Conflicts are rarely just about the cards on the table


Most disagreements aren’t just about the cards on the table. They’re just as much about who’s at the table. What time the game is being played. The last fifty games before this one. And about all the other people the current participants ever played with as well.So it’s no wonder the game ends up making little sense to folks who think everything they need to know to make the winning argument is reading the cards facing up.One good way to tell how much a conflict is about those cards, or about something else, is to gauge the temperature of the tone. If it’s unreasonably, disproportionately hot, then it’s probably not just about the current specifics. There are very few specific situations and details that’ll make people hit the red zone on the account of those alone.People get worked up by compounding circumstances and repeating dynamics. Like, why does he always have to say it like this! Or, can’t she see how this is just yet another example of this other thing we’ve talking about so many times?It’s not at all uncommon for the context to dwarf the particulars. But it’s exceedingly common for people to be oblivious to the fact. And before you know it, the argument ends up boiling over, while a proxy war of disagreement is waged.This is one of the reasons why it’s so rare for online arguments between strangers to go anywhere productive. Unless the topic of discussion can be reduced to purely logic points — and really, what topic can? — you’re going to have to engaged with all the extracurriculars. But how can you, if you don’t know what they are, because you don’t know the other person’s circumstances or experiences?At least if you’re invested in the other person, like if you work, live, or play together, you can spend the time to learn their circumstances and examine their experiences. Once you learn the context, the where-are-they-coming-from, you can start to make progress together on that hot topic. And by the time you’ve bothered to dive that deep, the whole thing has probably cooled off enough for gentle hands to touch.Conflicts are rarely just about the cards on the table was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


New in Basecamp: Improved Schedule Cards


A more complete picture of what’s coming upThis was a classic case of “How hard could it be?” that started as a series of customer requests and bug reports. People wanted to see their events AND their dated to-dos on their Basecamp 3 Schedule cards. Totally reasonable, right? Like anything involving dates, timezones, and computers, it took more than a little wrangling… But now you can!Let There Be To-dosHere’s a great example from our Ops Team. Before, we only showed upcoming schedule events. That triggered a misleading message that said “Nothing’s coming up!”Nothing’s coming up! Maybe?Why is this misleading? If you click through to the Schedule itself, you’ll see there’s actually a to-do due tomorrow:Surpise!You wouldn’t have known that glancing at the Schedule card. With the changes we just added, you’ll now see something like this when you’ve got upcoming to-dos:Voila! Just like the full ScheduleWho and When?Another thing was missing from the previous design: It wasn’t clear exactly who was involved in an event and precisely when it was happening. That’s because we just showed the name of the event and the date on which it occurred:What time is dinner, anyway?Now, we show avatars for each participant and to-do assignee as well as times for events that happen at a specific time:A lovely group and an early start.TemplatesProject Templates were also missing to-dos. That led to situations like this where the Schedule looked blank:Nohting to see here… Or is there?In fact, there may have been several to-dos:The full pictureWe hope this makes Schedule cards more useful for you. Stay tuned for more updates to Basecamp 3!Got feedback or ideas to share? We’d love to hear what you think about the new features. You can contact us on Twitter or share your thoughts via our Support form.New in Basecamp: Improved Schedule Cards was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Cultivating an Inclusive Culture


The honest introspection and continuous work for a better teamReconsider DiversityThe typical approach to diversity in corporate environments can usually be summed up in two ways: lazy and superficial.To be fair, diversity is a difficult word to put into action. Most attempts to do so will probably end up feeling superficial. For example, companies often ironically state that they’re “committed to diversity” when the word itself is pretty noncommittal. The ambiguous nature of diversity means it can be interpreted in a number of different ways.That laxity is an allowance for laziness. Initiatives based on diversity are notorious for having vague, or non-existent, standards and accountability. Diversity has become a clichéd ideal versus an agent for change.Diversity is a difficult word to put into action.Attempts to execute diversity in a more specific way can also be problematic. Companies confronted with unfavorable demographic numbers and public pressure to do better find it easy to reach for tokenism as a quick-fix reaction to being called out and as a way to gain brownie points. The addition of individuals from minority and underrepresented groups has become the preferred way for organizations to portray improvement.When someone is perceived as a diversity hire, that label and perception of them as other (i.e. not like me) will be a difficult roadblock for everyone involved to overcome in order to work effectively as a team. Inevitably, the burden is placed on that individual to demonstrate their sameness, perpetuating the common expectation that individuals fall in line and assimilate in order to belong. So instead of an organization evolving from the unique contributions each person can offer, things remain essentially the same.#WOCinTechIn the article Stopping the Exodus of Women in Science, the Harvard Business Review describes the science, technology, and engineering fields as the “Alamo — a last holdout of redoubled intensity” when it comes to machismo in corporate settings. If that statement seems hyperbolic, consider that over half of highly-qualified women in STEM positions — 56 percent— eventually leave the industry. The top reasons cited for their exit? Inhospitable work cultures and isolation.Despite statistics like this and well-documented personal accounts that indicate an environment of intolerance and aggression, tech companies commonly describe their culture as the complete opposite — open and accepting.In Carlos Buenos’ observation of tech’s startup culture, Inside the Mirrortocracy, he offers an explanation for why there’s often such a disparity between a group’s perception of itself and the realities experienced by those that exist there:The problem with gathering a bunch of logically-oriented young males together and encouraging them to construct a Culture gauntlet has nothing to do with their logic, youth, or maleness. The problem is that all cliques are self-reinforcing. There is no way to recalibrate once the insiders have convinced themselves of their greatness.After adopting the abstract ideal of diversity as a value, a group can get the premature satisfaction that their awareness also equals progress. The pursuit to “increase diversity” usually shifts the focus outward for a solution and encourages the mindset that we should eventually arrive at a certain point of achievement. Both of those popular approaches makes it too easy for companies to continue avoiding the real issue.They aren’t forced to confront the biased ways of thinking and behaving ingrained in their culture that have created and sustained such a monolithic environment.If a company truly wants to be a place that includes people that aren’t all alike, they’ll need to create an inclusive culture. That will require an honest look inside themselves to identify the parts of their culture that prevent inclusivity.Recently, companies have seemed comfortable tackling unconscious bias in hiring. On the other hand, they seem unwilling to acknowledge the presence of that very same bias in their everyday operation.There is no known way to avoid unconscious or implicit bias.In fact, it thrives because you’re unaware that it’s happening. That’s why relying on just the good intentions of treating everyone in an inclusive way will always fall short. You will need to make specific plans to combat biased behavior.The work of inclusivity, like our persistent biases, should be constant and never-ending. Your entire team will need to become invested in doing the day-in and day-out work.Inclusivity: We Want You HereBeing inclusive means being consistent about communicating the value of every person participating with our actions. The foundation of those actions should be built on a collective mindset that goes beyond tolerating differences, to truly appreciating them. That appreciation is fostered with the recognition and treatment of differences as the asset they are to a team.When differences are celebrated, everyone on the team will feel safe, supported, and valued being themselves. The freedom of no longer needing to be a certain way in order to be accepted is a major key. Communication is open and honest, instead of guarded. Interactions with each other are earnest and real, instead of strategic. This kind of communication will elevate your work. Here are the actions you can take to make it clear that each person is welcome to participate and their contributions are valued.Safety to Speak UpEveryone on your team should feel safe voicing their concerns and questions. As with other parts of life, rules or guidelines aren’t enough to produce a safe environment. An open door policy in your employee handbook won’t cut it.True safety begins when we take steps to protect what we value. If you value hearing everyone’s voices, start by genuinely supporting one another when an issue is raised. Support isn’t about coddling or other empty gestures. It’s simply meeting someone’s voice with respect and thoughtful consideration.Beyond supporting those that speak up, everyone has the responsibility of being diligent stewards of the environment. Sometimes that means stepping up to advocate for someone else and that requires us to stop being silent.Violent responses to someone speaking up is what makes an environment unsafe. Common responses include intimidation, retaliation, or shaming. Reasons like self-preservation, obliviousness, or agreement with the offending party make it easy to do nothing when someone’s safety to speak up is threatened with violent communication.Silence reinforces fear to everyone, including yourself, and perpetuates avoidance. That can lead to disastrous outcomes when there’s a glaring problem no one feels comfortable addressing.It shouldn’t feel like an act of bravery for a teammate to say when something doesn’t feel right. It should feel like everyone’s expected duty.Gain New PerspectivesMaking speaking up a healthy and normal part of your culture is just the start. Listening is paramount. It’s no good encouraging people to speak, if we aren’t willing to listen.If you’re quick to dismiss or invalidate thoughts and experiences that don’t mirror your own, you’re depreciating the value of your team.Diverse teams perform better because of their access to an abundant and varied supply of thoughts, ideas, and approaches. Recognize and utilize the invaluable resources found in each other!Go into conversations with lots of curiosity and the intention to discover something you hadn’t considered before. During the course of that discussion, you can decide on the best way to move forward as a group. In every discussion you have as a team, don’t just say that questions and differing viewpoints are appreciated. Watch out for exclusion and bias within those discussions as well. Women often report that what they say needs to be repeated or affirmed by someone else in order for it to be heard.The point of discussions like these isn’t about changing minds or determining who’s right. You’re gaining a new perspective, not sacrificing your own.Make Information Easily AccessibleIn an effort to avoid red tape, tech companies in particular can be averse to written policies or guidelines for operations. That approach allows bias to go unchecked. It makes inequitable treatment more likely to occur and harder to point out and defend against.That’s especially true when it comes to how performance is measured. In the absence of clear and consistent standards, success at a meritocracy becomes an uncertainty that’s dependent upon judgement.Documenting your processes not only keeps you objective, it keeps your team empowered and well-educated.Sharing what you know with everyone is a step toward being transparent with one another. Sometimes, information just naturally stays within the confines of a certain team, group of people, or person. Documentation makes any holes in your process obvious when it may not have been otherwise. It helps dissolve information barriers opens the flow of information.That flow of information inevitably leads to a greater level of connectedness. Connecting and building relationships across workplace boundaries, for example, with someone from another team, location, or seniority level, is a great way to counteract exclusivity within an organization.Internal mentorship and sponsorship initiatives are credited with reducing the likelihood of burnout and increasing employee engagement and retention.Illustration: Ashley BoweWe Make Each Other BetterFocusing on inclusivity will force your team to evaluate if your actions honor the existence of everyone there. That question can’t be answered with words or by a single person.It can only be answered in the mindfulness reflected in our actions every day.Yes, it is constant work that requires taking the time to be generous with empathy and thoughtfulness. That work doesn’t hinder productivity, though — it drives it.When your differences are no longer points of contention, they become a celebrated strength. When you choose to uplift each other with respect and support, it elevates your interactions and, as a result, your work.It emphasizes one of the best parts of belonging on a team: We’re all in this together.I’d love to hear your thoughts! What steps have your company or organization taken to be more inclusive? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.Cultivating an Inclusive Culture was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Web Design Advice


