Next time your team meets IRL, try out a three-day build.
A Build is a project that a small team (say 2-4 people) can ship in a week. Builds aren't only product features, but small Marketing, Sales, or HR projects too.
We meet and build every 4 months, during team offsites. Our goal is to create momentum and a sense of accomplishment during that short period of time together. We mix teams and people together, so Builds give us the opportunity to work with people we usually don't on a day-to-day basis.
Builds interrupt our workflow in two ways. For one, we are usually remote and async. Builds go in-person. Secondly, we usually follow a product strategy focused on eight-week cycles. Builds are a 5-day practice.
So far, we’ve done 12 sets of Builds. Each set of Builds contains between 5 and 15 Builds.
That's quite a lot! Some of our best innovations have come out of these Builds.
Of course, there are already some lost ones — that's the essence of innovation.
But the reason we ultimately love Builds is that a Build is a controlled risk. 1 week to do whatever we want. The high pressure and relatively low stakes make it easy to unlock creativity.
Well, not whatever we want. We're not agents of chaos as we plan ahead for successful Builds.
Then, people share and discuss ideas. Many get vetoed, or reshaped. This vetting process all happens remotely and async, per our usual workflow.
When we finally get together for the offsite, all Builds are assigned. Depending on the size, people may work on several Builds during the week. That's the fun part.
Once a build is done, we present our work to each other async in video demos or branch-releases. We call this moment the Builds reveal. It's usually a great moment. Each team takes a lot of care thinking about their Build use-case and putting it in context of a day-to-day work at a remote company.
Then we celebrate together, in person.
Of course, the work of a Build is never done. On Product, the result is often just a prototype. We refine Builds in the weeks to come and gather feedback to make sure the next set will be even better.
It's easy to get stuck in rhythms, and stay comfortable with what we know. Builds give us time to step outside of that comfort zone, and work together to create something totally new. When we settle back into remote work and those long-term goals, we are energized knowing the next Builds are right around the corner.