Eliminating Work About Work with Dustin Moskovitz on Invest Like the Best with Patrick O’Shaughnessy

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Key Takeaways

  • Give people clarity about what’s most important, the strategy, and goals they’re working towards
  • Most of “work about work” is really exchanging status information, and getting on the same page with your team
  • The pyramid of clarity from top to bottom:
    • The Mission
    • Strategy
    • Company-wide objectives
    • Business, product, and internal objectives
    • Key results
    • Projects
  • You get diminishing returns as you go beyond 50 or 60 hours per week- your hours get less productive
  • The goal is not to maximize your hours but maximize your output
  • Meetings are not evil – but they chop up your calendar, and can interrupt focus time
  • Radical inclusiveness is where whoever shows up is totally welcome and embraced and included and encouraged to participate

Intro

Dustin Moskovitz (t:@moskov) is an Internet entrepreneur who co-founded Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, and Chris Hughes. In 2008, he left Facebook to co-found Asana with Justin Rosenstein.

The Diminishing Returns of Hard Work

  • A lot of people compete about how many hours per week they’re working but it’s a fallacy
  • You get diminishing returns as you go beyond, 50 or 60 hours per week- your hours get less productive
  • When you’re burnt out, you’re not as good of a teammate, it’s easier to get into conflict, it’s harder to work through disagreement and make productive progress with the team
  • The goal is not to maximize your hours but maximize your output
  • The basic axiom: this is a marathon, not a sprint

Use Culture to Set Standards

  • Set an example and have other people follow that example – don’t work late at night and on the weekends
  • Feel okay about unplugging
  • Get more of a separation between your work and your personal life
  • “It’s really important to have that clarity, the separation of when you’re working and when you’re resting. You’re not constantly checking your email and getting push notifications, and keeping half of your mind in the work context” –
  • One thing Dustin took from Facebook is No Meeting Wednesday
  • Meetings are not evil – but they chop up your calendar, and can interrupt focus time

Origins of Asana

  • Dustin was only 20 when he started at Facebook – he was in the chaos of managing knowledge-worker teams and thought there should just be a better way to do this
  • The first thing he did was have a one-on-one with all of his direct reports every two weeks, then they would each have one-on-ones with their directs every two weeks so he’d have a good sense of what was happening over the organization a month prior
  • He started designing database systems to keep track of the state of the world and record his own notes in a more structured way

The Pyramid of Clarity

  • “Knowledge workers say they’re spending 60% of their time on what we call “work about work”, sending these long email back and forth, going to status update meetings, or communicating about work, rather than doing the creative work that will result in output for the business.” – Dustin Moskovitz
  • Give people clarity about what’s most important, what the strategy is, and what the goals are that they’re working towards
  • The pyramid of clarity from top to bottom:
    • The Mission
    • Strategy
    • Company-wide objectives
    • Business, product, and internal objectives
    • Key results
    • Projects
  • Most of “work about work” is really exchanging status information, and getting on the same page with your team
  • Time gets wasted because people don’t understand what’s important, or don’t understand what somebody else is doing
  • Help people connect to the higher parts of that pyramid of clarity so they know which thing to prioritize and they understand why it matters

When to Consider Changing a Company’s Mission

  • The mission, shouldn’t change 
  • Keep the same structure of the objectives and just change what the targets are, and some initiatives
  • The stuff at the bottom should change the most often, and the items further up should change less often

Business Building Lessons

  • Do the most important things first
  • Do the things that have the best ROI at the top
  • Have internal transparency and internal clarity about what the goals are and communicate that regularly
  • Leverage the beginner’s mind because they can see things that you may have lost perspective on

Recommendations for Younger Companies

  • Be clear about what you’re trying to achieve then objectively evaluate whether you did achieve that
  • When you go into a meeting determine what are the goals of this meeting and the non-goals
  • Ask about the specific metrics we’re trying to move?
  • This eliminates a lot of wishy-washy thinking

Advice for Founders

  • “Persevere as a founder, because I think if you’re going after a really big mission, it’s just often going to take a lot of years” – Dustin Moskovitz
  •  The role changes and gets more abstracted over time and becomes more about establishing that clarity
  • Very little of being a founder is about concrete work output

The Role of the Work Graph

  • The work graph is the data model of a product – it’s meant to mimic what you see as the real-world structure of work
  • It represents all of the units of work: tasks, ideas, goals, agenda items, files, and status information, and how it fits together and who’s responsible for each piece
  • In the work graph model, everyone is working off the same source, organizing it in the context that makes sense for their workflow
  • “I think that we’re seeing the creativity meet the technology and enable a lot of value for people.” – Dustin Moskovitz

Radical Inclusiveness

  • Radical inclusiveness is where whoever shows up is totally welcome and embraced and included and encouraged to participate
  • “I think it’s something that we aspire to, within Asana’s walls and I think it’s certainly become a much bigger part of the national conversation everywhere.” – Dustin Moskovitz

Starting a New Company versus Working at an Existing One

  • You need to be extremely motivated to start a new company- you are bringing something new into the world that doesn’t currently exist
  • But it’s going to be really hard, probably harder than you think
  • Your motivation needs to be outsized to bring you through

Product lessons

  • Create a stack rank list of the most promising opportunities to add more customer value
  • Meet people where they are, especially in terms of their adoption life cycle
  • Try to do as much as possible to make the adoption experience successful, and the product easy to adopt and to use  

Philanthropy Projects

  • GiveWell focuses on global development and poverty alleviation because a lot of philanthropic dollars in the U.S. are focused domestically
  • The Open Philanthropy Project looks for opportunities outside of global poverty and health that can have a tremendous impact on the world
  • Factory farm animal welfare- does things like moving supply chains towards sourcing eggs from cage-free chickens or improving the standards for dairy cows

The Plusses and Minuses of AI

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) at Asana will be about helping identify bottlenecks or to minimize the time and effort it takes to get to a certain goal
  • There are already existing misuses of AI – it’s going to get worse over time as AI is embedded into autonomous weaponry
  • It could rise to the level of being a civilization existential risk

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Notes By EWerbitsky

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