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Developing Culture Remote Workers

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92
Chris Do
Published
December 31, 2018

Chris Do answers a pro member's question about developing a company culture around contracted freelancers.

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Next topic, let's do let's do this, and this one comes from Alex, you posted this thing is like, hey, I'm new to the group and everything, but I want to talk a little bit about the in-house design culture. So Alex atenco, can you bring yourself online? Hey, guys. How are you? Good, good. So what do you want to know? Because I've not worked in house for very long, four months, six months, something like that. Yeah, it's a great question. What I want to know. I guess, you know, there are quite a few of challenges, so to give you a quick backstory. I was a designer for like 10 years or so, was working in Ukraine at some point moved from Kiev to Los Angeles, and I became a design manager. So I do have like 10 folks in house who I manage, you know? But because of the nature of our organization, so we are distributed like 100 percent, you know, we don't really have physical office. And we work in squads which are. Cross-functional teams consist of product manager, product designer, a couple of developers, researchers and so on. And you know, those squads and decentralized and distributed nature of the company creates quite a few challenges to actually have, you know, or instill the culture into the design team. Because designers field silent and disconnected from each other. And this is like one of the challenges that I'm facing right now to actually create something which we could call, you know, the design culture of our own. Does it make sense. So far? Yes, but let's get to it. OK, cool. So yeah, I guess the challenge is how to create the environment where people who are working on the very different projects and usually not communicating, you know, a lot with each other will feel more connected to each other and start, you know, working towards having something that we could call the design culture of our own. OK, so you're trying to develop culture while most people work remotely? Is that right? Yes OK. I can't. I'm no expert on this, so I can only share with you what other people have told me who have similar setups. I would suggest that you reach out to Nick Campbell from gray scale gorilla and also from Joey Korman from the School of motion, because both of them pretty much run remote teams. And what I've learned from Joey is that they have maybe twice a year, sometimes more than not meetups where everybody gets together. So they're in the same room and they can share. And he's able to create space for them to do that over the course of one or two days. Sometimes it's run an event or conference and they're able to get together and talk and meet and break bread and just goof off with each other. So that they know that there's a human being behind the worker person. And I think as the world continues to move and we've become more networked that we're going to start to have more people work as a remote or a remote worker because it's just more efficient to do it that way. It's more cost effective. You get better, I think, quality of life because you're not spending a good amount of your time commuting from point A to point it's better for the environment. So let's talk about the kind of culture that you want to create, and let's figure out the differences between having them in house as opposed to having them out of house and working remotely because the challenge may or may not be the same. Companies have poor cultures, don't necessarily have them because people are working from afar, it's because maybe they're not very defined that we all aspire to have strong, healthy work culture. But then we don't live those things. So do you know what your culture should be like if you were to say these are three core beliefs we hold to be true in terms of how we function as a company? That's a great question. So as the company we preach, you know, the culture of extreme ownership, we are like really big on the book, you know, extreme ownership and you know, the values that are ours, you know, translating through that. So we believe that like everyone like teams should be like cross-functional and people should have like wider area of responsibility and not just focus on their little piece of work, but understand the bigger picture. Also, we believe in, you know, feedback and positive feedback and, you know, helping each other to grow through giving continuous feedback and having like proper loops, you know, set up and actually creating like the safe environment where people can share their thoughts, you know, about the work of each other without fear of being judged or any like repercussions, like negative repercussions. And I guess, you know, on that latest note, what are we lacking on the design team side is the strong culture of the critique on the work of each other. Because basically, the problem is like when you have the studio design studio, which works in-house, you have way more common understanding between designers about what work they are doing now. And they can share intimate understanding of the client or the users as they like seeing each other every day. And they can talk about the problems and challenges that they have in the remote cultures. It's way more challenging because designers, they are focused on their own projects and they have like where you're less understanding about what their colleagues are working on and to create a high quality critique culture. You know, all of us need to share pretty much the same understanding of the problems to be able to provide the feedback, not on the surface of the design, but really go deep into undermining reasoning. OK, I have a bunch of things to respond to it. Now This is fantastic. If I were to ask, or maybe if you were to ask the entire team what our core values are, how many of them would come back to you and say extreme ownership cross functional teams feedback as a means to grow and we can share without judgment how many of them would say that this rhetorical question, right? Let's just let's just think about that for a little bit. One of the things that Tony Xie from Zappos does is they