads of debate in The Doc.
- Encourage comments and questions from members of the Executive team and other participants outside their scope of operations… but within reason. For example, it’s fine for your GC to ask a question about the drivers of an uptick in marketing CAC. If they’re asking what the definition of a SQL is, that’s not useful. Questions and comments should be equally as valuable as the written commentary.
Maintaining archives of The Doc:
This is a simple but important step – always save a PDF copy of The Doc at the end of the meeting and store it somewhere that everyone can access. This will be a lifesaver if you need to refer back to a previous week’s WBR.
These archives will also be helpful when onboarding new team members (especially executives) for two main reasons:
- They can prepare themselves for the “ring of fire” they’ll be entering each week.
- They’ll get really rich context about business performance, team culture, and team dynamics.
- They make it super simple to reference back to previous weeks’ data and commentary.
I recommend using a tool like AirOps to make it easier to manage your archives. This will help you save even more time because it indexes the master data set that you sync into The Doc each week. Weekly Business Reviews aren’t the only use case where this functionality comes in handy, either – it’s also extremely useful for Board reporting.
Step #6: Train the players
Launching and sustaining a truly great WBR is a big investment! When you factor in direct participant time, supporting team time, data team investment, tooling, and opportunity costs, each week’s weekly business review easily costs $100k+ in hard and soft costs.
You MUST have buy-in and sponsorship from the CEO. Think of this as you would any other large cross-cutting investment decision you’d be making elsewhere in the business (e.g., launching a new product line, entering a new geo, or scaling up a new paid marketing channel).
Once you’ve made underlying data investments (and feel confident in the stability of those investments) I recommend a 2-week sprint from approval to launch, typically following an annual or quarterly planning cycle, to shock the team into action. Spend too long planning and building the process you are going to lose momentum and waste time.
This is my recommended weekly business review launch and communications cadence:
- The CEO and executive team approve the decision to invest in a WBR.
- The CEO announces the decision to the company and explains the “why”. This is best done at a company-wide All Hands meeting and pairs well with announcements about quarterly goals and who will own them. The Showrunner should also be identified at this time.
- Showrunner takes the baton and oversees the nuts and bolts of getting the show produced and distributed.
Your first weekly business review will be messy. Think of it as a semi-dry run. Still, try to use real data, discuss real topics, and make real decisions to the extent possible, instead of merely walking through the process.
By the time you get to WBR #2, it should be full steam ahead.
Who should be invited to the weekly business review?
Curating your weekly business review attendee list can be difficult.
Invite too many people? The discussion and debate won’t be as rich. The cost of the meeting balloons, too.
Invite too few people? You risk not having the right voice in the room to provide additional context or to answer a critical comment or question.
I recommend erring on the side of caution and kicking things off with a smaller group (e.g., the executive team, named goal DRIs, and your Data Lead). From there, expand the attendee list only when and if additional people are needed, or only increase attendees on an as-needed basis. It’s always easier to add people to the agenda than to remove them, which can cause hurt feelings or claims of favoritism.
But how do you know when you’ve hit the sweet spot for the number of invitees? Here’s a rule of thumb I like to use:
If the number of items that arise requiring follow-up meetings is greater than the number of items that can be addressed in the meeting by those already in the room, then you likely don’t have enough (or the right) participants in the WBR.
Alright, now it’s time to run the WBR.
To make sure everyone's bought in and held accountable, you should always start the meeting by reviewing the status of the previous week's action items. Additionally, if you’re holding the meeting on Monday morning, I recommend using the first half hour to do a quiet reading and comment period. This is particularly helpful if you have teams who are just starting their day due to time zone differences.
You should aim to allocate time in a way that balances document review with time for discussion and questions. Here’s a sample agenda and time allocation that I’ve found to be effective:
- 30 minutes before WBR: The Doc is distributed and opened for comments.
- First 30 minutes of WBR: Quiet reading and comment period.
- 30 - 60 minutes: Discuss pre-set agenda items and review follow up action items from the previous week.
- 20 - 30 minutes: Address comments and questions raised in The Doc.
- 5 minutes: Recap of everyone’s action items.
I recommend allocating no less than 75 minutes and no more than 120 minutes for your weekly business review, inclusive of any live reading and comment period.
