5 weekly check-in questions to keep remote teams aligned

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The majority of problems in the workplace stem from breakdowns in communication, whether they are minor misalignments or major disjointed initiatives. When there are communication gaps, individual execution suffers, and this can lead to missed project deadlines, risks that go unnoticed, and colleagues who are not aware that their expertise could help accelerate progress.

Teams that work in the same physical space can still struggle to stay aligned, even when they have opportunities for spontaneous interaction. However, remote teams feel this challenge more acutely, as the lack of face-to-face interaction erodes the ability to share information serendipitously. Without ongoing and transparent communication, individual talent is not leveraged effectively through collaboration and resource sharing. Instead of compounding the impact, the team's potential stagnates.

The Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) framework helps solve the issue of goal setting and progress tracking in a transparent manner. However, simply documenting OKRs is not enough. The real progress comes from having regular check-ins across the organisation to identify any issues that are hindering progress.

The weekly check-in is an important routine that helps teams stay aligned even when they are working remotely. This helps to identify any issues early on and redirect efforts to prevent delays. By dedicating time to share updates, assess roadblocks, and re-sync on priorities, distributed teams can avoid communication breakdowns that might cause individual work streams to diverge.

In this post, we look at five important questions that teams should answer every week. 

What is a weekly check-in?

The weekly check-in is an important way for colleagues to stay connected and informed about each other's recent progress and upcoming priorities. This is especially important for teams that are spread out and working remotely, as it helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals. Without this regular communication, work can become disjointed and disconnected from the broader objectives of the organisation.

The check-in updates that are shared serve various audiences who are interdependent. These updates are not just for the managers who need status reports. Designers showcase their works-in-progress to create excitement among the departments who will be using and promoting the upcoming creation. Marketers highlight how the campaigns are doing in the early stages, and based on the response, they either double down on their efforts or redirect their spend. Engineers share their upcoming platform optimisations so that their colleagues can consider them while planning.

The weekly check-in is an opportunity for people to talk about ongoing trends, factors that speed up or slow down progress, and obstacles they are facing. Sharing updates helps to improve productivity by clarifying priorities, and it also encourages team building by allowing people to be open about their challenges. Celebrating successes and discussing roadblocks during the check-in helps to refocus team efforts and foster a sense of camaraderie, especially when working remotely.

Best practices for your weekly check-in

1. Anchor your weekly check-in around existing goals

Weekly check-ins should align individual efforts with the company's objectives, using OKRs as a contextual framework instead of standalone updates.

2. Keep it concise

Succinct check-ins distinguish noise from signal. Use bullet points to highlight milestones, impediments, and assistance required. Respect others' time while bringing critical insights to the surface.

3. Avoid team-specific jargon

It is important to use easily understandable language when conducting check-ins with stakeholders. Avoid using acronyms and shorthand that may not be widely comprehensible.

4. Use a dedicated platform

Tools for tracking goals, such as Tability, can make the process more consistent and transparent. Tability helps teams connect insights using shared language and visibility. It provides visual confidence ratings to quickly communicate any discrepancies between the plan and actual progress. Additionally, charts are used to highlight progress fluctuations to prompt realignment conversations before minor setbacks result in timeline delays.

5 questions to answer during your weekly check-in

Question 1: “How much progress have we made?”

The first check-in question is important to establish baseline progress, which helps to contextualise upcoming updates. Instead of sharing raw metrics, it's better to share advances made in relation to past performance and future objectives. For example, simply stating "This week produced 34 leads" won't be very instructive, as it fails to highlight positive or negative trends. Instead, present current numbers in contrast to prior periods to showcase acceleration or deceleration. 

It's also important to remind stakeholders of long-term targets to evaluate interim progress. For instance, "Weekly leads grew 12% over the past 7 days, surpassing 30 for the first time. However, reaching our objective of 45 leads per week necessitates closing 11 more sales prior to quarter-end." It's crucial to frame quantitative outputs with clarifying verbiage to illustrate overperformance or underperformance. 