I have a segment on my YouTube channel, where people send me the things they’re working on and I give them random advice. :) If you want your work featured on my YouTube channel and elsewhere please send your ideas along (nate.kontny@gmail.com). And I’ll give constructive, fair advice that I hope won’t leave you sorry you asked.Brandon Wu sent me this awesome site called Markd. He’s received nice organic traction with it so far because it ranked well on Product Hunt.Brandon, you’ve gotten a ton further than a lot of people do by getting an idea out there into the world. Clearly people are using it and it fits a need people have. So a huge congratulations!These are just some things that I’d experiment with if it were my project.Social ProofOne of the first things that stands out to me about the site is “Where are the Testimonials!?” There are a bunch of people saying nice things about this tool already on places like Product Hunt:This is something I see over and over again. On product sites or portfolios sites, even resumes. There’s no social proof. And it’s so easy to fix.There’s people saying nice things about you somewhere. Even if it’s your friends and colleagues at first. Once people see others giving you attention, the odds go way up they’ll give you some too.Don’t Repeat YourselfI’d get rid of the second textual mention of “Markd, It’s all about the people.” You only have so much time to make an impression on people. Be careful not to repeat yourself.Sure your website is likely to restate a benefit multiple times or share how much people love it. But don’t say the exact same thing multiple times. Use the space for something much more poignant.Lead with a BenefitMarkd is the quickest way to remember and organise people you find online.That’s what your left with as a top headline when you remove the duplicate text.I like it. I’d really play that up then as a headline. Big. Bold.It does stand out to me though to be a little “featurey” in language.I’d try to see if using a benefit as the top most thing you communicate would serve you better. For example Draft, the writing software I make:My product name comes last in the initial headline. A benefit, Write Better, is the first thing I wanted people to understand Draft would help them with.SEOSEO for so many people is some dark art that you just assume a lot of shady marketers spend most of their time on or you can’t compete with.Well, you might not be able to compete on SEO.But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the knowledge of what people are actually searching for when you plan out your site.When I was running Inkling our prediction market software, the space was crowded with competitors. I didn’t know what our chances were of ranking for “prediction markets”. Probably low. But I did know that’s what people thought of us as.To try and stand out, a competitor dropped the “prediction markets” language and used something like “social crowd forecasting 2.0”. But people weren’t searching for that. No one understood what that was. They went out of business.Props to them for doing something unique for sure. But it still needs to be something that fits naturally into what people have in their head. A problem they’re searching for. Something they’re trying to get better at. What they already think it’s called.In your case I don’t know what that is. But it might be worth some time fooling with Adwords Keyword Tool, Wordtracker, or something like Market Samurai. Even fooling with Google Search autocomplete led me to things like “profile bookmarking”Which might be a start to some great headlines to begin the experience.Long Lines of TextLong lines are hard to read and scan. And they can look wonky when centered and words start to break to other lines.A fantastic article on typography is from iA.net. THE 100% EASY-2-READ STANDARD . There’s some great advice in there like: “As a rule of thumb, fit about 10–20 words per line.”More BenefitsThere’s a lot of focus on features on the site. Even this headline for example.I’d try more headlines with benefits. Lots of big, easy to read, concise statements of benefits.Examples at Highrise:“Never let a lead fall through the cracks again. Get your team back to selling.”“Life’s too short”These were headlines at Highrise that came from hearing our customers talk about, not features, but what benefits they were trying to achieve.If you need some help with doing those types of interviews with customers, you might enjoy these videos I did of our Jobs To Be Done interviews.Keep it SiloedI clicked on the about page and it took me to www.pepwuper.com.I’m sure people would ask, “What’s pepwuper?” A consulting/business site? I’d avoid encouraging people to have to learn another “entity” here.Get that page on the Markd.co site.Share the Origin StoryI also noticed the About page repeats much of the homepage. I’d use that space for something unique.You probably have an interesting story around why you bothered to create the tool in the first place. Share that! Over and over I’m asked for the stories behind why I created Draft or what made David and Jason create Highrise to begin with. People love origin stories.Has it Been Neglected?I’m not a lawyer, but I’d look into whether you really need or want a copyright notice in your footer like everyone else does. It’s a bit cargo culted. It’s also one of those things that are easy to forget to update with the current year. When people see that they often think the site or product is dead. If you leave it, you might want to just make it dynamic with some code so you never forget to update it again.There you go. Some random thoughts and possibilities for experimentation.Folks, check out Markd. Brandon, I love the idea and the hustle. Keep at it!And if I can be more help, to you, and this goes for everyone reading this, please just ask: nate.kontny@gmail.com. Send me sites. Half baked ideas. Full baked ideas. Problems. Whatever. I’d love to help. (If you don’t want my thoughts of your work shared publicly on places like YouTube or Medium, please make sure to mention that.)P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: youtube.com/nathankontny where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups, try Highrise.Web Design Advice was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Social Support