Anything less than a full hour, and you’re likely to either rush important discussions or not have enough time to get to key questions. And if the meeting takes more than two hours, that’s a recipe for losing everyone’s focused attention, because it’s hard to maintain intense focus for more than 90 minutes at a time.
Plus, the meeting gets more expensive the longer it runs.
As for the agenda items, the Showrunner should allocate discussion time for both on-track and off-track goals. Digging into off-track goals is obviously important, but I also recommend pushing teams that are “hitting their numbers” so that you can learn more and figure out new ways to accelerate progress even more. For example, you might learn that the initial goals were set too low.
This approach can help keep all teams on their toes, but striking the right tone is extremely important. You need to challenge pre-existing logic and mental models without making people feel like they’re being individually targeted for criticism.
It’s a bit cliche, but “asking why five times” is a pretty effective tactic. The “why’s” should be targeted towards the business logic and underlying drivers. Asking “Why did we see such a steep drop in top of funnel leads week on week?” is appropriate. Asking “Why are you not hitting your lead volume goal?” isn’t helpful and can quickly put people on the defensive.
Here are a few other ground rules to keep in mind:
- Never throw someone under the bus who isn’t in the meeting
- Have a zero-tolerance policy for “data fights” – if there’s a major data issue or disagreement it should be kicked offline (be sure to set this expectation before the meeting
- Always blame the process not the person
There is one caveat to that last suggestion: Make it a point to take personal responsibility, and encourage others to take personal responsibility for the goals they own, too. The Showrunner should be the prime modeler of this ownership ethos.
Do what? By when? By whom?
The Showrunner has a two-fold goal in every weekly business review:
- Press teams on their progress (or lack thereof).
- Force action to accelerate that progress.
The second requires guiding (and at times directing) the participants toward committing themselves and their teams to actions that will accelerate progress. The goal of a weekly business review isn’t to walk away with 100 meaningless action items that will only create more meetings and countless slide decks that over-analyze the problem.
The goal is to guide the meeting toward the fewest possible action items in a way that accelerates progress toward your goals. Whenever a discussion comes to a logical end and there needs to be a follow-up action, the Showrunner should ask the following:
- Do what? What is it that we actually need to do?
- By whom? Who is going to do it?
- By when? When will this thing get done?
Any “action item” that you can’t clearly answer all three of these questions for probably isn’t important or needs to be clarified and simplified.
Should WBRs be documented?
I would strongly recommend against recording the meeting video or audio.
You want to encourage all participants to ask hard questions and give honest answers. You need an environment where lively, often intense, debate can occur. Recording shifts the vibe in a way that may limit the type of debate you want and encourage behind-the-scenes gossip or concealment of important information from decision-makers.
Instead, one participant should take close-to-verbatim notes on the meeting and then synthesize the key decisions, questions raised, and action items + owners.
Step #8: Make it stick… across the whole company
To clear your return hurdle on a $100k weekly WBR investment, you need to squeeze every drop of juice out of it.
The best way to do that is to have the output and intensity you inject into the weekly business review flow down to the entire team. You should:
- Make The Doc viewable to as much of the organization as practical (once you reach a certain level of scale there may be some limitations based on material non-public information and/or sensitive PII data).
- Resolve and remove comments quickly – the important ones should flow through into the summary of the meeting and action items.
- Encourage the executive team and other participants to walk through key takeaways from The Doc in their weekly team meetings (this is especially important for functions that may be one degree removed from directly owning business outcomes– such as engineering, data, legal, and accounting–but who typically yearn for and greatly benefit from more transparency and business context).
- Encourage team members to ask questions about the weekly business review and team progress in your company-wide All Hands meeting (sharing access to the WBR generally leads to better informed, and harder-hitting, questions during the All Hands).
Cascading the best practices you demand from your team in the weekly business review (e.g., complete and concise commentary, facility with metrics, lively but respectable debate, bias to acceleration) down to the rest of the organization is by far the most important and highest ROI outcome of a great WBR.
How do you know if your weekly business review is effective?
How do you know when you have a great weekly business review?
Think about the scenario I described at the beginning of this guide. Now, imagine the exact opposite:
⭐ Imagine you don’t have to spend 6 hours putting together the numbers on Sunday night.
⭐ Imagine making that Monday morning yoga class and starting the week feeling refreshed and ready to kick ass.
⭐ Imagine your team making more progress, faster, because better decisions are being made in fewer meetings throughout the week.
That’s how you know your weekly business review program is working as intended.