Can you build a company in a weekend?

An interesting team development activity took place of the weekend of Jul 7-8. Get together a group of people, lock them in a room and for 54 hours build a product, set up a company, and launch it to the market. The idea is called Startup Weekend!

The weekend had all the social media blog’d (via Technorati), photo’d, live video’d, YouTube’d (and here) so you can read, watch and learn all about it.

In reading the analysis it is clear to me that the group of 70 diverse individuals came together and very quickly organised around a single goal and worked damn hard to achieve, something any management team would be proud of!

There is a great final analysis that I felt had impacts on organisations and management.

The team went through the Bruce Tuckman team development model, forming, storming, norming, performing and the newly added adjourning. This always happens, if you are a team leader, accept it.

I would suggest the organisers were able inspire such dedication for the 54 hours for several reasons. Rewards, all participants were equity holders in the new venture. Recognition, if this worked you had bragging rights for being there, not to mention the links on the blogs, photos, videos etc. A sense of purpose, they all knew why they were there, to build something new over a weekend.  Key learnings for all.

One of the biggest failures (from my point of view) of the weekend seems to be that some things were left to chance, ie the selection of technology platform, Java. The platform was selected by the Type-A personalities, how often are things railroaded in an organisation. This meant that many skills available to the team were not used, they were in disuse and probably meant that some people were in a stage of being “abused” by the organisation due to the workload expected of them to build the product. Never assume you know everyone’s background as the most unexpected people can have just the skill you need for success.

Communication seems to have also been as issue. There is a comment in the analysis;

It was then announced that it was midnight or bust. At midnight, we had to leave the temporary office we had gotten the use of for the weekend. The live camera went offline for good.

How often do organisations trip over themselves because management assumed everyone knew?

In the end there are 4 really good pieces of advice for all managers:-

1) To make the goals clear both inside and outside the room.
2) To make your most experienced and respected folks the team leaders. Development is hard. This is all that will matter.
3) To not be so laid back as a group about important decisions.
4) To make the Sunday midnight deadline very firm. Launch something at that time, no matter what.

Overall I would say the experience should be viewed as a success, there are lots of comments about this being as much a social experiment as a business experiment, true.

Now my question. What could a regular organisation achieve if they pulled a similar cross functional team together gave them 3-5 days away from the office and provided the support (but stayed out of the way) needed to bring the product to market?

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