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Burb

“Unreasonably Effective” Distributed Decision-Making At Burb

Drew Dillon
Dec 9, 2022

As a parent and a founder, I’m acutely aware of both the benefits and tradeoffs of remote work.

Two of the biggest challenges of remote work:

  • Setting context - there are innumerable ways to microdose context in person
  • Making decisions - lacking context, small decisions may lag until they become issues

How to Handle Simmering Questions?

I’ve had several questions on low simmer for a while now. Nothing in the realm of “things-that-keep-me-up-at-night,” but questions I keep spinning on.

The most natural thing is to call a planning meeting to address these questions, set down plans, and execute. It’s about time for this session anyway, but I kept thinking:

  • How can I make that time most effective?
  • Is there anything we can do now?
  • How do I get the best opinions in the room? I value our investors as thought partners, having refined my questions with them, but how best to involve them?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been conducting an experiment in distributed decision making with the team at Burb. Philip called this process “unreasonably effective,” so I thought I’d share.

Write > Collaborate > Act

Write

From experience managing a team of 40 in Australia, I know one of the most powerful things a leader can do in a distributed environment is to write. 

Long form writing empowers others to work on their own schedule. And the words have a way of playing straw man, helping readers avoid the fundamental attribution error.

So I created a Notion page and started dashing out my thoughts.

the header of a Notion doc, "Burb Thoughts 8/22"

1. What I know

  • Foundational trends - our observations of the market that drive Burb
  • Long Term - a gut check on our vision
  • Personas & Attributes - who are we serving?
  • Lifecycle - what does success look like for these folks?
  • Challenges by Lifecycle Stage- how can we help?

2. Observations about Burb, the company

3. Hypotheses about the market, the company, and how to improve

  • Why they feel true
  • Why they feel false
  • How to test

4. Open questions

Collaborate

When I had enough context in the doc, I shared it with our team and investors.

To make this effective I spent time:

  • Affording dissent - I didn’t want the doc to feel finished, like the thoughts were complete and the questions were answers.
  • Keeping the doc alive - where folks wanted more clarity, I updated the page, @-mentioning experts on various topics.

Our team brought their expertise in creator businesses, content, their experience as users and feedback from customers. Our investors brought their understanding of the funding environment, startups at similar stages, macro creator market, and even perspective as users running communities within their firms using Burb.

Though I editorialized in the doc, I held back my own intuition until everyone had asked questions, updated, and commented. Finally, I put in my two cents, inviting disagreement and summarizing the next steps in planning and execution.

Act

Now we’ll meet to figure out next steps. Don’t worry, I have frameworks for this too 😅

The difference will be that we have:

  • Shared context - we'll save a lot of time setting the stage for the discussion up front
  • Framing - everyone knows the discussion areas and can prep research and opinions

And some of the work is already underway! We don't have to wait for a meeting to handle low hanging fruit.

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