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An open-source manifesto about how to manage work in a modern company, developed to help new companies build culture & work practices based on tested best practices.
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README.md

README.md

The Open Work Manifesto

License

This document is open-source. It's taken from the Open Work Manifesto on GitHub (https://github.com/TheEnigmaticT/modern_open_culture) and licensed under the Creative Commons CC0 license and is in the public domain cc0 License. Feel free to take this document, fork it, make your own copy, and generally remix it to get the result you want.

If you're using this for your own company, you'll probably want to find and replace all instances of "this company" with your company name.

Introduction

This document outlines a series of guidelines that everyone at the company agrees to work by. It better to run a company where judgement is valued over process, but these guidelines are this company's best judgement for a good way to run the company. This is a collaborative document, so if your judgement differs, that's a great way to update the company's culture.

This company publicly stands by every point, and in the spirit of transparent leadership, the leadership team gives you permission, and encourages you to, share it, talk about it, and bring it up in discussions with each other and with us. These guidelines should form a backbone for our culture, and if you don't know them and talk about them, we won't all adopt them together.

Table of Contents:

Using Communication Channels Appropriately
  Meetings
  1 on 1s
  Chat apps
  Email
  Task Tracking
Work Out Loud
    Work Flexibly, But Predictably
    Talk To Your Team Members Every Day
        Stand Tall, Stand Up
        Ghosting is for Awkward Dates, not for Coworkers
    Privacy is for Personal Matters
    Friday Is for Upkeep
Go First
    Search Before You Ask
    Ideas Are Good, Execution is Better
    Count On Us, But Chart The Course
    Get Others On Board
No-One Left Behind
    The Team Wins Together
    Your Career is our Career
    Flexibility and Individual Commitment
    Crime and Punishment

Using Communication Channels Appropriately

When you're working with many team mates across different disciplines, time zones, and even companies, it's important that everyone agrees how to talk about work, how to assign work, how to follow up on work, and how to organize around work. This section talks about the best ways to use different communication channels at work.

Meetings

Meetings, for the purposes of working at a modern company, can be face to face, held via video conference, or blended between the two. Meetings are when we get more than 2 people into a real-time discussion about a work topic. Meetings are the most expensive way to collaborate and the most difficult to arrange, so they should be used as rarely as possible if some other means of collaboration or communication is possible. Even so, there are some invaluable uses for meetings.

Meetings should be reserved for:

  • Multiple topic discussions
  • Brainstorming
  • Company-wide updates & celebrations
  • Team-specific collaboration
  • Kickoffs & information sharing

Any meeting that's more than 45 minutes is probably doomed to failure, so keep it short and sweet. In multi-topic meetings, any topic that's dragged on for more than 15 minutes should be tabled and discussed separately.

1 on 1s

1 on 1 meetings, held via video conference or in person, are great for sensitive discussions, very urgent discussions, and giving feedback about past work. They are easier to arrange than multi-person meetings, but if they occur in the middle of someone's day they can be very disruptive to their overall work productivity. Respect your teammates' time and try to hold face to face meetings when they won't disrupt their blocks of focus time.

Chat apps

Spending all day in chat apps can feel very busy but it is rarely productive. Being disciplined about your use of chat apps is one of the biggest productivity hacks. Keep in mind that the person you're messaging presumably has their own work to do, and when you message them you are keeping them from doing it.

While it's tempting to reach out to people via chat whenever you have a question or you're blocked, it's important to realize that as part of Go First, you need to make sure that you've spent at least 5 minutes trying to answer a question before you use interruptive messaging to stop someone else from doing their work.

Chat is best used for informal, short discussions. Do not trust chat to stand as a record when you are discussing a task or a project. Anything substantive said in chat needs to go to the task tracking tool that we use in this company to make sure that we have a standing record of what was decided.

We discuss this further below, but assume that chat messages are asynchronous in nature and you should expect replies within 24 hours unless your question is both urgent and important.

Email

Email is for longer, more formal writing. It stands as a permanent record of the discussion (although decisions made via email still need to go into the task tracking tool if work results from them), and can involve multiple people in a discussion over a multi-day period.

Task Tracking

Task tracking is the main source of truth for work, decisions about work, deliverables for work, and dates for work. Anything that you need to accomplish that's more than 10 minutes worth of work should be tracked in a task tracking tool. Whether your boss has asked you to do it or someone from a department halfway across the world has asked for it, make sure you put the work into your task tracking tool so that you establish a clear understanding of what needed doing and when you would do it.

A well-written task should include at the very least

  • A title that clearly explains what the work is
  • A description, if needed, that goes into more detail about the kind of work to be done and why
  • A due date
  • An assignee who is responsible for the task

Additionally, tasks may have

  • Attachments
  • Comments & discussions
  • Tags & meta data
  • other custom fields

Depending on the exact specifications of your team. Each team may have their own tools and process, but the expectation across this company is that everyone has a tool and process.