A few weeks ago my father was taken by ambulance to the emergency room with trouble breathing. After that 5 day hospital stay, he’s been doing really well!But one thing that stands out from the experience was how my own psychology fluctuated. During the initial couple days I’d go to sleep at my parents by myself leaving my mom and father at the hospital. And I was a mess.Plunging ourselves into ice cold water isn’t usually a pleasant experience. So it’s a common practice research psychologists make people do when studying how people deal with pain. They call it the cold pressor test.And in 2003, a group of researchers performed the cold pressor test, but this time they tested what would happen if people with their hands submerged in ice cold water were with someone else. A friend. Even a stranger.The people who had company during that painful moment felt less pain.Things remarkably changed when everyone descended upon the hospital to join my mom, father and me. My sister came into town with her boyfriend and my niece. My sister’s best friend showed up for multiple visits and help. My wife grabbed my daughter and all our pets and moved them over to my parents place. Even a great friend of mine came and spent a couple hours visiting my father and eating some McDonalds in his hospital room for dinner with us.Despite all the upsetting and scary things we were now dealing with, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off me when all these people showed up.It just goes to show you how important it is that no matter what you’re going through. If it’s work or career stuff, or these moments in our personal lives, it’s important to experience them socially. Don’t isolate yourself.Over and over again, we find that, whether we’re social butterflies or we’re introverted or we’re shy, when we have people around us, even strangers, we can far better endure the inevitable stress that comes with life.You should follow me on YouTube: youtube.com/nathankontny where I share more about how we run our business and just get through life.Social Support was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Interruption is Not Collaboration


What’s happening?Hey, are you busy? Can you listen to this real quick? It’s an episode about interruptions in the workplace. You’ll hear from academic researchers, Basecamp’s head data wrangler, and the CEO of a remote company about how they’ve tackled not just the disruptions themselves, but also the workplace culture that allows those intrusions to flourish.https://medium.com/media/be038859090808903e17296adc07e770/hrefInterruption is Not Collaboration was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


The world needs more modest, linear growth companies. Please make some.


14 years of linear growth at Basecamp.Exponential growth gets all the glory. Every startup story that lands on the cover of a magazine has a hockey-stick chart to flaunt. Yes, disruption is driven by such violent expansion, and the world needs some disruption some of the time. But for the other 360 days out of the year, what it also needs is some modest, linear growth.Linear growth is what happens in domains that aren’t animated by network effects (and when no artificial growth hormones are injected!). It’s the simplicity of good products sold at reasonable prices that find happy customers. These customers talk to friends and colleagues in other businesses, and over time that word of mouth spreads the good vibes, which turns the business up.But the limelight has no patience with such simple, slow methods as word of mouth. It’s not infectious enough. Not exponential enough. That’s a shame.Because the world is full of problems that needs solving by people who are willing to put in the work for the long haul. I’m not talking about the freakish 120-hour/week, seven-year death marches, but the patient, sustainable work that might last a lifetime. Problems that yield better to people sticking with it.These problems rarely provide the world with more platforms, but the world has enough platforms. If everyone wants to be the foundation, then there’s nobody left to serve as the beams or cladding or tiles. That’s a recipe for a concrete and corporate wasteland.It’s also a recipe for monoculture. Network effects have given us spectacular stories of unfathomable growth, but it’s also given us monopolistic conglomerates that poison the market and its variety.I’m no particular fan of advertisement, but it’s still clear as day that the world is much worse off for having all the value of that trade captured solely by Facebook and Google. Yeah, that’s disruption, and no, it’s not the kind that makes the world better off. It’s creative destruction without creative regeneration. More black hole, less forest-fire cleanse.Capitalism as a system is prone to all manners of dysfunction, but few are as fatal as that of monopolies backed by exponential growth. Markets as a force for good quickly break down and get perverted when only a few power players remain to call all the shots.Maybe such concentration is “natural” in a few domains, but that doesn’t mean we should stand idle by and let it corrupt both business and society. In an era past, trust busters knew how to protect the common good by opposing the behemoths of industry with antitrust fights and laws. AT&T had a “natural” monopoly, and it still deserved to be broken up. Such memories are unnecessarily quaint now, and even when brought up, it’s through a myopic literal lens (Facebook + Google aren’t causing “higher prices”, therefore they’re not bad monopolies. Bullshit).But the discussion of whether the regulators will once more mount up shouldn’t distract us from doing what we can today. Which is to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs to nobler goals than simply to become caliph instead of the caliph.Which is pretty much all the business press and other spectators (and speculators) are obsessed with these days. Who’s going to be the next Google? The next Facebook? The next Apple? These are interesting questions, but they’re not the only questions, and by posing them over and over again ad nauseum, we’re restricting the conversation and constricting our imagination.What if the next NEXT THING wasn’t a supplementation of an existing network-effect megacorp, but a proliferation of a thousand or million smaller businesses that were given the time and place to breathe and thrive?But for that to happen, it needs not only to be seen as feasible, but desirable. That to eschew the exponential demands of investors is a sign of strength, not a mark of weakness. That to be content with linear growth is streak of independence, not absence of vision.We are in dire need of such reprogramming of the entrepreneurial boot loader. So many faithful decisions are taking in the early stage of a business that locks its course for perpetuity. Very few ventures get to turn back the clock and have a do-over on their cap table. Epiphanies that come too late might as well not come at all.You can’t move a tree by blowing at it softly once the roots are down. But you can radically change where a seed will land by doing the same.I promise I’m not trying to make a lame plea for “children are the future”, although that’s both trite and true. New businesses are started by adults of all ages. Every single one of them have the power to pick how they’ll nurture their growth when it’s started. Choosing to chase the exponential is just that, a choice. Which also means that choosing the linear is a choice too.Which I guess is really my chief argument here. Or appeal, even. That more people choose the path of linear growth. That they embrace it with vigor and pride. That they make no apologies for wanting a modest and sustainable business that can live in harmony with other shops of the same description.The path of linear growth has been the trajectory of Basecamp for 14 years today. It’s brought beauty and warmth to millions of people who’ve used our product. It’s brought stability and a home to the fifty-odd people we employ at the company. And it’s brought the deepest of meanings and satisfaction to Jason and I for owning it.May you make your own fortune as you take a swing at the same.Does this tickle a fancy? Stroke a nagging? I’m sure you’d like my other writings on the topic, then. Start with RECONSIDER, then Exponential growth devours and corrupts, then maybe Enough. Well, my whole back catalogue is full of these kind of ideas, really. So do dive in.The world needs more modest, linear growth companies. Please make some. was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Outlasting


