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The Most Agile Startups to Unicorns

How to Master Fast Growth and Radical Change

Authors: Jon Leslie & Patric Palm | Jon Leslie is Agile Coach & Founder at Broad Cove Insights. Patric Palm is CEO & Co-founder at Favro.

Favro has quickly become a favorite all-in-one app for teams at startups to unicorns to do collaborative writing, planning, and organization of work.

They all need to be as agile as possible to master the challenges of radical change that comes with growing teams at a fast pace.

Great examples are Garage Beer Co. that quickly adapted their business as the coronavirus hit, and Unity Technologies that successfully IPO’d in September to a market capitalization of $24 billion.

Sample Beer Production Schedule and Pipeline

While being a leader in a fast-growing startup is fun and exhilarating, the day-to-day challenges can seem overwhelming.

This article will address the challenges of how to deal with massive and constant change and how to scale without becoming a stale bureaucracy while, at the same time, acknowledging that every startup is unique and no team is the same.

Adapt to Massive Change Caused by Rapid Growth

Startup leaders face a multitude of changes on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis: shifting goals and priorities, new team members, new learnings, and new processes. Even marketplace changes can happen daily.

An example: Your Friday retrospective spawns a brilliant but entirely new way of working. You now want this new process reflected and supported by your tool with an easy and instant update you can do yourself rather than contacting central IT and waiting days for the change to take effect. Worst case, it might not even be possible without adding another tool.

Everything is happening fast, including recruiting. Venture capital backed companies grow their teams three times faster than other startups, and unicorns typically hire at an even faster pace.

You need a tool that empowers adaptability while also allowing your teams to focus on priorities and get things done. You need a tool that brings order to the chaos, simplifies complexity, and moves as fast as you do.

Take recruiting, for example. New hire reqs are opening up faster than there are qualified candidates, and the required skills are changing based on shifting priorities. You need to quickly visualize your recruiting pipeline, onboarding, and strategic goals in the same place and in real-time.

Recruitment Pipeline and Strategic Objects and Key Results in a Single Collection

As you can see in the above screenshot, Favro doesn’t force unnatural single-screen team silos. Leadership is using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to set and track strategic goals, while in the same collection, HR is responding to prioritized staffing objectives via a recruitment pipeline. In order to adapt to change, all parts of a fast-moving company need to collaborate in tandem.

Objectives and key results (OKRs) are a popular framework for teams to set clear, achievable goals with measurable results. The objective is the overall goal, and the key results track the progress towards that goal. Key results are typically measured on a scale of 0–100% or any numerical unit the team chooses.

An excellent way to implement OKRs in Favro is to create an OKR backlog on your collection’s left pane using a sheet board, with objectives broken down into their supporting key results. The objectives are then stack ranked with the highest priority key results being committed to a planning and tracking board on the collection’s right pane. As progress towards key results is made, the cards representing the KRs are pulled from left to right along the team’s custom created measurement scale. This progress can be seen both on the OKR planning board and in aggregate on the OKR backlog.

To make things as simple as possible without sub-optimizing, it also makes sense to view the same workflows and value streams in different ways. With Favro, a delivery team can be looking at a Kanban view, while finance is looking at a sheets view, and executives are viewing a timeline-based roadmap all on the same board. The data is the same, just with different views depending on preference.

Product Team Board Kanban View for Development
Product Team Board Kanban View for Development
Product Team Board Kanban View for Development

Scale without Losing Agility or Entrepreneurial Culture

There’s a reason why you’re experiencing rapid growth. The seed you cultivated as a small team is blooming. As your startup grows, you want to continue to nurture and grow the core of what made you great in the first place. You also want to foster and expand the culture of passion and purpose.

Agile startups know that nothing kills their original vision faster than department silos, management hierarchies, and bureaucracy. The importance of choosing a single tool that promotes team autonomy while also providing overall alignment can not be understated.