Using tasks well

Creating a task and assigning it to a team member with a due date for when you'd like it done is a perfectly good way to let someone know that you'd like them to accomplish it for you. If your task is well-written and clear, you can avoid all of the time spent in either a meeting or an email and let them just fetch the relevant data from the work tracking tool as they can.

It's perfectly polite to let the team member know with an @ tag in chat that you've created a task and assigned it to them to make sure that they are aware of it.

Work Flexibly, But Predictably

We are goal-oriented, and the nature of our work is more creative than time-sensitive. As such, there is flexibility on the hours you work. And we all believe that the best work is done disconnected. Having to check messaging tools for messages every 60 minutes is not productive.

But as a member of the team, you have a responsibility to your managers and to your teammates; they need to know when they can expect a reply from you, or when they can expect your tasks to be updated.

As such, choose the times that work best for your own focus and productivity, but schedule in your calendar 1 hour at the start of the workday and 1 hour at the end of the workday where people know that they can get a real-time answer from you.

Team members on a part-time regime naturally have stricter schedules, so they can schedule a single hour for this purpose.

Talk To Your Team Members Every Day

Stand Tall, Stand Up

Standups are a fantastic way to see what team members are doing and to hold yourself accountable for the work that you need to accomplish, but held in person they are often a waste of time. This is why we believe in the power of asynchronous standups.

We have a stand-up channel created in our messaging application where every team member, regardless of seniority or department is expected to post a daily log of his or her goals and accomplishments. This is why it matters:

  • It informs team members what you're working on right now.
  • It creates a record of what you've accomplished and what you need help on.
  • It helps align you and your team by starting discussions about why a certain task is (or isn't) on today's list of things to do
  • It makes it easy for you and your manager to talk about your last week / month / whenever with data and facts

This is the structure you are expected to use:

Yesterday I did this:
Today I commit to doing this:
I am blocked on this: (@ whomever can help you unblock the issue)
Here are the tasks I didn’t accomplish yesterday, and the reason is this:

Ghosting is for awkward dates, not coworkers

If you are in the middle of your workday, and someone asks you a question, either in a public channel or in private, you owe them a reply within a maximum of 1 business day. If your reply will take longer than a business day, you at least owe them a reply of "I'm working on it and will get it to you by DATE".

If it will take you longer than a day to reply to a message sensibly, you should also make sure that you Show The Work and invite the person who asked you the question to follow the task on your task tracking tool.

We are all reactive and moving quickly to accomplish a large backlog of tasks. If we can't communicate together about what we need to accomplish and keep each other updated on key tasks, we can't form a team together.

If you have an actual real-life emergency and can't reply to messages & requests, let us know. We realize that real life takes precedence over work sometimes, but we at least need to know that you're out of the loop because Real Stuff is happening.

Privacy is for Personal Matters

Whenever a personal, private matter is not involved (IE, requesting time off to deal with an illness; discussing your career path within the company, etc), stick to the public communication channels devoted to your team or project. Have conversations out in the open as much as you can.

Private chat locks away knowledge, decisions, and action items into silos, which makes it harder for a team to bond together and for a company to succeed together.

BE SURE to tag ( @ ) the people that you would be writing privately to, to make sure they are notified. But leave the conversation open to anyone else.

Friday Is for Upkeep

It's easy to get so wrapped up in the scrum of day to day work that you forget to do crucial upkeep that is key to the success of a person, a team, and a company. Loosely, you can group that upkeep into two kinds of work: reflection and planning. Fridays should be focused on those kinds of work.

This means don't undertake or kick off a project on a Friday. Don't give yourself a big task with a due date on a Friday if you can help it. Don't schedule that big 3-hour meeting with 10 stakeholders on a Friday. (Probably don't schedule a big 3-hour meeting at all, TBH)

Go First

I always say that I’ll go first. And so that means if I’m checking out at the store, I’ll say hello first. If I’m coming across somebody and make eye contact, I’ll smile first. If people would experiment with that in their life a little bit, be first, because – not all times, but most times it comes in your favor. (…) you have to go first because now we’re being trained in this world, nobody’s going first anymore.

— Gabrielle Reece, “The Tim Ferriss Podcast,” Episode 87

Search Before You Ask

Does the thing you need already exist? Do you have a specific reason for it to be revised? Can you clearly explain how and why?

It’s easy to take the attitude “I need this and this person is in charge of this kind of thing, so I’ll ask them to do it.” But that person already has their own plans, goals and priorities in place.

Always take the attitude of putting the work in first. Go as far as you can by yourself. At the least go to your teammate with a blocker/problem, not a request. At the best, go to your teammate with a solution and ask them for help with it.