You in business? What are you doing to last? Not to grow. Not to gain. Not to take. Not to win. But to last?I wouldn’t advocate spending much time worrying about the competition — you really shouldn’t waste attention worrying about things you can’t control — but if it helps make the point relatable, the best way to beat the competition is to last longer than they do.Duh? Yes, duh. Exactly. Business is duh simple as long as you don’t make it duhking complicated.So how do you last?Obviously you need to take in enough revenue to pay your bills. But we’ve always tried to reverse that statement: How many bills do you need to pay to limit your revenue requirements?Rather than thinking about how much you need to make to cover your costs, think about how little you need to help you survive as long as you want.Yes, we’re talking about costs. The rarely talked about side of the equation. I’m honestly shocked how little attention costs get in the realm of entrepreneurial literature.Whenever a startup goes out of business, the first thing I get curious about are their costs, not their revenues. If their revenues are non-existent, or barely there, then they were fucked anyway. But beyond that, the first thing I look at is their employee count. Your startup with 38 people didn’t make it? No wonder. Your startup that was paying $52,000/month rent didn’t make it? No wonder. Your startup that spend 6 figures on your brand didn’t make it? No wonder.Even today… Some of the biggest names in our industry are hemorrhaging money. How is that possible? Simple: Their costs are too high! You don’t lose money by making it, you lose it by spending too much of it! Duh! I know!So keep your costs as low as possible. And it’s likely that true number is even lower than you think possible. That’s how you last through the leanest times. The leanest times are often the earliest times, when you don’t have customers yet, when you don’t have revenue yet. Why would you tank your odds of survival by spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need? Beats me, but people do it all the time. ALL THE TIME. Dreaming of all the amazing things you’ll do in year three doesn’t matter if you can’t get past year two.2018 will be our 19th year in business. That means we’ve survived a couple of major downturns — 2001, and 2008, specifically. I’ve been asked how. It’s simple: It didn’t cost us much to stay in business. In 2001 we had 4 employees. We were competing against companies that had 40, 400, even 4000. We had 4. We made it through, many did not. In 2008 we had around 20. We had millions in revenue coming in, but we still didn’t spend money on marketing, and we still sublet a corner of someone else’s office. Business was amazing, but we continued to keep our costs low. Keeping a handle on your costs must be a habit, not an occasion. Diets don’t work, eating responsibly does.Try it for a year. Think less about revenues and more about costs. In many cases they’re easier to control, easier to predict (seek out fixed costs that’ll stay the same as you grow, vs things that get more expensive as you grow), and easier to manage. But only if you keep them in mind as you make decisions about how you’re going to last — and outlast.Fired up about a new idea, but can’t seem to get traction to make it happen? Chat rooms aren’t traction, they’re treadmills. Lots of talk without going anywhere. You need Basecamp 3 — discussions, to-do lists, schedules, the ability to hold people accountable. Don’t just talk about it, do it with Basecamp.Outlasting was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


The 8 best questions to put on your next one-on-one meeting agenda


I asked almost 500 leaders from all over the world what questions they ask during a one-on-one meeting. Here’s what they said…That one-on-one meeting is scheduled on your calendar this week. So, what should you talk about?As a manager, executive, or business owner, this is one of the most recurring and perplexing situations you’ll face. Should you prepare an one-on-one meeting agenda ahead of time? Does it feel too stiff to do so? Should you simply have general meetings topics ready to go? What are the questions you should asking during this one-on-one?We posed this dilemma to The Watercooler, our online leadership community with almost 500 leaders from all over the world, to see what they had to say. From that conversation, I’ve shared what these managers, business owners, and executives from The Watercooler have found to be the best questions to ask during a one-on-one meeting.Take a look and see if you agree…#1: How’s life?On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a significant question to ask. After all, some managers default to asking this question as a crutch when they’re not sure how to open up a one-on-one meeting. However, this question can be actually quite powerful, if you can embrace a greater intention behind it: To build trust. When asked, most Watercooler members agreed on the importance of having trust and a strong personal rapport going into the one-on-one. The more you know about a coworker’s dreams, hobbies, pets, children’s names, etc., the greater the sense of trust is. And the greater the trust, the easier a tough conversation is. As a result, many managers from theWatercooler kick off their one-on-one with a “get-know-you” question like, “How’s life?” or “How’s [insert spouse’s name]?” or “What are you up to this weekend?”One manager in particular emphasized the importance of talking about life outside of work way before you even have the one-on-one. That way, you build a foundation of trust to use if you need to bring up a difficult topic during your one-on-one. Prior to a one-on-one, here are some of the top 25 get-to-know you questions that can help with this.#2: What are you worried about right now?During a one-on-one, you want to figure if there’s anything bothering an employee, before it’s too late and they decide to leave or their performance is affected. Few questions do that an well as as this one. Recommended by a few of the Watercooler members (and a question I regularly asking during my one-on-ones), this question can help unearth the deep-seated concerns, confusion, or uncertainty an employee might be facing. A slight variation to this question that may unearth even more specific answers is: “When’s the last time you were worried about something?” This question is rooted in a specific moment of tension that can help make it more concrete for an employee when reflecting on if there’s something they might be worried about.#3: What rumors are you hearing that you think I should know about?Asking this question can bring to light rumors that you can dispel before they spin out of control. But on top of that, as one Watercooler member said: “What the rumor mill is saying is also often a compass pointing to places where people feel stressed.” Ask this question to uncover a deeper, disconcerting source of unease or frustration for employees. You’ll want to pay attention to that.For one Watercooler member, asking this question had a direct effect on her entire team’s morale: She was able to nip a rumor in the bud very quickly about why an employee was fired.#4: If you could be proud of one accomplishment between now and next year, what would it be?To get a coworker thinking about their personal goals over the next six months, as well as their long-term careers, one manager in The Watercooler recommended asking this question. You may not get a meaningful response every single time from every employee you pose it to, as some employees may find it difficult to answer on-the-spot. However, it’s a great way to spark the initial conversation with an employee about future goals. Not to mention, it’s a more thoughtful question than simply asking, “What goals do you have for yourself?”#5: What are your biggest time wasters?No one likes to waste time. Few feelings are as stifling and demoralizing, especially in a work setting. As a result, asking this question during a one-on-one is imperative. Once you ask this question, be prepared to think on and follow with concrete ideas for how you think that person’s time won’t be wasted.#6: Would you like more or less direction from me?Feeling micromanaged is often another source of stress for an employee — and it’s one of the most common. As a manager, it can easily to unintentionally give an employee too much guidance. At the same time, employees find it equally frustrating when they’re hung out to dry with no support. When you ask this question, you can then adjust your management style and techniques. Furthermore, asking this question also signals to your coworker that you recognize the value of providing the right level of support as a manager. As a leader, this question shows you’re self-aware.#7: Would you like more or less feedback on your work? If so, what additional feedback would you like?Watercooler members suggest asking this question, because you’re most-likely going to get a resounding “yes.” After surveying hundreds of companies and thousands of employees through Know Your Company, we’ve found that 80% of employees say, “I want more feedback about my performance.” Your one-on-one is the perfect opportunity to figure out exactly what kind of feedback someone would like.#8: Are there any decisions you’re hung up on?One of the best ways to help coach an employee is to give them some support on a decision that they’re wrestling with. They could be quite distraught because they’re not sure with path to take — and you can help. Asking this question during the one-on-one is a wonderful way to alleviate the potential pain they may be feeling around a tough decision.Whether your one-on-ones are weekly, once a month, or once a quarter, I’d highly encourage you to place one or two of these questions in your typical meeting agenda. Based on the experiences of Watercooler members who’ve asked these questions, you’re guaranteed to learn something new and create a stronger rapport with your team.Looking for a few more resources on how to have a productive one-on-one?Here’s the one question I would NOT asking during a one on one.Here’s how to have an honest one-on-one with an employee.Here’s how to prepare for a one-on-one as an employee.P.S.: Please feel free to share + give this piece 👏 so others can find it too. Thanks 😄 (And you can always say hi at @cjlew23.)The 8 best questions to put on your next one-on-one meeting agenda was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


