Silent meetings and feedback on the count of three: How Ramp uses writing culture to grow

At Ramp, writing extends to every part of the business

The term “silent meeting” might sound like an oxymoron. At Ramp, it’s one of the many innovative ways writing culture shapes the business.

Over the last three years, Ramp has rolled out its spend management platform and corporate card offering with the goal of helping finance teams understand their spending and grow strategically with a savings mindset.

Ramp’s growth as a business, while rapid, has also been deliberate. This is due in no small part to the writing culture that Megan Yen, VP Business & Revenue Operations, has helped implement since she joined the company in May 2020.

Over the past two years, Megan has overhauled Ramp’s meeting, onboarding, feedback, and goal-setting processes by injecting writing everywhere she can. “In my role, and within my team, I’m heavy on encouraging written documentation,” she says. “It’s the best way to scale knowledge sharing, and it encompasses everything I do and what I try to instill in the team’s culture.”

About those silent meetings...

When she joined Ramp, Megan noticed a lack of documentation throughout the company. While not uncommon for a young startup, it was negatively impacting efficiency. Meetings especially were longer and less focused than they needed to be.

“Things were not necessarily documented [at Ramp] early on. I saw that meetings could be more efficient.”
Megan Yen, Ramp

In addition to introducing meeting pre-reads and agendas, Megan created expectations around taking regular meeting notes—because, “In a startup, if you don’t write things down, you won’t remember.” These changes helped immensely in adding structure and efficiency to meetings. But Megan had some less conventional tricks up her sleeve as well. Enter the “silent meeting.”

Ramp’s Business Operations (or BizOps) functions as an internal consulting team that helps solve the company’s biggest problems. Because the team’s purpose is cross-functional by nature, each team member is working on their own unique problems at any given time. “It doesn’t always make sense to have a big discussion every time,” she says.

Throughout the week, Megan encourages her team to think about any issues or gaps that they notice in the business. Each team member writes out the issue they see, as well as a proposed solution. During the BizOps team’s bi-weekly meeting, the silent portion begins when Megan shares a document that contains each team member’s issues and solutions. Then, for 10 minutes, everyone has the chance to read through, vote on, and leave feedback on the issues and proposed solutions that each team member has documented over the last two weeks. When the 10 minutes are up, the team discusses the issues that have received the most votes.

This tactic has been a great way to speed up problem-solving and prevent the team from wasting time with 30-minute meetings to discuss one-off issues. It’s also helped the BizOps team clarify their ideas and communicate them concisely, and has been adopted by Sales and Sales Ops teams too. Writing out issues ahead of time is “a good forcing function for people to think critically about the message they’re trying to convey,” explains Megan. “It helps people better distill information.”

Writing culture starts on day one

Megan has made it a priority to build written knowledge sharing into Ramp’s onboarding process. New hires are introduced to the now-ubiquitous writing culture as soon as they join the company. “On my team, I always have a 30-minute onboarding session with new hires, and I have a whole doc ready for them with what to expect on day one, week one, and beyond,” says Megan. “Then I give them key documents for background knowledge that they’re expected to read before we meet next.”

“For new hires, it’s always reading first.”
Megan Yen, Ramp

While this practice started with Megan’s team, it’s becoming more prevalent throughout the company. Providing new hires with the information they need upfront helps them understand the company history, their team’s OKRs, and any additional context they need to be successful in their roles from day one.

Ramp uses Slab as a company wiki to house agendas, meeting notes, and team playbooks, all of which serve as references to help new hires get up to speed and get aligned quickly.

Team playbooks have become more common at Ramp. “They make a lot of sense for teams like sales, who can use these resources to learn what they need to know about the company, the product, and the processes they’ll be engaging with, as well as where to find things,” says Megan. The BizOps team is also helping to build out an FAQ database for the sales team, so they can easily find answers to any questions they may have.

Feedback on the count of three

Writing culture doesn’t just touch the day-to-day and onboarding processes at Ramp; it also influences how the company improves.

The way feedback is given in a group setting is often biased; people tend to adjust their response in reaction to what others have said. This can lead to missed opportunities when it comes to gaining valuable, actionable insights. To remedy this, Megan holds monthly feedback sessions to give each team member the chance to share their thoughts on what they’re working on and what could be improved. In an effort to solicit unbiased, straightforward feedback during these meetings, Megan asks her team to write out their thoughts beforehand. During the meeting, everyone pastes their feedback into a shared document on the count of three. They then discuss each person’s feedback and how they can use it to make improvements.

Having the team share simultaneously circumvents the problem of adjusting feedback based on the discussion at hand. Plus, writing out feedback beforehand forces people to lay out their thoughts in a clear, structured way, and focus on the root issue.

A progressive point of view on goal-setting

As Ramp continues to grow and mature, Megan is making sure that the company is able to measure its progress and success the right way—which, sure enough, involves a lot of writing.

Each team is responsible for updating a bi-weekly OKR tracker, which uses a framework to write out their progress, plans, and problems. Goals are measured and set on a quarterly basis, with documentation showing Ramp's continuous progress.

“Without written documentation, knowledge sharing would be very one-off, like a game of telephone.”
Megan Yen, Ramp

As for where Ramp’s writing culture will go in the future, Megan has more innovative ideas up her sleeve. “I’m really interested to see how I can help other teams throughout the company get better through writing,” she says.

She’s also excited to see which ideas her team will bring to the table. “I constantly ask them to look for new ways of working that we could try,” she says. And when they find an idea to try, they can bring it up for discussion in a meeting—but not without writing it out first.

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