Having both Maker’s and Business people is critical for the success of a company (way to go captain obvious). Yet, the two need a very different type of schedule to flourish.
Even if I gave it my best, I couldn’t explain it better than Paul Graham did in his essay in 2009 so please read that here before reading the rest of the blog.
This is a topic that is very close to my heart as essentially I wear both hats a lot. Even though I am not a programmer I am a maker at heart and at the same time I am a manager. This duality has been my reality for as long as I can remember:)
So this is my attempt to share my thoughts, explain how we deal with it in our team as it might help people who are struggling with the same issue, and get feedback along with suggestions for improvement. I am choosing this topic because I believe it is a major issue I don’t think it being addressed often enough.
Thinking fast and thinking slow tasks
When we talk about this in our team, we don’t often talk about Maker’s and Manager’s. We instead talk about tasks that require fast thinking and tasks that require slow thinking, using the terms of Daniel Kahneman from the book Thinking fast and slow (which is a great book and a required reading in our team)
Fast thinking tasks are those that are easy to do and do not require a high level of concentration to get started. You can simply dive in and do them without too much effort.
Examples from Foody
Programmers: Making small adjustments to the width/height/placement of elements after the page has been completed, like for example when you try to finalize the cart so that it looks perfect
Business: Making changes to the items of the menu based on instructions you got from a restaurant
Slow thinking tasks are those that require deep concentration to be completed.
Examples from Foody
Programmers: Thinking about the structure of the page, and what is the optimal way to bring all elements together. What caching mechanisms should be used and how can the code be written to be as maintainable as possible in the future
Business: Writing an in depth blog entry
The most difficult point with these tasks is getting started, as it usually takes a long time for you to free your mind from distractions, concentrate on the task, and enter a state of flow where you are fully immersed in the task.
The first part, the part where you try to concentrate is not enjoyable at all and it can actually be pretty painful – I often find my brain hurting during that stage. But once you enter into a state of flow the feeling is reversed and the best way I can describe the feeling that you get is “bliss”.
So what’s the worst thing that can happen to you when you are in that state?
There have been lots of studies on the topic and they all show that it takes us a long time to get back into flow even after a minor interruption – lets say a phone call, or a co-worker asking us something simple.
In fact, research states that it takes you anywhere between 10 and 25 minutes to get back into flow.
10 to 25. That’s a long fucking time.
And this becomes truly scary if you take a moment to realize that in our workday (and after that) we are usually distracted by small events very often – sometimes every 10-15 minutes.
We simply keep ourselves in the “trying to concentrate state” which is the most unproductive and unpleasant state to be. No wonder why so many people hate their jobs =\
What we do at Foody
At Foody we are really trying to always add great people to our team, and get out of their way so that they can “create” and pull the team forward.
It would be really horrible though if we added great people to the team, but never allowed them the time to go into the slow thinking – creative mode.
That’s something that has been central to our team culture from day one, as we tried to build strong communication channels.
When we are in the same Office as our Teammates, our natural inclination is to just say it when we have a random question/idea/thought (hey we’re sitting next to each other) but that’s usually a very bad option as it:
– Distracts other people, hence reducing their productivity
– Since other people are absorbed in their tasks they don’t give enough attention to the point
So before communication we should think “what is the best way to ask this question/tell this idea” .
Some Communication Channels are better for some forms of Communication
In our Team we use the Following Communication Channels:
- Asana for Task Management. Most of our communication is sent through asana. If it’s something that you want a specific person to do or you want to be sure that they are aware of something Asana is the channel to go.
- Slack (Group async Conversation)
- Daily Speed Meetings (All non-urgent topics that require group conversation)
- Daily Speed Function Specific Meetings i.e. Operations Meeting, Development meeting
- Ad-Hoc Chats (All urgent or bottleneck topics that require group conversation)
- Email (Rarely used, usually when you have a long form document already on email that you want the other person to read)
Examples of when each communication channel is best:
Asana is a Project management software and it’s very good for managing tasks in Groups. The rule is simple. Something you have to do? Write in Asana. Want someone else to do something? Write it in Asana and assign it to them. Want to be sure someone is informed about something? Send it as a task in Asana
Our team uses Slack for its internal communications. Slack is good for topics that require ideas and input from a lot of Members. Use this for e-brainstorming, or for things that you want people to know about, but not take any action with the information – i.e. not for tasks.
Slack communication can get out of hand easily and become quite distracting, so if something requires interaction and discussion we bring it to the daily meeting
Another change we recently made is that all team members check slack 3 times a day (it is quite addictive and you end up checking for new messages all the time) to avoid being sucked down the rabbit hole and having conversations on slack we should really be having face to face
The Daily meeting
Every day at 16:00 o clock we have a 15 minute meeting. Here, we bring all topics that need to be announced to most team members, or need brief input from all team members.
This is a speed meeting and each person must respect the time of his team mates and can only spend 1 minute talking about each topic.
Function Specific Meeting
After the daily meeting, every day we have 15-minute function specific meetings. That means that the business team has a Foody operations meeting and the development team has a development meeting.
In the operations meeting all topics related to foody operations, sales, marketing or anything that is related to the business side are discussed.
In the Development meeting team members share tasks they have started working on, or that they will start on the near future and get the feedback and advice of their teammates
30 minutes before the beginning of the daily meeting we have what we call Pre Daily time. During that slot, we get up from our offices and ask any questions we have and want to ask a specific teammate/a group of teammates, or discuss any topic that is not best discussed at the daily meeting or at a function specific meeting.
For example, during this time, a programmer, the designer and the product manager can meet and review the progress of a feature, and decide on the next steps.
Or a teammate can ask another teammate to sign something, or talk about how to approach a situation.
In short, we use the pre-daily time to discuss anything that we want. We allocate a specific time slot from 15:30 – 16:00 where everyone gets out of their slow thinking mode.
In fact, we have grouped all our meetings together (15:30-16:30). This is a time where everyone is in fast thinking mode, and once that is finished we can all return to our work without interruptions.
Getting yourself ready for slow thinking
Of course, interruptions from teammates/customers/your environment are only half the story. Usually the biggest culprit in interrupting us is ourselves. But this is already toooo long so that will be the topic for my next blog 🙂
As always I would love to hear your feedback about my thoughts.