It is recommended to represent the latest outcomes on a timeline to depict whether the fundamental goals are coming closer or moving away from accomplishment. This will facilitate adding informative details to the progress reports about the underlying factors that are accelerating, obstructing, or reversing the progress. By setting up a context of the initial accomplishments, further inquiries can be made to rectify the course instead of just providing a status update.

Question 2: “How did we make this progress?”

After establishing a progress baseline, the second check-in question probes underlying causes to determine predictive validity of recent trends. Link outputs directly to inputs and initiatives using corroborating context to showcase reliable gains versus transient fluctuations.

Instead of simply stating a generic 12% increase in leads, it's better to identify the specific factors that led to this increase. For instance, did an increase in promotional spend result in an instant response? Are traffic analytics showing a consistent improvement in SEO? By isolating the variables that have an impact, we can create timelines based on causation rather than just correlation.

Create a coherent narrative that connects the causal initiatives that first bore fruit with the metrics that are now flourishing. This can be accomplished by providing a clear sequence of statements and supporting evidence. By doing so, we can gain a more nuanced perspective that transforms isolated metrics into informed projections. This will guide our strategy with insights into the provable progress that is tied to reproducible inputs.

At this stage, our check-in update looks something like this:

  • We increased weekly leads by 12% and are now at 34 leads/week. We still need to add 11 signups to achieve our goal of 45 leads/week.
  • This increase is thanks to the SEO work that started last month. We're expecting this improvement to last as it's tied to organic gains in traffic.

Question 3: “How confident are we that we’ll reach our goal?”

Evaluate progress towards targets by categorising initiatives as on track, at risk, or off track. 

  • Off-track 🔴: It's unlikely that we'll reach our goal.
  • At-risk 🟡: There's some uncertainty about reaching our goal, but we should still be able to get there with the right kind of effort/support.
  • On-track 🟢: Nothing to worry about. We're confident that we're going to make it.

This will help determine confidence in achieving future goals.

The "on track" designation indicates that everything is going smoothly and the contributing factors are aligned to achieve success. The "at risk" designation warns of potential obstacles that could hinder success, but with collective effort, they can still be overcome. The "off track" designation, on the other hand, is a major cause for concern, indicating that the objectives are slipping fast and only a dramatic reversal of fortune can save the situation.

Categorising the level of confidence for each project helps to avoid relying solely on intuition. However, to fully utilise this system, it is important to have an environment that supports transparent evaluation without fear of repercussion or stigma. Without psychological safety, teams may hide problems and delay difficult conversations, which can ultimately hinder progress.

It's important to address yellow warnings promptly. If warnings are repeatedly ignored, progress updates lose their effectiveness and can lead to a perpetual state of danger. However, urgent redirections can help the team realign and stay on course.

Utilise confidence visuals during check-ins to focus decision-making on vulnerable projects while trusting that on-track efforts will continue smoothly. Use colour-coding to guide resource allocation and prioritise at-risk projects. The tri-colour gauge and enforced conversions can be used together to create an instrument panel that visualises project trajectories.

At this stage, here's what things should look like:

  • We increased weekly leads by 12% and are now at 34 leads/week. We still need to add 11 signups to achieve our goal of 45 leads/week.
  • This is thanks to the SEO work that started last month. We're expecting this improvement to last as it's tied to organic gains in traffic.
  • We're on track to achieve our target by the end of the quarter.

Question 4: “Are there any blockers?”

Excavate obstacles that hinder productivity. Disclose dependencies for advance warning.

Dynamic realignment opportunities arise from stagnant status conveyances. Content upgrades depend on cross-functional partners' forthcoming posts and analytics to improve call-to-action conversion for high-traffic pages. Publicly illuminate these revelations to accelerate responsibility reshuffling.