The 8 best questions to put on your next one-on-one meeting agenda


I asked almost 500 leaders from all over the world what questions they ask during a one-on-one meeting. Here’s what they said…That one-on-one meeting is scheduled on your calendar this week. So, what should you talk about?As a manager, executive, or business owner, this is one of the most recurring and perplexing situations you’ll face. Should you prepare an one-on-one meeting agenda ahead of time? Does it feel too stiff to do so? Should you simply have general meetings topics ready to go? What are the questions you should asking during this one-on-one?We posed this dilemma to The Watercooler, our online leadership community with almost 500 leaders from all over the world, to see what they had to say. From that conversation, I’ve shared what these managers, business owners, and executives from The Watercooler have found to be the best questions to ask during a one-on-one meeting.Take a look and see if you agree…#1: How’s life?On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a significant question to ask. After all, some managers default to asking this question as a crutch when they’re not sure how to open up a one-on-one meeting. However, this question can be actually quite powerful, if you can embrace a greater intention behind it: To build trust. When asked, most Watercooler members agreed on the importance of having trust and a strong personal rapport going into the one-on-one. The more you know about a coworker’s dreams, hobbies, pets, children’s names, etc., the greater the sense of trust is. And the greater the trust, the easier a tough conversation is. As a result, many managers from theWatercooler kick off their one-on-one with a “get-know-you” question like, “How’s life?” or “How’s [insert spouse’s name]?” or “What are you up to this weekend?”One manager in particular emphasized the importance of talking about life outside of work way before you even have the one-on-one. That way, you build a foundation of trust to use if you need to bring up a difficult topic during your one-on-one. Prior to a one-on-one, here are some of the top 25 get-to-know you questions that can help with this.#2: What are you worried about right now?During a one-on-one, you want to figure if there’s anything bothering an employee, before it’s too late and they decide to leave or their performance is affected. Few questions do that an well as as this one. Recommended by a few of the Watercooler members (and a question I regularly asking during my one-on-ones), this question can help unearth the deep-seated concerns, confusion, or uncertainty an employee might be facing. A slight variation to this question that may unearth even more specific answers is: “When’s the last time you were worried about something?” This question is rooted in a specific moment of tension that can help make it more concrete for an employee when reflecting on if there’s something they might be worried about.#3: What rumors are you hearing that you think I should know about?Asking this question can bring to light rumors that you can dispel before they spin out of control. But on top of that, as one Watercooler member said: “What the rumor mill is saying is also often a compass pointing to places where people feel stressed.” Ask this question to uncover a deeper, disconcerting source of unease or frustration for employees. You’ll want to pay attention to that.For one Watercooler member, asking this question had a direct effect on her entire team’s morale: She was able to nip a rumor in the bud very quickly about why an employee was fired.#4: If you could be proud of one accomplishment between now and next year, what would it be?To get a coworker thinking about their personal goals over the next six months, as well as their long-term careers, one manager in The Watercooler recommended asking this question. You may not get a meaningful response every single time from every employee you pose it to, as some employees may find it difficult to answer on-the-spot. However, it’s a great way to spark the initial conversation with an employee about future goals. Not to mention, it’s a more thoughtful question than simply asking, “What goals do you have for yourself?”#5: What are your biggest time wasters?No one likes to waste time. Few feelings are as stifling and demoralizing, especially in a work setting. As a result, asking this question during a one-on-one is imperative. Once you ask this question, be prepared to think on and follow with concrete ideas for how you think that person’s time won’t be wasted.#6: Would you like more or less direction from me?Feeling micromanaged is often another source of stress for an employee — and it’s one of the most common. As a manager, it can easily to unintentionally give an employee too much guidance. At the same time, employees find it equally frustrating when they’re hung out to dry with no support. When you ask this question, you can then adjust your management style and techniques. Furthermore, asking this question also signals to your coworker that you recognize the value of providing the right level of support as a manager. As a leader, this question shows you’re self-aware.#7: Would you like more or less feedback on your work? If so, what additional feedback would you like?Watercooler members suggest asking this question, because you’re most-likely going to get a resounding “yes.” After surveying hundreds of companies and thousands of employees through Know Your Company, we’ve found that 80% of employees say, “I want more feedback about my performance.” Your one-on-one is the perfect opportunity to figure out exactly what kind of feedback someone would like.#8: Are there any decisions you’re hung up on?One of the best ways to help coach an employee is to give them some support on a decision that they’re wrestling with. They could be quite distraught because they’re not sure with path to take — and you can help. Asking this question during the one-on-one is a wonderful way to alleviate the potential pain they may be feeling around a tough decision.Whether your one-on-ones are weekly, once a month, or once a quarter, I’d highly encourage you to place one or two of these questions in your typical meeting agenda. Based on the experiences of Watercooler members who’ve asked these questions, you’re guaranteed to learn something new and create a stronger rapport with your team.Looking for a few more resources on how to have a productive one-on-one?Here’s the one question I would NOT asking during a one on one.Here’s how to have an honest one-on-one with an employee.Here’s how to prepare for a one-on-one as an employee.P.S.: Please feel free to share + give this piece 👏 so others can find it too. Thanks 😄 (And you can always say hi at @cjlew23.)The 8 best questions to put on your next one-on-one meeting agenda was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Done?


A few weeks ago, I took my daughter to the Art Institute here in Chicago. She’s three.So as you can imagine it wasn’t a tremendous success of actually seeing a ton of art. We had a lot of fun though doing crafts they had set up for kids and eating lunch.My proudest moment was when she yelled out “I really like that picture!” It was Vincent van Gogh’s The Bedroom. It’s my favorite too.There’s an interesting exercise you can do at the Art Institute or other major art museums. Go find some Picassos and note how old he was when he made them. Now find some Cézannes and do the same.It’s possible you spot something like Economics Professor at the University of Chicago, David Galenson did.Picasso’s most valuable work, based on prices paid at auction, peaked when he was 25.Cézanne at 65.Some artists peak young. Others get better over time.Galenson saw this over and over with writers and artists in all sorts of different time periods and industries.I think the world puts too much focus on the Picassos and the young phenoms. We overlook the Cézannes. The folks who took a while to experiment on getting better and better and who never stopped.The thing I take from this is that if you find yourself still experimenting in life. If you don’t have it all figured out. If you’re 30, 40, 50, 60 and still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up…There’s still plenty of room and time to get better. Your peak is still ahead.P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: youtube.com/nathankontny where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups, try Highrise.Done? was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Managers, screw the Golden Rule

Don’t treat employees the way you want to be treated. Here’s why.“Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.”This is The Golden Rule we all learned growing up. As a manager or CEO in a company, you’d think it would make sense to follow it too. Managers should treat their employees the way they’d like to be treated, right?Not quite.In a recent interview I did with David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH), the Creator of the popular web framework Ruby on Rails and Chief Technology Officer at Basecamp, he shared this insight: You shouldn’t treat other people the way you want to be treated because the other person isn’t you.The other person has different preferences (beliefs, ideas, and experiences) and is going to react to a situation differently than you. You might think something is reasonable or fair, but that’s you thinking that, not the other person. You cannot assume that the way she would like to be treated is the same as the way you’d like to be treated.David admits to being guilty of this as much as anyone, saying that when he does this, “I’m trying to be empathetic to my own mirror image, which is not actually a very good definition of empathy.”In fact, it’s self-centered in many ways to assume that if you treat others the way you’d like to be treated, other people will like it too.One of the most memorable examples for me of this is when I talked with another CEO a few months ago. He told me how his company had implemented an unlimited vacation policy recently. In theory, he thought it was going to work great. It’s what he had always wanted when he’d worked at other companies himself — unlimited vacation, what could be better?But then something interesting at his company happened: No one in his company took vacation. Maybe a day or two off here and there, but people took less vacation with the unlimited vacation policy than they had in years before.I was a little shocked when he first told me this. What went wrong? The CEO learned is that none of the employees wanted to be seen as “the slacker” or “letting the team down.” Everyone else was afraid of taking vacation, so no one went on one.After realizing this, the CEO replaced the unlimited vacation policy with a requirement that people take at least two weeks off of paid vacation during a year. It’s not what he would have necessarily wanted, but that’s not the point. If you’re a great manager or leader, you shouldn’t be operating from the point-of-view of what you want, you should be operating from the point-of-view of what others want.Instead of practicing The Golden Rule and assuming other people are just like you, what should you do?The answer is deceptively simple. Ask.Ask your employees what type of vacation policy they’d prefer or what work environment they’d like to be in. Here are some examples of things you can specifically ask:How do you prefer I give you feedback? In-person or in writing?When you are most productive in a day? During the morning or the afternoon? Or even at night?How much social interaction is important to you? Should we plan more team-bonding outings or have more regular company lunches?How often would you like to get together for one-on-ones? Once a week, once a month or once a quarter?How would you like to recognized for your work? Do prefer verbal praise in front of others, or more privately? Are small gifts or tokens of appreciation a good way to signify gratitude?How much direction or context do you like before kicking off a project? Do you need space to gather your thoughts initially, or do you like having a lot of suggestions from me upfront?Don’t just assume their answers are the same as yours. Ask, listen, and then act accordingly. The Golden Rule need not apply.If you’re looking to learn more insights from David and other leaders from around the world, consider joining The Watercooler 💦 — our online leadership community with almost 400 CEOs, managers, and executives (including David!) where we talk about everything from hiring, firing, company culture and business growth.This article was originally published for Inc.com, where I write a weekly column on leadership.Managers, screw the Golden Rule was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Before You Launch A Startup, Learn This

