As Postlight has scaled, we’ve had to think about operationalizing some of the secrets behind our best work. There are many things we do to make sure that our project output is excellent, our stakeholders are happy, and our teams are set up to do their best work. For our first few years, instinct carried us forward. This year, we graduated — and we wrote it all down.
We’ve honed a system of thinking that allows us to evaluate each project across our portfolio and ensure that things are going smoothly. It’s a framework that reflects our values, and it’s how we ensure delivery of outstanding work. We don’t have many acronyms at Postlight, but QORE is the rare exception. It stands for Quality, Opportunity, Risk, and Efficiency, and it’s our secret sauce.
QORE isn’t a checklist. It’s a methodology for looking at a project through the lens of what will make it successful for our client stakeholders and internally at Postlight. It isn’t myopic, as project leadership can often be, because we’re consistently thinking about our stakeholders’ success — not just about burndown charts, or team velocity. QORE is valuable for evaluating all kinds of client engagements, projects, products, and software work in a broader way.
Each week at Postlight, a member of senior leadership holds a QORE session with the lead of every engagement. We get a presentation, ask questions, and talk through each pillar of QORE. There are measurements for success that we’re looking for in each pillar as we talk — let’s break it down.
Quality is how good the work is. This includes the quality of the overall product and the quality of each of its parts, like the design work, the architecture, or the underlying code. In a QORE session, we want to see the work — through design walk-throughs or prototype demos — and probe why certain decisions were made. We ask our engagement leads to talk through the user’s goals and tie them back to the goals of the larger organization.
- Quality of product. Have we taken the business requirements for this product and met them effectively? Does the client’s vision come through in the product? Our key stakeholders brought us in for a reason — are we following through and solving their problem?
- Quality of design. Do we have a clear hierarchy in our design? Have we represented the client’s brand well, and are we applying their style in a way that feels truthful? Is the user flow clear from screen to screen?
- Quality of the code. Is it well structured and architected? Are we building services that are fast? (Speed is always a feature.) Have we tested our platform for scale? Is there documentation, and is that documentation up to date?
Many agencies have account managers. In most cases, it’s their job to tend to client relationships by wining and dining. They take their client counterparts out to lunch, ask about their kids, and try to root out what other projects the client might want a proposal for. Postlight doesn’t think of opportunity that way.
Our growth is driven by the quality of our work. We strive to make our clients love our work so much that they want to come back to us when they have another need in the future. Good work is what’s going to lead to more opportunity for us (which is why we focus on quality — see above).
We ask engagement leads about the client’s remaining challenges, and what the engagement lead might propose. Is the client set up for proper maintenance of the product we’re building? Are there future features that they’d like to incorporate sooner rather than later? Is another team at their org hearing about our work and want more visibility into how we could partner with them?
We never force follow-up work, but we position ourselves well so that it’s easy to keep us around if we’re needed.
For Postlight, managing risk is about managing expectations. So much of our discussion internally at QORE sessions is about communicating with clients as a way to reduce risk. This includes being hyper-communicative to disarm the naysayers, who are ready to pounce when they sense a void or misstep.
Ensuring that we’re on the same page with our client is critical. We ask engagement leads to think like the client when evaluating risk. What does the client think is coming next, and are we on track to hit that milestone? In fact, are we prepared to exceed what they assume comes with our next deliverable? The best way to mitigate risk is by setting a clear expectation and then overdelivering.
In every QORE session, we review the project timeline and hone in on the next major milestone, asking probing questions about that deadline. And we rehearse! Before a big presentation, we ask: Who are the stakeholders here, and what do they expect? The team will set that context and then literally present in QORE as if they’re talking to the client, refining their presentation throughout. We’re looking to minimize exposure to a bad outcome for the project and maximize our ability to ship on time.
Every project starts with a rough outline of its roadmap, team, and timeline. The efficiency discussion in QORE is about making sure our plan still holds, and that we’re putting the pieces together effectively. Here we focus on the makeup of our team. The team should match the project’s needs and each team member applied. Sometimes that means we need to swap a designer for an engineer, take a team member off the project early, or add an additional person to make a new lane on the highway.
Projects that are run efficiently will have a good, clean process in place. We’ll occasionally ask about ticketing systems, or spec docs, in QORE sessions to make sure we’ve equipped the team to run fast. We also press on staffing to see if the team has changed, or needs a change upcoming, and if we’re planning for that to be smooth.
Lastly — and often overlooked — we ask about the team’s morale. Teams that are burned out, or are low on morale, will run at far less than peak productivity. Not only is this an important check on the health of our people, which is of utmost importance to us, but it’s a good reminder to check on how our work may be affected by the team’s spirit.
QORE helps us grow
QORE has been instrumental for us as we grow our company. It formalized a way for our leadership to check in on an expanding portfolio of projects without (virtually) walking over and peeking over someone’s shoulder. We have a consistent picture of 15 to 20 ongoing projects in a way that was scattered and variable before.
Keep in mind that these sessions are a conversation. It’s important that the lead of the engagement be able to respond and ask questions of leadership as they think about adjusting course for the future. It’s not just a status check; it’s a method for helping our engagement leads to evolve as well.
So there you have it. We still send our clients gifts and Postlight stickers, sure. But QORE is the real secret sauce for making sure we can consistently do excellent work across our whole business, even as we grow. We hope it can help you take the pulse of the work at your organization, too.