Book: “It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work”

it_doesnt_have_to_be_crazy_at_work“It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
  • “There are two primary reasons: (1) The workday is being sliced into tiny, fleeting work moments by an onslaught of physical and virtual distractions. And (2) an unrealistic expectations that stress people out.”
  • “The problem is that there’s hardly any uninterrupted,, dedicated time to do it.”
  • “The answer isn’t more hours, it’s less bullshit. Less waste, no more production. And far fewer distractions, less always-on anxiety, and avoiding stress.”
  • “Mark Twain nailed it: ‘Comparison is the death of joy.’ We’re with Mark.”
  • “Being one of many options in a market is a virtue that allows customers to have a real choice. If you can embrace that, then the war metaphors of business can more easily be buried, as they should be.”
  • “Do we want to make things better? All the time. But do we want to maximize ‘better’ through constantly chasing goals? No thanks.”
  • “Because let’s face it: Goals are fake. Nearly all of them are artificial targets set for the sake of setting targets. These made-up numbers then function as a source of unnecessary stress until they’re either achieved or abandoned. And when that happens, you’re supposed to pick new ones and start stressing again.”
  • “Plus, there’s an even darker side of goal setting. Chasing goals often leads companies to compromise their morals, honesty, and integrity to reach those fake numbers.”
  • “You can absolutely run a great business without a single goal. You don’t need something fake to do something real. And if you must have a goal, how about just staying in business? Or serving your customers well? Or being a delightful place to work? Just because these goals are harder to quantify does not make them any less important.”
  • “If you stop thinking that you must change the world, you lift a tremendous burden off yourself and the people around you.”
  • “Set out to do good work. Set out to be fair in your dealings with customers, employees, and reality. Leave a lasting impression with the people you touch and worry less (or not at all!) about changing the world. Chances are you won’t, and if you do, it’s mot going to be because you said you would.”
  • “For nearly 20 years, we’ve been figuring it out as we go, a few weeks at a time.”
  • “When you stick with planning for the short term, you get to change your mind often. And that’s a huge relief! This eliminates the pressure for perfect planning and all the stress that comes with it. We simply believe that you’re better off steering the ship with a thousand little inputs as you go rather than a few grand sweeping movements made way ahead of time.”
  • “Much corporate anxiety comes from the realization that the company has been doing the wrong thing, but it’s too late to change direction because of the ‘Plan’.”
  • “Most of the time, if you’re uncomfortable with something, it’s because it isnt’ right. Discomfort is the human response to a questionable or bad situation, whether that’s working long hours with no end in sight, exaggerating your business numbers to impress investors, or selling intimate user data to advertisers.”
  • “On the contrary, if you listen to your discomfort and back off from what’s causing it, your’re more likely to find the right path.”
  • “If you can’t fit everything you want to do within 40 hours per week, you need to get better at picking what to do, not work longer hours. Most of what we think we have to do, we don’t have to do at all. It’s a choice, and often it’s a poor one.”
  • “When you cut out what’s unnecessary, you’re left with what you need. And all you need is 8 hours a day for about 5 days a week.”
  • “For example, we don’t have status meetings at Basecamp. We all know these meetings–one person talks for a bit and shares some plans, then next person does the same thing. They are a waste of time.”
  • “Instead, we ask people to write updates daily or weekly on Basecamp for others to read when they have a free moment.”
  • “Being productive is about occupying your time–filling your schedule to the brim and getting as much done as you can. Being effective is about finding more of your time unoccupied and open for other things besides work. Time for leisure, time for family and friends. Or time for doing absolutely nothing.”
  • “A great work ethic isn’t about working whenever you’re called upon. It’s about doing what you say you ‘re going to do, putting in a fair day’s work, respecting the work, respecting the customer, respecting coworkers, not wasting time, not creating unnecessary work for other people and not being a bottleneck.”
  • “Ever notice how much work you get done on a plane or a train? Or, however perversely, on vacation? Or when you hide in the basement? Or on a late Sunday afternoon when you have nothing else to do but crack open the laptop and pound some keys? It’s in these moments–the moments far away from work, way outside the office–when it is the easiest to get work done. Interruption-free zones.”
