A dead simple management process, that works

What if I told you there was a painfully simple system for managing your team’s day to day productivity, and keeping not only – but everyone else – focused only on what was most important?

Introducing the 3x3

-       What it is
-       How it works
-       Examples of how to use it in a team of 5, 10, and 20 (which should put you well over your $1 million mark)
The 3x3 is a very simple email format that distills down the scrum methodologies daily stand-up into a single email. 
I was first introduced to this method when I was hired as the CEO of angel-funded venture Factor Media, where we built a consumer review site in Japanese. The guy that stroked a very large check to fund the idea – introduced this strategy to me as a way to manage what started out as me and a few contract developers but within 6 months scaled to over 30 people across America, Europe, India, and Japan.
This simple process was what allowed me to scale my team to 34 people over just 18 months and still keep a handle on what was going on day to day.
The format of this email is important, but it’s also critical that the process for how this email is deployed and rolled-up is tightly adhered to.

How it Works

The way the 3x3 email works is to provide every person in the organization a complete view of what’s going on among their direct reports.
This is achieved by having each tier of resources send the 3x3 email at the very end of their day to the person they report into directly.

In the beginning, you will be the only person receiving these emails – and it’s important that before YOU close out your day, you address the information contained in each.
Where this email becomes extremely powerful is as your team begins to scale past your initial few people, when you won’t be directly managing everyone anymore. 

When you have a level of managers underneath you (this tends to happen between 5 and 10 people) where the people who were your initial “doers” are now managing delivery of a group of people underneath them that are doing the work. 
The beautiful part about this process is that when deployed and tightly managed, it scales pretty effortlessly up until about 25-30 people – at which point I’ve found resources become redundant at your higher levels and staying on top of all of the information becomes too much to manage or address in the needed time period.

What comprises a 3x3 email?

It’s 3 sections, each with up to 3 pieces of information in each section.
Those sections are:
  1. What did you accomplish today?
  2. What roadblocks did you hit?
  3. What questions do you have?
Then within each section, if there are more than 3 items – they need to be coached to only place the top 3 most important items within each section, so;
What did you accomplish today?
  1. Highest priority task completed or progress
  2. 2nd highest priority
  3. 3rd highest priority
What roadblocks did you hit?
  1. Biggest thing that slowed you down or held you back from completing a priority task
  2. 2nd biggest or most critical roadblock
  3. 3rd most important
What questions do you have?
  1. Most important question you need answers
  2. 2nd highest priority question
  3. 3rd highest priority
Then it’s the job of your folks who are receiving these to aggregate responses from their direct reports, and make decisions about what the priorities are. 
A critical caveat here is that your managers need to be coached to handle the questions and roadblocks that they’re able to, and only pass on those that they too need support on from the next level of your chain of command.
This process is designed to get everyone on your team thinking in terms of priorities – and understanding that it’s their individual roles to handle as much as they’re capable of but then reach out and ask for help every day on the items they need additional support on – all the while viewing these tasks or initiatives through the lens of prioritization.

Examples of How This Looks in Practice

I’m not going to get into the specific roles of each person within your agency team right now, as this is a big part of the focus of the next section.
So, the examples I’m going to walk through are based on the following assumptions:
  1. You have a main operations person who “runs the show” underneath you and manages communications with clients
  2. You have people in charge of sets of deliverables based on your service lines, these are your “service specialists”
  3. You have a PM that manages your service specialists against project plans and timelines
Here's what your company looks like when you're just starting out:

Here’s how the 3x3 would flow within a team of 5 People

Here’s how the 3x3 would flow with 10 people

Here’s the flow for 20 people

The nuances here are based on my preference which is to internally train for positions and promote from within (which works when you’re small). I like to hire for “support” roles with the intention that these people will grow into the roles their supporting… as they become more and more familiar with the tasks related to fulfilling the larger components, they are uniquely setup to assume more responsibility and take over fulfillment.

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