Too many tools create silos and unnecessary complexity, often at the expense of flexibility, forcing you to adapt to the tool instead of the other way around. Favro alone scales with you as you grow. There’s no need to introduce enterprise tools for each organizational level. With the Favro app, you don’t need a “Product Portfolio Management tool” on top of an issue tracker. Favro scales vertically and takes care of the need of every organizational level. In short, Favro adapts to your unique requirements independent of whether you’re a newbie, external partner, team leader, or the CEO.

Working with an External Marketing Agency
Company Roadmap with Marketing Asset Backlog and External Marketing Agency Kanban

Your Way of Working Is Unique

Every startup has a unique mission and evolving processes. Every team within your startup has a different way of working. A marketing team within your startup does not work the same way as a marketing team at another company. The same goes for teams in HR, ops, dev, legal, finance, sales, etc.

The common solution is an ever-expanding stack of fit-for-purpose tools. As processes scale and evolve to match growth, this stack gets even larger. Some tools even become obsolete, creating not only separate islands of critical information but orphaned islands.

A better solution is to choose a tool that adapts and scales horizontally across departments and is flexible enough to handle evolving processes on the fly. This provides a company with a single source of truth where collaboration, planning, prioritization, content creation, communication, and decision making all happen in one place.

Favro is not just another all-in-one tool. Instead of a long list of features dictating how you do your work, Favro uniquely adapts to your specific way of working in your company and your team.

What makes this possible? Instead of handling complexity with an ever-growing list of features and rigid, prescriptive workflows, Favro keeps it simple with only four major building blocks: Cards, Boards, Collections, and Relations. These building blocks are used to create a collaboration and planning platform as unique as your company.

1) Favro Cards

Favro Cards can be used in many ways: writing, content creation, goals, OKRs, tasks, attachments… whatever you’re collaborating on. Teams can even communicate and provide real-time feedback directly on the Cards. Cards alone end up replacing tools like Google Docs, DropBox, Notion, Confluence, Evernote, Teams, and physical post-its and notes now when work needs to be partly or entirely online.

Rich Content, Checklists, Custom Fields, and Conversations on a Favro Card

2) Favro Boards

The work described on a Card often involves multiple teams with their own workflows. Therefore a card can exist on multiple Favro Boards facilitating cross-team collaboration. Boards can easily be configured by the teams themselves to adapt to any style of planning and management. Each Board has multiple views of the same Cards, like Kanban, sheet, and timeline, which typically makes the need for numerous tools such as Asana, Wrike, Monday, ClickUp, Trello, Jira, and Airtable redundant.

A “Slack Integration” Card on Multiple Boards

3) Favro Collections

Favro Boards can exist in multiple Favro Collections. Collections are a single-screen aggregation of multiple Boards organized for teams to see exactly what they need to focus on their own work while also collaborating with other teams to deliver the most company-wide value.

Typical examples of Favro Collections are (a) team collaboration Collections, (b) cross-team collaboration Collections, (c) Collections for a shared workplace between teams at two companies, and (d) Collections serving as dashboards for a recurring meeting or context.

Collections drive overall alignment removing the requirement for complex program and portfolio tools like Jira Align, AHA, Workfront, and Planview.

Startup Dashboard with Boards from Multiple Collections

4) Favro Relations

With the ability to have Cards on multiple Boards and Boards within multiple Collections, as well as links, dependencies, and work breakdowns, Favro Relations are what tie it all together. Relations show everyone how your company actually interacts and provide natural navigation between all horizontal teams and all vertical levels of the organization.

With the unique Favro Relations, no single central person needs to know and control everything. Everyone can simply follow the Relations and go on a journey discovering how things are connected in their organization.

Card Showing all Relations

Achieve Startup Agility

Although all startups face similar growing pains, your challenges are unique and continually changing. This fact is paramount to Favro’s core design, which provides the flexibility and scalability necessary to evolve with you and your teams as you overcome new hurdles and grow from tens to hundreds to thousands of people.Master the radical change inherent to rapid growth, keep your entrepreneurial spirit alive, and become the most agile startup and unicorn with Favro.

Written in collaboration between Jon Leslie and Patric Palm.

Learn How to Achieve Startup to Unicorn Agility in this 16-minute Video

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