  • “So we borrowed an idea from academia: office hours. All subject-matter experts at Basecamp now publish office hours. For some that means an open afternoon every Tuesday. For others it might be one hours a day. It’s up to each expert to decide their availability.”
  • “It turned out that waiting is no big deal most of the time. But the time and control regained by our experts is a huge deal. Calmer days, longer stretches of uninterrupted time to get things done, and planned moments when they can enter a more professorial mode and teach, help, and share.”
  • “Getting on someone’s schedule at Basecamp is a tedious, direct negotiation, not an easy, automated convenience. You have to make your case. You can’t just reach into someone’s calendar, find an open slot, and plant your flag. That’s because no one can see anyone else’s calendar at Basecamp.”
  • “Taking someone’s time should be a pain in the ass. Taking many people’s time should be so cumbersome that most people won’t even bother to try it unless it’s REALLY IMPORTANT! Meetings should be a last resort, especially big ones.”
  • “When someone take s your time, it doesn’t cost them anything, but it costs yo everything. You can only do great work if you have adequate quality time to do it. So when someone takes that from you, they crush your feeling of accomplishment from a good day’s work. The deep satisfaction you’d experience from actually making progress, not just talking about it, is eliminated.”
  • “We don’t require anyone to broadcast their whereabouts or availability at Basecamp. No butts-in-seats requirement for people at the office, no virtual-status indicator when they’re working remotely.”
  • “The only way to know if work is getting done is by looking at the actual work. That’s the boss’s job. If they can’t do that job, they should find another one.”
  • “At Basecamp, we’ve tried to create a culture of eventual response rather than immediate response. One where everyone doesn’t lose their shit if the answer to a nonurgent question arrives three hours later. One where we not only accept but strongly encourage people not to check email, or chat, or instant message for long stretches of uninterrupted time.”
  • “And if someone doesn’t’ get back to you quickly, it’s not because they’re ignoring you–it’s probably because they’re working. Don’t you have some other work to do while you wait?”
  • “JOMO! The joy of missing out.”
  • “It’s JOMO that lets you turn off the firehose of information and chatter and interruptions to actually get the right shit done. It’s JOMO that lets you catch up on what happened today as a single summary email tomorrow morning rather than with a drip-drip-drip feed throughout the day. JOMO, baby, JOMO.”
  • “The best companies aren’t families. They’re supporters of families. Allies of families. They’re there to provide healthy, fulfilling work environments so that when workers shut their laptops at a reasonable hour, they’re the best husbands, wives, parents, siblings, and children they can be.”
  • “If you, as the boss, want employees to take vacations, you have to take vacations. If you want them to stay home when they’re sick, you can’t come into the office sniffling. If you don’t want them to feel guilty for taking their kids to Legoland on the weekend, post some pictures of yourself there with yours.”
  • “A low trust battery is at the core of many personal disputes at work. It powers stressful encounters and anxious moments. When the battery is drained, everything is wrong, everything is judged harshly. A 10 percent charge equals a 90 percent chance an interaction will go south.”
  • Low-hanging fruit:
    • “The problem, as we’ve learned over time, is that the further away you are from the fruit, the lower it looks. Once you get up close, you see it’s quite a bit higher than you thought. We assume that picking it will be easy only because we’ve never tried to do it before.”
    • “Declaring that an unfamiliar task will yield low-hanging fruit is almost always an admission that you have little insight about what you’re setting out to do. And any estimate of how much work it’ll take to do something you’ve never tied before is likely to be off by degrees of magnitude.”
  • “Sleep-deprived people aren’t just short on brains or creativity, they’re short on patience. Short on understanding. Short on tolerance. The smallest things become the biggest dramas. That hurts colleagues at work as much as it does the family at home. Being short on sleep turns the astute into assholes.”
