Why have a Company Kickoff (CKO)?

A large group of people gather for a company kickoff

Just about every enterprise software company has Sales Kickoffs (SKOs)—those once-a-year, multi-day meetings for sales teams to celebrate last year’s accomplishments, get motivated, and understand the vision, strategy, and goals for the year head. Standard.

But a high production value, all-day Company Kickoff (CKO) packed with panels, speeches, and fireside chats with customers and partners that’s open to everyone in the organization and takes more than 1,020 hours from the creative team alone to pull off? Not the norm.

But CKO is the norm at Workfront. Here’s why.

Connecting strategy to delivery: people do their best work when they have visibility and context.

Workfront is charging into 2020 with bold, extraordinary enterprise work management ambitions fueled by the desire to help companies and their people do their best work—a mission that Workfront takes just as seriously when it comes to its own employees. A mission that starts with clearly communicating where we’re headed and how every single person’s contributions will help us get there.

Enter CKO and Workfront CEO Alex Shootman walking on stage to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” to do just that in front of more than 1,000 employees participating both virtually from around the world and in person at Salt Lake City’s Salt Palace. A crazy train beginning that quickly turned into a day full of leaders, partners, and customers speaking directly to everyone in the organization. Shared goals. Shared understanding. Shared passion.

As Workfront chief customer officer Sue Fellows entered the stage to Elton John’s “Saturday Night's Alright for a Fighting" to have a conversation with Workfront customer Covance, I started to understand how my day-to-day work connected to Workfront’s big picture “why.” And as Workfront CMO Heidi Melin walked on stage to “Barracuda” by Heart (side note: it’s a data-supported fact that 70s and 80s music is absolutely critical to a successful CKO) to guide a fireside chat with Workfront customer T-Mobile, I started to understand more than just what we were trying to achieve, but how we’d achieve it. But more than being armed with a clearly communicated vision and plan for making it a reality, I felt included.

Sue and Patrick talk on stage at a large company kickoff

Inclusivity: everyone deserves a seat at the table.

When I asked Alex Shootman why Workfront has a CKO, he told me that everyone at Workfront deserves to know what we’re trying to accomplish and what their role is in it. “Accomplishing our 2020 goals requires that every single person understands the company strategy. Inviting everyone to CKO is a way to practice what we preach by providing context and visibility into what we’re all working together toward.”

I also felt compelled to ask Alex about the quality of the event. Why put so many resources into it? “We ask our people to do great work, so leadership needs to deliver great work, too. CKO’s production quality is a big part of that.”

Alex Shootman quote

So, why have a CKO?

Workfront has a CKO every year to help its employees do their best work by giving them visibility into how their daily work connects to big picture goals, to engage and inspire everyone involved in helping Workfront achieve its 2020 ambitions, and to rock out to music from the 80s on a random Tuesday.

A large sign stands in the center of an event center

On a personal level, what started for me as a work assignment—covering the event as Workfront’s content lead—morphed into something significantly more meaningful. Participating in CKO completely transformed my long-standing belief that the default for large companies is this exclusive, closed-door mentality when it comes to “big important meetings about strategy.” Like I could feel my heart rate escalate listening to the 80s jams from my childhood, I could also feel the level of investment in my work elevating.

Toward the end of CKO, Sue Fellows asked the crowd, “Who here plays a role in our customers’ success?” I thought the room full of fiercely raised hands would turn into a standing ovation. I wasn’t alone in feeling that spike of enthusiasm and engagement in what I do for a living. I wasn’t alone in feeling immense pride in my work. And I wasn’t the only one feeling like Workfront is as committed to helping me do my best work as it is to helping our customers.

The only downside to this year’s CKO? Having “I'm going off the rails on a crazy train!” stuck in my head for days—a small price to pay for a stellar start to a banner year.