Photo by Lisa BrewsterMy 2011 startup with Y Combinator imploded, largely because we couldn’t get enough traction. What was I going to do next? And more importantly, how was I going to avoid repeating my mistakes?A couple weeks ago my wife was out of town, so my three year old daughter and I had our weekend together. We went to see My Little Pony.I enjoyed it. Lots of great voice actors. Including Sia! She pretty much plays herself as a pony. Similar hair/wig style, and she sings in it.My daughter was traumatized.Well that’s a bit strong. Let’s just say she was in my lap the whole time worried about what was going to happen to those damn ponies. But she’d stop covering her eyes and be right back in the movie. Only to again fear for the ponies lives.There’s something interesting there. How did this movie succeed at capturing her attention so well? So much so that she’d be afraid but go right back to being engrossed?Robert McKee is a popular teacher of screenwriting. A well read book of his is “Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting”. It’s a book I’d recommend to anyone pursuing writing of any kind.But there’s one bit in there that will instantly improve your ability to tell stories, write, vlog — make anything, really.A Story Event creates meaningful change in the life situation of a character that is expressed and experienced in terms of a value and ACHIEVED THROUGH CONFLICT.That’s it. That’s the nugget that all good stories revolve around. An entire film, according to McKee, is 40–60 of these story events. And what is that “value”?Story values are the universal qualities of human experience that may shift from positive to negative, or negative to positive, from one moment to the next.Human experience. Love/hate. Anger/peace. Fear/calm. Alive/dead. And so many more.Telling people a story is all about showing how someone goes through conflict and changes the “charge” of those human conditions. They start out in love and end up in hate. They start out broke and end up wealthy through a bunch of difficult terrain.That’s what keeps us in our seat.Toy Story does this so well. Go watch Pixar’s work. Every minute there’s a value change. They’re happy, now their sad. They’re safe, now they’re not. Now they are. Now they aren’t again.My kid was glued to her seat at My Little Pony because their writers also know this basic tenet of interesting writing and storytelling.The ponies were in a wonderful stupor setting up for a party. Now terrible danger and monstrous creatures ruin their lives. Now they’re running. Now they’re safe. Now they’re at death’s door again.And when you think about the boring drivel you read or hear all too often — maybe it’s your friend talking about work, or someone going on about their day — I bet it’s because there’s simply no conflict, and even more so, there’s no value change. They went from doing well at work to still doing well at work. They went from depressed to still depressed.Of course there’s a ton more to practice and learn about the craft of telling good stories — things like the Hero’s journey or three act structures — but just get this little part right from McKee and you’ll already 10x the stuff you write and tell people about.It’s happened for me. I went from that miserable failure of a startup to realizing I needed to get better at audience building before my next venture. And so I practiced my craft of writing and storytelling on my blog. One article a week. Tell a good story. Me or someone else figuring out some problem through some conflict. My audience grew.And that audience grew to support my next project, Draft, which turned out rather successful in a crowded market of writing software. And then someone in that audience picked me to take over the business they were spinning off, Highrise. Mostly, all because I finally learned to capture people’s attention better through storytelling.P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: youtube.com/nathankontny where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups, try Highrise.Before You Launch A Startup, Learn This was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Getting to the truth

If you want to feel good, brainstorm it. If you want to appear good, test it. If you want to know if you’re any good, ship it.Getting to the truth was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


The best visual description of a company I’ve ever seen

Can you describe your company this concisely?Back in 2010, I saw Andrew Mason give a talk at Startup School that included a slide that really blew my mind. The slide wasn’t about Groupon (Andrew’s company), it was about Meetup.com.Andrew heard Scott Heiferman (CEO of Meetup.com) describe the initial version of Meetup.com as a matrix of cities and interests. He put it in spreadsheet format and here’s how it came out:It doesn’t matter how many rows or columns — it works at all scales. It’s such a simple representation of what is ultimately a simple idea (meeting up with people in your city who share a similar interest), but it could just as easily been diagrammed in a complex way.I’ve come back to this slide over and over for inspiration when thinking about new concepts or product ideas. It’s a great exercise in clarity. Can I boil down the idea into something as simple as a column and a row?Today, Meetup was acquired by WeWork.The best visual description of a company I’ve ever seen was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


May the next Etsy learn its lessons

Can I interest you in a necklace with a lesson for eternity?Venture capital taught Etsy that making money wasn’t a skill it needed to learn early on. Go on, it said, spend the millions. And when you’ve spent those, come back and get some more. So Etsy did. They came back for a B round, then a C round, then D, E, and F rounds. Just shy of $100 million in total.That experience deluded Etsy into thinking that they, uniquely, could ferry the scorpion across the river without getting stung. That a cool hundred million wouldn’t ever need to be paid back or corrupt its noble mission.But the party only lasts until the music stops. And after Etsy’s VCs foisted the “growth stock” onto the public markets, those markets eventually grew tired of waiting for said growth and profits. So they demanded change, and change they got by booting the old CEO and installing a new growth-at-all-costs replacement.When Etsy looks back at the arc of its story, it’s easy to flatter themselves into thinking that everything was hunky-dory until The Evil Capitalists came for their pound of flesh. But give me a break. This story is as old as time, and the outcome perfectly predictable.Etsy corrupted itself when it sold its destiny in endless rounds of venture capital funding. This wasn’t inevitable, it was a choice. One made by founders and executives who found it easier to ask investors for money than to develop the habits and skills to ask customers.“If you really want to build a company that works for people and the planet, capitalism isn’t the solution”, muses one of the former Etsy employees in a NYT piece. Bollocks. Feel-good nonsense bollocks.Etsy wasted the chance to provide a human alternative to Ebay and Amazon all by itself. Now it’s largely the same kind of strip mall hawking the same mass-produced goods. There was a laudable mission at its core, but one that was quickly spoiled by a gluttony for growth and negligent naiveté about scorpions.In the burnt ashes of what Etsy has become, I hope a new attempt will grow. One that learns its lessons and guards its own destiny with as much zeal as the high-minded ideals.May the next Etsy learn its lessons was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Running in Circles