  • Hiring:
    • “What we don’t do are riddles, blackboard problem solving, or fake ‘come up with the answer on the spot’ scenarios. We don’t answer riddles all day, we do real work. So we give people real work to do and the appropriate time to do it in. It’s the same kind of work they’d be doing if they got the job.”
    • “When you force yourself to focus on just the person and their work, not their glorified past, you also end up giving more people a chance. There’s no GPA filter to cut out someone who didn’t care for certain parts of their schooling. There’s no pedigree screen to prevent the self-taught from getting hired. There’s no arbitrary ‘years of experience’ cut to prevent a fast learner from applying to a senior position.”
    • “In fact, junk the whole metaphor of talent wars altogether. Stop thinking of talent as something to be plundered and start thinking of it as something to be grown and nurtured, the seeds for which are readily available all over the globe for companies willing to do the work.”
    • “That work is mostly about the environment, anyway. Even if you had the most precious orchid planted in your garden, it would quickly die without the proper care. And if you do pay attention to having the best environment, you can grow your own beautiful orchids with patience. No need to seal them from your neighbor!”
    • “We’ve found hat nurturing untapped potential is far more exhilarating than finding someone who’s already at their peak. We hired many of our best people not because of who they were but because of who they could become.”
  • “Open-plan offices suck at providing an environment for calm, creative work done by professionals who need peace, quiet, privacy, and space to think and do their best.”
  • “Rather than thinking of it as an office, we think of it as a library. In fact, we call our guiding principle: Library Rules.”
  • “Walk into a library anywhere in the world and you’ll notice the same thing: It’s quiet and calm. Everyone knows how to behave in a library. In fact, few things transcend cultures like library behavior. It’s a place where people go to read, think, study, focus, and work.”
  • “In our office, if someone’s at their desk, we assume they’re deep in thought and focused on their work. That means we don’t walk up to them and interrupt them. It also means conversations should be kept to a whisper so as not to disturb anyone who could possibly hear you.”
  • “Fakecations put employees on a leash–liable to be yanked back and pulled into work at any moment. Time off isn’t much of a benefit if it can be taken right back. That’s more like a shitty loan with terrible terms. Plus interest. and worries. Screw that.”
  • “Unlimited vacation is a stressful benefit because it’s not truly unlimited. Can someone really take five months off? No. Three? No. Two? One? Maybe? Is it weeks or months? Who’s to know for sure? Ambiguity breeds anxiety.”
  • “We learned this the hard way. At one point we tried offering unlimited vacation, but we eventually noticed that people actually ended up taking less time off than they otherwise should have. That was exactly the opposite of what we intended.”
  • “That’s why whenever someone leaves Basecamp, an immediate goodbye announcement is sent out companywide.”
  • “This announcement is written by either the person leaving or their manager. It’s their choice (but most people who’ve left Baseamp chose to write their own). Either way, someone has to write one.”
  • “Note: If their message to the company doesn’t include exact details on why they are leaving, their manager will post a follow-up message the following week filling in in the gaps. when someone leave for another job, the whole story is usually shared by the person who’s leaving. But when someone is let go, we often have to clarify once they’re gone. It’s important that the reasons are clear and no questions linger unanswered.”
  • “Important topics need time, traction, and separation from the rest of the chatter. If something is being discussed in a chat room and it’s clearly too important to process one line at a time, we ask people to ‘write it up’ instead. This goes together with the rule ‘If everyone needs to see it, don’t chat about it.’ Give the discussion a dedicated, permanent home that won’t scroll away in five minutes.”
  • “Most deadlines aren’t so much deadlines as dreadlines. Unrealistic dates mired by ever-expanding project requirements. More work piles on but the timeline remains the same. That’s not work, that’s hell.”
  • “If it’s due on November 20, then it’s due on November 20. The date won’t move up and the dates wont’ move back. What’s variable is the scope of the problem–the work itself.”
  • “And who makes the decision about what stays and what goes in a fixed period of time? The team that’s working on it. Not the CEO, not the CTO. The team that’s doing the work has control over the work. They wield the ‘scope hammer,’ as we call it. They can crush the big must-have into smaller pieces and then judge each piece individually and objectively. Then they can sort, sift, and decide what’s worth keeping and what can wait.”