have their annual book and they pass the book around and they are able to write whatever it is that they want. And unless it were liable or something crazy, they pretty much published the book. And that's how the leaders and the managers test themselves to see if our core values are being lived by our people and they're a customer service company. First and foremost, they just so happen to sell shoes. Now a lot of the things that you're saying, are you the owner of this company or are you just the manager? Yeah I'm the manager, but not the owner right now. OK, so I'm going to say this and I hope I don't get this wrong. OK, so in the interest of time, in the interest of time, otherwise I'd have to spend hours talking to you about this. It feels to me that a lot of these things that you're talking about make the company work better, but not so much about for the individual. They're taking ownership. That leaves the burden of the company to make the work, and we're cross functional because we don't want to hire more people, so you have to do more work. And you have to own more of the project in the process. And we want you to be open to the feedback we're giving you so that you could handle the critique. Now, something that Simon Sinek says, it's not so much who's in charge, but who's in your charge. None of the attributes or the core values that you said, as far as I can tell, are designed to serve the people that work for you to be a good servant leader. How do you help your team win? So what I would suggest that you do is maybe run a design sprint and you can look up AJ and smart. Lightening decision jam and they had asked their team what could we do to make work more productive or better? And they came up with all kinds of ideas and then they would solve that together. So when the solutions come from the bottom up instead of the top down, then you can say that this culture is lived because otherwise most corporations, most companies design a culture that is beneficial to them their productivity, their bottom line, and not so much for the people. But when you serve the people, a wonderful transformation happens in them and you. And so I would suggest that. The other thing I would suggest is it's very, very hard to figure out what are your core values are. So I suggest that you read the book delivering happiness by telling you shit because he's all about company culture. He's the guy who says culture equals brand. Forget the brand. If you get the culture right, the brand will follow. So it's really important, so I want you to start to think and this is very hard to implement. It's not something I can solve in 10 minutes or even two hours is how do you get your culture right? How do you implement it? How do you live it so that there is this great balance between what's good for the people is what's good for the company? OK, so Alex, probably one of the things that you guys have done really well is to say, we like that you guys want to work from home. There's a cost benefit to us, but there's a life benefit to you. What can we do to make you feel less like an isolated human being and more part of the team? Maybe that's the prompt. I don't know what it is because most of my team works in the office, right? We have two people who work offsite, so I get to see it all day long. And one of the things that is happening, which is quite a miracle of the transition that we've gone through from a service design agency to a product company is people come and go whenever they want. My wife, we were driving around yesterday and she said, you know, I came into the office the other day and nobody was there, not a single person was there around lunchtime. I'm like, yeah, it's because why clients don't call us anymore. We have no more clients calling, we have to be there for no one. People can do whatever they want whenever they want, as long as the work gets done and they get to set. How they get there. We just define together what the goals are and then they just do whatever they do. And I think and I'll have to check back, check back on me on this towards the middle part of the year to see how the experiment's going. But I think the happiness quotient has gone up tremendously. People set their own agenda. They do work from home. I don't even know anymore. We're abolishing time sheets. We're getting rid of a lot of the old mechanisms of the Industrial revolution, right? We're getting rid of all of that. We don't want to value you anymore based on the time that it takes you to do something. OK, Alex. That's all I got to say about that, if there's another specific question about in-house culture. Give me if you want to ask a question or Brian Patrick, who is like, yeah, I'm excited for this one. Let me know right now. Are you referring to like a results only work environment sort of thing more or less? Yes yeah, right. Mm-hmm So we have quarterly sprint planning sessions, and then we break those sprints down into monthly goals and everybody knows financially. Another key performance indicators KPIs that what we have to hit, we assign leaders and we're going to share the leadership role and switch things around every quarter. We'll see how it goes. We're only the first quarter into this kind of working. And so far, it's working really well. That's pretty interesting. I would love to learn about bit more. Yeah, I'll tell you if it works out, if we go bankrupt, you're like, don't follow that model. And we're just playing it and we're growing our subscribers. And I tell you about our numbers because I'll tell you all our numbers and everything we're doing all the time, as much as I can in real time. OK so, yeah, that sounds pretty awesome, Chris, and thank you for the book recommendation. Yes smart lightning decision, Jim. Watch that video because they solve a very, I think, a common problem, very simply and elegantly. It has a lot to do with office noise and concentration because they have works every time. Does it work every time? It does. Are you in a reference design sprint trainee? I went through their master class, I had designs for a master. Sounds good. OK and I work remote, so if you guys ever have remote question, there you go. I'm here to answer as well. There you go. That's the person you connect with, Alex. OK beautiful. OK thank you, guys.

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