Hack your business with 15/5 staff reports

Taking a flight to Melbourne last week, I was browsing through the airport bookstore. I like to take a look at the business section to get an idea of any new ideas or tips for the business. My latest favourite release: “Don’t hire assholes”. The premise of that wee tome appears to be that you shouldn’t hire bad people – expanded out to 180 pages and punctuated by the use of word asshole at least 10 times per page.While all this is good – much of the advice given by business self-help gurus such as the “asshole” author with the colourful vocab – tends to focus on complicated steps towards personal improvement: as a manager or employee you are given instructions on changes you need to make to your routine or personality. I don’t know about you – but I’m pretty bad at changing my habits. What I need is practical measures with measurable benefits that an idiot could implement:

Enter the 15/5 staff reports

2 months ago I came across a post on a tech blog site I frequent about a “15/5 report”. The post mentioned a manager that was using these reports to keep a finger on the pulse of his company / staff while he was off gallivanting around the globe for 9 months of the year.I was, as I’m sure you would be, naturally intrigued – what was this 15/5 report that could keep this globe-trotting so called “manager” running his company while he was away for 9 months of the year?The 15/5 is a report that staff sends their manager once a week. The golden rule is in the name: a 15/5 should take no longer than 15 minutes to write, and 5 minutes to read.The guidelines for the content are fairly broad:

  • What the person set out to do that week and what they actually got done
  • What they plan to do next week and any roadblocks they think they might encounter
  • Suggestions for improvement /change in the business
  • What their take is on their own morale and the morale of those around them.

The staff reports experience at Rex

We implemented this as an experiment about six months ago.   The results have been outstanding.I love 15/5s. They give me a crystal clear view of what’s actually happening with the people in the business. As we’ve grown, its become more and more difficult to keep track of what everyone is working on, how they’re feeling, what I can do to help.So far, the 15/5s have created some great ideas (which we’ve acted on), they’ve given me advance warning of roadblocks (which we’ve addressed where possible), but probably the biggest benefit is the morale indicator – staff are remarkably honest in giving their feedback about how they’re actually feeling in their job and otherwise – it’s a little like mind-reading.  This gives managers the power to improve.That’s powerful stuff: this type of insight is critical in making sure a business is cohesive and works at its best:  the happier people are – the better they feel about their work and environment and ultimately (selfishly) the better the work they do. 15/5s are a fantastic way of achieving this simply and easily – especially for managers in smaller companies that are normally still involved in an operational capacity.Give it a goTry this for a couple of weeks

  • At your next meeting, explain the staff reports, get every member of staff member to send you a 15/5 report on a Friday.
  • Read and respond to the reports individually over the weekend – your responses don’t need to be long, just poignant. My responses to 12 reports took 45 minutes.
  • Send a 15/5 RAP email on Mondays highlighting any good ideas raised and praising those that achieved something in the previous week.
  • Address any issues raised.

Once you’ve started with 15/5s, you won’t look back.

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