On a Management SLA

What if you published a management SLA for the whole company to use? 

Team members would have transparency into the company's management philosophy and know what kind of leadership and commitment to people is valued. New managers would know what was expected of them. They'd know upfront the gaps in their management skills that need development. The company's organizational ambition and its commitment to developing internal leadership would be clear.

Organization design's primary purpose is to provide a framework for unleashing your team's creativity. Whether you choose hierarchical, holocratic, flat, or something else, you want roles and expectations clearly understood and easily communicated. A management SLA provides a base level of consistency across all the company's teams, regardless of function, and outlines a clear set of leadership criteria that all teams can checklist against.

What might your SLA include? Perhaps frequency and content of one-on-one or performance reviews. Perhaps the need for a strategy offsite or regular team social events. Perhaps the role of team meetings or stand-ups. Whatever works for your org, if you can't write it down in a simple, digestible form that demonstrates consistency across the company, you have work to do.

When I drafted a management SLA at Squarespace and handed it off to HR to run with, the org was growing fast and new team leads were emerging just as rapidly. These team leads deserved a framework they could lean upon, and all team members needed to have a consistent experience in regards to feedback and professional development. Going forward this will help senior management evaluate team leadership across the org.

In scaling a company the most important question is what is the least amount of process and structure necessary to achieve our goals. You have to intrinsically understand the business AND the org AND the people in order to create an environment for people to do their best work. I chose the language of an SLA because it was language our engineering and customer care teams understood. By making it public, the SLA makes it safe to speak up when your manager isn't providing you the support you deserve, while also guiding the curriculum of any leadership and development programs the company is creating.

ManagementJesse Hertzberg