Organically integrate blocker briefings into the progress narrative by interjecting newly surfaced issues among past achievements and future aspirations. This fluid format normalises vulnerabilities and removes stigma that can prevent people from asking for help or resources.

Now our weekly check-in looks like this:

  • We increased weekly leads by 12% and are now at 34 leads/week. We still need to add 11 signups to achieve our goal of 45 leads/week.
  • This is thanks to the SEO work that started last month. We're expecting this improvement to last as it's tied to organic gains in traffic.
  • Confidence: On-track
  • Blockers: Not a critical blocker, but we've noticed that a few popular posts are missing a CTA to funnel readers to the product. Wondering if we could update the content this week.

Question 5: “What should we do differently next week?”

The closing check-in question suggests making small changes to course-correct instead of reacting and reversing progress. Steady progress continues, while vulnerable initiatives require incremental tweaks to stay on track.

When you are confident about a particular approach, it is important to maintain a consistent approach to allow for compounding gains to accumulate. However, it is crucial to continuously monitor leading indicators to ensure that they are still pointing towards the intended ascent. At the same time, you should analyse the methodologies that are powering at-risk efforts to identify any marginal improvements that could produce an outsized impact by aligning essential variables.

Instead of making drastic changes that can lead to overcorrection, try identifying small yet significant improvements that can be made in a short amount of time. For instance, if spending too much on promotions is not converting your website traffic, would working with a designer be a better option to highlight the placement of call-to-action buttons? And if your top landing pages lack clear messaging, how many of your underperforming posts could be optimised with simple adjustments?

To implement changes effectively, start by identifying and assessing potential risks and timelines. This will help create a sense of urgency and encourage people to adopt the changes. Then, communicate clearly with all departments about any support needed to make the necessary modifications that are uncovered by regularly reevaluating our methods. Finally, make continuous improvement a part of our weekly workflows to keep up with the evolving challenges that come with pursuing ambitious objectives.

Here's our weekly check-in in its final form:

  • We increased weekly leads by 12% and are now at 34 leads/week. We still need to add 11 signups to achieve our goal of 45 leads/week.
  • This is thanks to the SEO work that started last month. We're expecting this improvement to last as it's tied to organic gains in traffic.
  • Confidence: On-track
  • Blockers: Not a critical blocker, but we've noticed that a few popular posts are missing a CTA to funnel readers to the product. Wondering if we could update the content this week.
  • Nothing will change this week as long as we get all the new posts in time.

How to simplify your weekly check-in routine

Weekly check-ins can be made a lot shorter by using Tability to show progress trends and confidence information on a chart like the one shown below.

This enables you to focus your update on explaining how you got to where you are today and discuss potential blockers and changes required in the roadmap.

Tability can also:

  • Notify stakeholders automatically when check-ins are completed.
  • Send reminders to make sure everyone stays on top of their updates.
  • Show you when specific tasks were done, and see how they impacted your metrics.
  • Help you set better goals with AI.

👉 Get started with Tability for free

Conclusion

The weekly check-in is a great way for distributed teams to stay on track with their objectives and prevent delays due to communication issues. It is a simple yet powerful mechanism that allows team members to share their progress transparently, collaborate to solve problems, and adjust priorities if needed. By dedicating a recurring time slot for this purpose, teams can avoid the breakdowns in communication that can be caused by working remotely.

Organisations can use five check-in questions - progress made, causal factors identified, confidence levels determined, blockers uncovered, and adjustments made - to create a dashboard that visualises the health of their workstreams. The dashboard's summary metrics show which deadlines were met and which milestones were missed, while a clear narrative connects the dots between the priorities previously set and the outcomes achieved.

Collective impact is enhanced by smooth execution. Weekly check-ins promote insight sharing over isolated optimization, and transparency regarding progress encourages unity.

Ready to take things further?

If you’d like to learn more about OKRs, we recommend checking out our complete guide on weekly OKR check-ins

👉 Get started with Tability for free

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Sten Pittet

Co-founder and CEO, Tability

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