How to reimagine and experiment our way to new ways of working (Part 1)

In earlier posts titled “Why do we work the way we do? Reimagining how work can be like” part 1 and part 2, I challenged us to rethink: if today were day one of the history of work, how would you design how you work?

Got any ideas? Let me give you a hint: use a human-centric approach to design work instead of an office-centric approach, through testing, learning and experimentation. Let’s look at an example. This example addresses the “How”. In particular, it challenges the sacred cow of the daily scrum.

During the pandemic, sadly, we simply replicated what we were doing in person, online. So, we still schedule meetings for everything, just like when we were working in the office, and wish everyone would turn on their cameras, so we can “see” each other. People in different time-zones would stay up late or get up early so that they can get on video conference. However, these synchronous virtual meetings are cognitively draining, hence “Zoom fatigue”. I wanted to cut down the number of synchronous meetings that we had, and one such meeting was daily standup. So I proposed an idea, “what if we do daily standups asynchronously?” Everyone thought it was a crazy idea. I told the team that we could try it out and see if it works better than meeting synchronously. I set up an online whiteboard for the team. On it, I started with a fun check-in, then proceeded with our Kanban board, so they could move the items when they were finished. Below the Kanban board, I asked 3 questions: which item on the Kanban board did you end up doing yesterday? Which item are you going to work on today? And what do you need from the team? I had specific instructions for the last question: 

  1. Be specific on the request, identify when you need it and who you need it from.
  2. As for the answer, only these 4 answers are acceptable: Yes, No, Huh? Whatever. When the requester sees any answers other than “yes”, they should contact that person directly to understand why. The person who answers anything other than “yes” is also encouraged to reach out to the requester to explain their answer. This way, we take the “discussion” out of the board, and encourage people to talk to each other one on one. The “talk” can be synchronous or asynchronous, up to the people involved.

I then suggested that the team go to the board first thing in their morning, or last thing before they sign off work at night, but the entire team had to decide what they prefer so that everyone was on the same cadence. The team decided everyone would go to the board first thing in their mornings before they start their work. (the 3 questions would have changed if they did that last thing in the evening).

Before I tell you how the experiment went, I want to know what experiments you’ve tried and how those went. What challenges did you face?

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