Why Agile Isn’t Working and What We Do DifferentlyAgile started off as a set of values. Values are subtle and abstract, so as agile spread, what spread wasn’t the values but the practice of working in cycles. Cycles are easy to explain and easy to copy.People in our industry think they stopped doing waterfall and switched to agile. In reality they just switched to high-frequency waterfall.Agile became synonymous with speed. Everybody wants more, faster. And one thing most teams aren’t doing fast enough is shipping. So cycles became “sprints” and the metric of success, “velocity.”But speed isn’t the problem. And cycles alone don’t help you ship. The problems are doing the wrong things, building to specs, and getting distracted.Claiming there’s a True Agile™ somewhere in the past or future doesn’t help either. When your team struggles with shipping, you need practical steps you can apply here and now. Not just an ideal.Cycles are good. We work in cycles at Basecamp. But in addition to cycles you need three other practices to ship on time and in good health.Deliberate resource allocationDesigners and developers can’t make progress if people constantly pull at their attention. It doesn’t matter if support finds a bug or sales needs a new feature. Allocating resources means dedicating resources. Whoever allocates the time and money to build a feature must also protect the team so they can do what was asked. It takes a mandate from above to secure the team’s time and attention. The team is doing this and only this during the cycle.At Basecamp we start each cycle of work with a team of three: one designer and two programmers. They have nothing to do but this project. If you feel you must fix bugs the moment they arise, then dedicate resources for that. If you have tension between sales and product, make a choice for this cycle. If you don’t have enough people, rotate cycle time among departments.Only management can protect attention. Telling the team to focus only works if the business is backing them up.Mutable requirementsIf a team works to a spec, there’s no point in iterating. The purpose of working iteratively is to change direction as you go. Defining the project in advance forces the team into a waterfall process. If every detail of the plan must be built, teams have no choice when they discover something is harder than expected, less important than expected, or when reality contradicts the plan.At Basecamp we kick off each project with a core concept. We do our homework on the strategy side to validate that some version of the idea is meaningfully doable in the time we’re allocating. We’re also sure that less than 100% of the concept will ship. Not everything will make it but the important things will. If we aren’t sure, we’ll slot something else into the cycle and come back when we’ve honed the concept enough.To start teams off with a concept like this, you have to separate the core from the periphery. Separate the things that are absolutely important from the things that were just “ the idea we had for how to do it.”A single UI decision can cause a week of unnecessary work. A programmer could struggle to refactor a bunch of Javascript only to discover that the detail wasn’t core to the concept. The designer just happened to pick that interaction without knowing the cost.In practice, this means giving the teams power to redefine scope. Some things are essential and other things aren’t. The team must be able to know the difference and make calls accordingly. To reinforce this, we give teams low fidelity hand-drawn sketches when a cycle starts and spend more time on motivation than the specifics of design and implementation.One of Jason’s sketches for the team that built To-Do Groups. They ended up choosing not to build the “add” buttons below each group.Uphill strategiesTeams that track “velocity” and “story points” treat integrationas if it’s linear labor. Software integrationis not like moving a pile of stones.If work was like that, you could count the stones, count the time to move one, do the math and be done.Work that requires problem solving is more like a hill. There’s an uphill phase where you figure out what you’re doing. Then when you get to the top you can see down the other side and what it’ll take to finish.The uphill phase is full of false steps and circles and dead ends. It’s where you encounter the unexpected. The programmer says “yeah that’ll take two days” but then they start touching the code and the reality is more complex. Or the designer says “this interaction will be perfect” and they test it on the device and it’s not what they hoped.The most important question for a team isn’t “what is left?” but “what is unknown?” Can you see the edges? Have you gone in there and seen everything that needs to change? The only way to gain certainty is to roll up your sleeves and engage with the reality of problem.At Basecamp our teams seek out the areas with the scariest unknowns and work on them first. This uphill work requires strategies. We wrote about these in Getting Real. Open the code, spike something that works, load it with real data and try it. When the whole feature is too big to prototype, factor out the most important pieces and spike them.Different phases of the uphill and downhill workThe uphill work is where you learn what’s hard and what’s possible and make value judgements. Here’s where you make decisions about those mutable requirements because you’re seeing the real costs and opportunities in the implementation. Learning uphill requires the focus and time given to the teams by deliberately allocated resources.We’ve done this informally for years, focusing on unknowns and chipping at them first. We recently started formalizing this with the Hill Chart. A question we often ask these days is “where is that on the hill?”Here’s a snapshot from the Search in Place project that shipped in October.First reworking search results, then moving them into the navAnd here are some moments in time from the To-Do Groups project.The three most important pieces went over the hill firstWrapping upIt takes a whole business to shipWhether teams work in cycles or not is just one part of the story. An “agile” team isn’t going to get very far if management doesn’t protect their time. And if they don’t have flexibility to change requirements as they learn, late nights and late delivery are guaranteed.Designers and developers can learn the uphill strategies from Getting Real to gain certainty instead of crossing their fingers. Whoever sets requirements can give teams the room to push back in the uphill phase. And resource allocators can take more responsibility to guard the focus of their teams.We’ve been doing it for 15 years. Hopefully sharing some of these techniques will help you do it too.Running in Circles was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Can You Sell Water? Part 2

Abraham Celio and Maria Mendez own Yolis Tamales on Chicago’s Southwest Side.Some of the tech industry’s most vaunted companies revel in their origins as mavericks or rule-breakers, having flouted regulations in the name of disruption. That kind of risk-taking is celebrated in Silicon Valley but punished in other places, most notably minority communities.body[data-twttr-rendered="true"] {background-color: transparent;}.twitter-tweet {margin: auto !important;}Undercover @usparkpolicepio handcuffing kids on @NationalMallNPS for selling water. — @timkreppfunction notifyResize(height) {height = height ? height : document.documentElement.offsetHeight; var resized = false; if (window.donkey && donkey.resize) {donkey.resize(height); resized = true;}if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var obj = {iframe: window.frameElement, height: height}; parent._resizeIframe(obj); resized = true;}if (window.location && window.location.hash === "#amp=1" && window.parent && window.parent.postMessage) {window.parent.postMessage({sentinel: "amp", type: "embed-size", height: height}, "*");}if (window.webkit && window.webkit.messageHandlers && window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize) {window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize.postMessage(height); resized = true;}return resized;}twttr.events.bind('rendered', function (event) {notifyResize();}); twttr.events.bind('resize', function (event) {notifyResize();});if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var maxWidth = parseInt(window.frameElement.getAttribute("width")); if ( 500 < maxWidth) {window.frameElement.setAttribute("width", "500");}}In this episode of the Rework podcast: A legal advocate for low-income entrepreneurs talks about the hurdles her clients face, and a husband-and-wife team of street food vendors share what they’ve learned making the transition from the informal to the formal economy.https://medium.com/media/3e703962df4d7daf3f36bf621a9cf227/hrefCan You Sell Water? Part 2 was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Marketing Jobs?

Oh the promise of sophisticated analytics and artificial intelligence to automatically send current and potential customers the exact right email at the exact right time to get them to buy more things.I just perused a food delivery service this week and started the signup process before abandoning. The robots dutifully sent me follow-ups with coupons and welcome messages to convince me to become a customer.It’s no doubt effective when it’s done right. But I think it blinds most people trying to market their business to something even more important.Do you drink coffee? I bet you do. Afterall, 83% of the adult population does.It’s no wonder we do. Apart from being addictive it’s also convenient and it’s customized. Coffee historians call these the waves of coffee.Before 1850 people were grinding and roasting coffee themselves. The first wave was Folgers in a can; the second wave was Starbucks. You could now get coffee anyway you wanted and it was in itself a destination.So what’s the third wave of coffee? You go to a third wave coffee house like Stumptown or Intelligentsia, and there’s a good chance you can meet a coffee farmer walking around sampling their latest harvest. You can sign up for classes with your favorite barista. Come in once a week, and they’ll name your favorite drink after you.The third wave is all about making a deep and personal connection with your customers.The funny thing about these three waves is that once you understand them, you see them everywhere. Beer. Baking. Even carpentry. Watch any reality shows about a family building houses?One example that caught my eye recently was a young girl who had an early talent for music. Her family wanted to give her every chance to further her career, so they moved from Philadelphia to Nashville in 2003. Things didn’t take off immediately. But after a couple years, someone discovered our musician singing in a cafe and soon signed her up for her first record deal.She took off. She can sell out crowds instantly now.But the thing I’m most impressed about is her understanding of how music has evolved. Just like coffee. Music used to be hard to listen to. You’d have to expensively and inconveniently attend an event somewhere.Until the phonograph was invented. That was music’s first wave. Music became convenient. You could buy something and listen to it in your home.Radio was the second wave. Now you could have music everywhere and pick and choose the stations you wanted. Complete customization.But where’s the third wave?If you go to our young musicians YouTube channel, you can find a video of her celebrating Christmas. But it’s not with her family, it’s with her fans. She painstakingly wraps present after present. Her apartment is a complete mess of boxes, wrapping paper, and bubble wrap. And then she proceeds to not only ship these packages to her fans, but she delivers them herself, surprising people who thought they were waiting for some random UPS driver.Her fans are ecstatic. Everyone’s screaming and crying. You don’t have to be one of these young fans to have the heartwarming feelings roll over you too.This young musician epitomizes the third wave of music. We’ve evolved from convenience and customization to now wanting personal connections with the artists who matter to us. It’s not just about getting a signature. We want to talk to them on social media. Watch the behind the scenes of their lives. Get them to read our Tweets or comment on our Instas.My daughter was extra special the other day coming home from school and I wanted to surprise her with a treat. There’s a bakery we go by that has macarons, her favorite. But we passed the place up. Why?Because there’s another bakery a bit further away, whose owners, a mom and her talented baker of a daughter, have become friends of ours. They tell us about their lives and struggles, and we share ours.They didn’t have to blast me with email or laser targeted artificial intelligence campaigns. They just needed to be human. And it won our loyalty and repeat business.Our young musician hasn’t lost her touch with this even a few years after that Christmas video. Even just this past week, she had 500 fans over to her home in Rhode Island for private listening parties of her newest album. And this past week as I write this, Taylor Swift released her latest, Reputation.And truth be told, I still haven’t become a customer of that food delivery service despite the robo emails. But I own all of Taylor Swift’s work.P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: youtube.com/nathankontny where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups, try Highrise.(This article originally appeared on Quora)Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Marketing Jobs? was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