Ideas Are Good, Execution is Better

A company built of people who are all working but have no ideas doesn't grow, but it does put food on the table; a company of people who are all coming up with great ideas but expect others to execute them... well, the'll starve very fast.

Do bring your best ideas to the table, but don't expect other people to jump in and do the work for you. Other people are working on their own projects and ideas, too. Ideas have no merit if you are not willing to back them up with execution.

Count On Us, But Chart The Course

If you want something from someone, build them a clear roadmap. Explain precisely what you need from them, how you need it, and when you need it.

Don’t limit yourself to using clear language; build a structure. Create the tasks in our task tracking tool with as much description and as many references as needed.

Go first. Put in the work.

Then, explain the why (see below) and negotiate priorities.

Preferably on a Friday. :)

Get Others On Board

The first rule of good work is you need to believe in what you are doing. If someone gets a task shoved into their hands and they don’t understand the value, they will do a bad job.

So if you have a task for someone, it’s on you to prove the value. Show examples of past success, show data. Don’t say “I know it works like this because of my experience” or “I think that…” Bring data to back up your requests. Show people the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

They didn’t bite? Go start it on your own. Prove them wrong. Prove management wrong. Once the gold starts to shine, they will jump on board.

Proven results beat experience. Merit beats intuition.

No-One Left Behind

...but Make Sure You Know Where We're Going

The only way we win at this company is if we all align together and accomplish our key goals. Those key goals are set by senior management and should be clearly communicated with you. If you don't feel that you understand what the key goals are at a company level, you should stop, take stock, and find them out.

If they're not posted somewhere you can find, ask your supervisor. If they don't know, you are empowered to go as far up the chain as you need to in order to get a clear answer on what the goals are. And once you've gotten that answer, be sure to share it with your team so that they know what the high level goals are, too.

Once you know those goals, you should be able to use them to inform the decision making process you use to plan out your month, your week, and even your day.

The Team Wins Together

We all win together. Success in this company is not a zero sum game. Did someone else deliver a big victory in your team? Excellent. Celebrate it, congratulate them, and learn from what they did so you can drive yourself to your next big win.

Don't tear down or minimize the victories of other people in this company. Positivity adds momentum; negativity adds drag.

Your Career is our Career

Work with management to set your individual goals in alignment with the key goals for this company. On weekly meetings, you should decide, together with the team as much as possible, what is the best use of your time toward accomplishing objectives. For your personal objectives, you should set goals in the following way:

Good: If you do this by the end of the week, you will have moved your project(s) in the right direction.
Better: An ideal case scenario. If you manage this, you will go into the weekend shining bright like a diamond.
Best: It’s not going to happen, but if you get all this done by the end of the week despite the odds being impossible, drinks are on us.

You can expect a 1-on-1 every week with your manager to further refine this objectives and to request support with any challenge you might face.

In addition to that, every quarter we will do a 1-on-1 to review your performance and use the same structure to help you set career and personal goals. We commit to helping you achieve these as much as its within our power to do so.

Flexibility and Individual Commitment

Work is part of life, not the other way around. If you can't hit a goal this week, tell us and we will understand. We don't demand 110% commitment from you because 1) it's impossible and 2) that's how you burn out. We do demand that you commit to accomplish the work that you've agreed to publicly accomplish, and the goals and KPIs that you've agreed to be responsible for.

If you fail at them, we can have a look at why, and refine either your approach, or revise the team agreement into something more reasonable. If you fail to uphold your commitments a second time, that’s a red flag and it’s worth a more serious discussion; however, it will be in the spirit of helping you fit in the team and processes better.

If you fail often and repeatedly, you will be asked to leave the team.

Crime and Punishment

We see work as a fundamental right, and as one of the major pillars in someone’s life. Part of the ethos of how we want to change the world for the better by giving people the opportunity to do work they enjoy in a way that’s healthier, more balanced, and more productive. Often, work is what gives people the possibility of being healthy and happy.

As such, we do not ask someone to leave lightly. Firing someone is something we view as the worst possible outcome in a work relationship. However, keeping someone that is underperforming, or doesn’t fit the team, is damaging to the work of everyone else in the company. This is a case where we must place the many above the few.

If the worst happens and we have to let someone go, we commit to the following:

* You will always get at minimum 30 days of notice.
* You will be paid for those 30 days, as well as any severance outlined in your contract.  In return, we expect you to leave your work in as good a state as possible, for the people coming in after you.
* As far as they can do so with a clear conscience - that is, if your exit isn’t due to some reprehensible act or attitude on your part, or total and obvious lack of capability for doing the job you claimed you could do  - your manager will do everything in their power to help you find a new job where you will be a better fit, including writing a recommendation letter.
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