How to Overcome Pettiness: Patagonia’s Awesome 5-15 Report

How to Overcome Pettiness

“Pettiness” and “I’m the only one doing anything” (not true, but…)

— Manager, POCC

Thank God we are still a free country where everyone is entitled to the relentless pursuit of his own pettiness. And if I am not ready to kick mine, how can I demand it of others?

I love this challenge because I’ve solved it in my company. And I did it by accident. Before we begin …

What is a 5-15 report?

A 5-15 report is a communication tool used to facilitate regular updates between employees and their managers. The name “5-15” refers to the suggested time it takes to complete the report: 5 minutes for employees to fill it out and 15 minutes for managers to review and respond. The main purpose of a 5-15 report is to provide a structured way for employees to share their progress, accomplishments, challenges, and any other relevant information with their managers.

The Origin of the 5-15 Report.

I stumbled upon a 1988 article about Patagonia while working on Who the Hell Wants to Work for you? Patagonia is a designer of outdoor clothing and gear for the silent sports: climbing, surfing, skiing and snowboarding, fly-fishing, and trail running. The article explained how Yvon Chouinard, CEO of Patagonia, ran the company while spending most of his time outdoors.

Once a week, every Patagonia employee filled out a form summarizing the past week’s accomplishments, challenges, and lessons, and setting priorities for the next week. (I have a version of this form and a solid case to make it your performance plan in my book in Chapter 19, Give Them a Voice)

Chouinard designed the weekly report to take about fifteen minutes to write and five minutes to read. Managers collected individual 5-15s and compiled team reports for their managers, and so on, until a filtered and synthesized version of the report reached the CEO, wherever he was.

How is a 5-15 Report Structured?

Patagonia 5-15 Report Template

As seen in the image above, a typical 5-15 might look like:

  1. Accomplishments: The employee lists the tasks, projects, or goals they have accomplished since the last report. This highlights their contributions and provides visibility into their productivity.
  2. Challenges: The employee outlines any obstacles, difficulties, or challenges they are facing. This allows the manager to understand potential roadblocks and offer assistance if needed.
  3. Future priorities: The employee sets new goals or priorities for the upcoming week or reporting period. This helps align their work with the overall objectives of the team or organization.
  4. Feedback and Suggestions: Employees can use this section to share feedback on processes, suggest improvements, or provide insights from their perspective.

Managers, in turn, review the reports to stay informed about their team members’ progress, challenges, and goals. They can provide feedback, offer guidance, allocate resources, and make decisions based on the information provided in the report. This regular communication helps strengthen the supervisor-employee relationship, ensures alignment with organizational goals, and supports employee growth and development.

How We Used the 5-15 Report in Axero

Axero was going through many growing pains. I was working around the clock hiring and training new people and taking care of business. I often felt like I was the only one in the company getting anything done. Sure, I knew that wasn’t true—but I thought it anyway.

I wondered if there was a way for me to stay in the loop without doing so much work, and Chouinard’s idea caught my eye. It was insultingly simple. I couldn’t believe it had been around since 1988, and I was only now learning about it. So, I asked everyone to do the 5-15s. I didn’t know if it would solve anything. But at twenty minutes a week, it cost nothing to try.

Right away, I noticed that people liked writing and reading these reports. It was a great way to wrap up a long week. Even talking about the things that didn’t go well felt good. You felt like you were accomplishing something just by stating the problem and focusing on the next steps. Which often proved to be the case.

The Lasting Results of the 5-15 Report

Soon, the mood in the company shifted. The reports gave us a break from chasing our tails, a moment to put our daily tasks in perspective. We saw the bigger, less petty picture. And we saw each other.

As I looked back on my week, I knew every Axero employee was doing the same thing: figuring out his wins, losses, lessons learned, and the next week’s priorities. We were all curious to see what we came up with, so, we put our 5-15s on the intranet where everyone could read everyone else’s. The reports didn’t just go up the chain; we shared them with everybody in the company.

It didn’t seem like a big deal, but after a year, I am amazed at the difference the 5-15s have made for us.

  1. Everyone knows what everyone else is working on, and that’s a good thing. People appreciate each other and don’t act like they are the only ones doing anything worthwhile.
  2. Everyone knows what’s important to everyone else. Sales and customer service people share their reports, so we all know what’s valuable to prospects and customers and prioritize.
  3. We can set what we call “realistic and moving goals,” since we understand our capacity and priorities much better.
  4. We set realistic goals and are transparent, everyone owns his job. People not only deliver superior results, but they are constantly improving the process so that a new person can step in their shoes and replace them when they move onto bigger things. This is exactly what we need to keep growing!

I agree with this POCC manager: pettiness is a big problem if you care about running your company and growing your business. Fortunately, it goes away when we share our work and sharpen our focus. Give it a shot!

If you dislike pettiness, you might like my book, because it will help you inspire people to get past the small stuff.

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Written by

Tim Eisenhauer is a co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.


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