  • “A deadline with a flexible scope invites pushback, compromises, and tradeoffs–all ingredients in healthy, calm projects. It’s when you try to fix both scope and time that you have a recipe for dread, overwork, and exhaustion.”
  • “Sometimes when people pitch ideas at Basecamp, there will be radio silence for a few days before a flood of feedback comes in. That’s fine, and expected. Imagine a silent room after a physical meeting-style pitch. It would be awkward. And that’s precisely why we prefer to present out-of-person, not in-person. We want silence and consideration to feel natural, not anxiety-provoking.”
  • “Today we ship things when they’re ready rather than when they’re coordinated. If it’s ready for the web, ship it! iOS will catch up when they’re ready. Or if iOS is first, Android will get there when they’re ready. The same is true for the web. Customers get the value when it’s ready wherever, not when it’s ready everywhere.”
  • Jeff Bezos’s comment on commitment in his 2017 letter to shareholders: “I disagree and commit all the time. We recently greenlit a particular Amazon Studios original. I told the team my view: debatable whether it would be interesting enough, complicated to produce, the business terms aren’t that good, and we have lots of other opportunities. They had a completely different opinion and wanted to go ahead. I wrote back right away with ‘I disagree and commit and hope it becomes the most watched thing we’ve ever made.’ Consider how much slower this decision cycle would have been if the team had actually had to convince me rather than simply get my commitment.”
  • “Last thing: What’s especially important in disagree-and-commit situations is that the final decision should be explained clearly to everyone involved. It’s not just decide and go, it’s decide, explain, and go.”
  • “Being clear about what demands excellence and what’s perfectly okay just being adequate is a great way to bring a sense of calm into your work.”
  • “Calm requires getting comfortable with enough.”
  • “If it’s never enough, then it’ll always be crazy at work.”
  • “Rather than demand whatever it takes, we ask, What will it take? That’s an invitation to a conversation. One where we can discuss strategy, make tradeoffs, make cuts, come up with simpler approach all together, or even decide it’s not worth it after all.”
  • “First, since no one customer can pay us an outsized amount, no one customer’s demand for features or fixes or exceptions will automatically rise to the top. This leaves us free to make software for ourselves and on behalf of a broad base of customers, not at the behest of any single one or privileged few. It’s a lot easier to do the right thing for the many when you don’t fear displeasing a few super customers.”
  • “Second, we wanted to build Basecamp for small businesses like ourselves: members of the Fortune 5,000,000.”
  • “Third, we didn’t want to get sucked into the mechanics that chasing big contracts inevitably leads to.”
  • “Becoming a calm company is all about making decisions about who you are, who you want to serve, and who you want to say no to. It’s about knowing what to optimize for. It’s not that any particular choice is the right one, but not making one or dithering is definitely he wrong one.”
  • “That’s what promises lead to–rushing, dropping, scrambling, and a ting of regret at the earlier promise that was a bit too easy to make.”
  • Copycats: “But, really, unless you’ve patented it, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. Besides, copying does more harm to the copier than to dot he copied. when someone copies you, they are copying a moment in time. They don’t know the thinking that went into getting you to that moment in time, and they won’t know the thinking that’ll help you have a million more moments in time. They’re stuck with what you left behind.”
  • “It’s taken us a long time and a number of missteps to learn this core truth about selling: Sell new customers on the new thing and let old customers keep whatever they already have. This is the way keep the peace and maintain the calm.”
  • “People don’t like to have their grievances downplayed or dismissed. When that happens, even the smallest irritation can turn into an obsessive crusade.”
  • “When you deal with people who have trouble, yo can either choose to take the token that says ‘It’s no big deal’ or the token that says ‘It’s end end of the world.’ Whichever token you pick, they’ll take the other.”
  • “Keep that in mind the next time you take a token. Which one are you leaving for the customer?”

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