How to prepare for a one-on-one meeting as an employee

Many managers say flat-out that their biggest frustration is when employees are not prepared for a one-on-one meeting.Yikes, really?Over the past four years, I’ve heard countless of managers, CEOs, and business owners say a version of this to me:“During a one-on-one, I’ll ask a question and there’s silence on the other end. Or they’ll use it as a complaining session and it’s clear they haven’t been thoughtful about what feedback they’re offering. The lack of preparation just kills me.”As an employee, this may be somewhat surprising to hear. We often underestimate how vexing it can be for a manager when we don’t come fully prepared to a one-on-one meeting.I know I didn’t prepare for any of my one-on-ones, six years ago, when I was an employee. Out of fear, anxiety, and a bit of dread for what the conversation was going to be like, I pushed my impending one-on-one meeting out of mind. I didn’t think about what I wanted to say in the weeks (and days) leading up to it. “Was it really worth putting in the energy to do so? Nah…” I thought to myself. So I decided against it. As a result, when my boss asked me, “What do you think could be better in the company?” my answer was vague and not meaningful.In the moment, it felt like the safe and comfortable thing to do. But truth is, I only hurt myself. I bungled my opportunity to influence real change. And, I only further frustrated my boss, who was perplexed that I seemed dissatisfied but never vocalized my concerns outright.Eventually, I left the company. But I dearly wished I’d approached those one-on-one meetings differently — with less passivity and more positivity. I wish I would’ve seen those one-on-one meetings as an opportunity instead of an obstacle. I wish I would’ve seized those one-on-ones as a moment to engage and dig deeper with my manager, instead of using them to create distance and fester in apathy.In the six years since being an employee, now as a CEO myself, I’ve since learned the power of preparing for a one-on-one. It’s not just managers who should be preparing for them, but employees too.Knowing what I know now, here’s what I wish I would’ve considered when preparing for a one-on-one meeting with my then boss…Share what’s been most motivating to you.Managers crave to know what they should be doing to help you do your best work. After all, a manager’s ultimate job is to create an environment that enables you to tap into your own intrinsic motivation. During your one-on-one, make sure you share what tangibly has been most motivating to you while at the company: What’s been your favorite project? Who was someone you really enjoyed working it? Why was what you were working on so invigorating to you?Reveal what’s been draining and demotivating to you.As an employee, it’s always tough to bring up a critique of the company— especially if it’s about your own manager’s habits and actions. You’re worried it’ll be misinterpreted as “complain-y,” that your manager will take it personally, and that it could affect your career progression. Or perhaps worst, you’ll put in all the effort of sharing your feedback and nothing will happen. While all of those scenarios might be possible outcomes, what we must remember is that if we don’t talk about it, our managers will never know about it. The little things — whether it’s your manager interrupting you during meetings or always asking you to stay late — add up. They gnaw away at your ability to feel energized about your work. If you don’t say something, then who will? When you do speak up and vocalize tough feedback, look to approach the conversation with care, observation, fallibility, and curiosity. It’s a hard, delicate path to travel. But it’s a worthwhile path if you want your work environment to become better.Explain how you want to stretch and grow.Your one-on-one with your manager is your chance to let her know how you’d like to be further pushed and challenged in your role (or outside your role). Take time to reflect on what you’d like to improve or work on professionally. Perhaps it’s something more broad, like learning to be more patient and strategic in your thinking. Or maybe it’s much more about gaining a specific skill, such as becoming a better writer. Suggest potential projects for how you’d like to grow in those areas, and see if your manager has any ideas around it. Ask your manager for advice on what books, classes, or people you should be talking to help you pursue the greater learning you’re looking for.Highlight what you’re grateful for about the company, work environment, or how your manager has treated you.Giving feedback during a one-on-one isn’t just about zooming in on the bad. It’s the perfect time to point out the good, especially the good things your manager has done or said. Think about what your managers does that your previous manager at another company never did. What are the things you want to make sure she knows you don’t take for granted? Be specific, and say thank you. Not only will it help boost the morale of your manager (who needs the positive support, as being a manager can be a thankless job in some ways), but it helps guide your manager to double down on the things that you appreciate.Consider what’s been confusing or concerning to you in the company.Are you concerned that the company is growing too fast, and losing some of its original culture? Are you confused why the company decided to change its vision midyear, when things have been going so well? Consider leveling with your manager about what uncertainty is weighing on your mind during the one-on-one. It’s much more challenging to try to bring it up those questions outside of a one-on-one meeting — so take advantage of the fact you have dedicated time to discuss bigger questions about the state of the company with your manager.Suggest one thing you see as your greatest shortcoming, and what you want to do to actively compensate for it or improve on it.During your one-on-one, your manager is bound to share some constructive feedback in an area you could get better. While intimidating at times, it’s a good and helpful thing — and something to prepare for. To help make the conversation easier for you both and to show that you’re actively looking to improve, offer some thoughts yourself about moments you wish you would’ve handled differently. This could come in the form of goals, such as, “I want to find ways to ask more questions when interacting with customers,” or observations of areas you want to strengthening, such as, “I have a tendency to rush some of my projects, and I want to find ways to focus more on quality instead of speed.”Prepare 3 to 4 questions to ask, to help you better understand how to focus your efforts going forward.In case your manager doesn’t ask questions that cover everything you’d like to cover, you’ll want to have a few questions prepared. Here are some examples of questions you can ask that’ll help you better understand how you can improve as an individual contributor, and help your manager understand what she can be doing better as well:Do you see any untapped potential in the work I’m doing? An area you think I could be pressing a bit harder in or exploring deeper?What’s been frustrating or confusing about working with me? Where do you see the greatest opportunity for me to improve?What’s the biggest challenge you feel you face as a manager? In what ways can I be helpful in overcoming or facing that challenge?What worries you most about the team?What are you most proud of the team having accomplished?In what ways have I saved you time or made your job easier? What can I be doing to do more of those things?Where do you see the team or company a year from now, and what I can do to help make sure we achieve that vision?What are the biggest challenges you foresee the team or company facing in the upcoming year?This may feel like a lot. I might recommend taking 30 minutes or so to reflect on some of these items, and even writing out some questions, yourself.But keep in mind that the more you put into a one-on-one, the more you can get out. While a thirty-minute or one hour meeting doesn’t seem like much, it’s an opportunity to create a better relationship with your manager, to improve the work environment around you, and be plain happier in your job.I wrote this piece as the latest chapter in our Knowledge Center. Each week, we release a new chapter on how to create an open, honest company culture. To get each chapter sent straight to your inbox, sign up below…https://medium.com/media/d44dd2a6a03c83b35a6dd9495abb813b/hrefP.S.: Please feel free to share + give this piece 👏 so others can find it too. Thanks 😊 (And you can always say hi at @cjlew23.)How to prepare for a one-on-one meeting as an employee was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals