Working Completely Asynchronously with Gonçalo Silva on the InfoQ podcast with Shane Hastie

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Key Takeaways

  • Build software in a way that does not force a rewrite later
  • Have an open culture where people can come in and challenge anything at any time regardless of who’s working on what
  • Leverage fresh-eye mentality from newcomers
  • Try to leverage people with strong opinions by letting them be part of the decision circle
  • The core principles of working remotely and working asynchronously are:
    • trust, autonomy, independence
  • In the idea-forming phase, the more arguments you have, the better
  • If you want to have an open culture, you also need to be open about who’s responsible for making which decisions

Intro

Gonçalo-Silva (t:goncalossilva)is the CTO of Doist — the company behind the popular communications app Twist 

Building Stable Software That Is Robust And Evolving

  • Build software in a way that does not force a rewrite later
  • Be critical of the hype instead of going to popular software every three years
  • Try to be strategical about which software you adopt and why you adopt it
  • Manage technical debt – be careful not to let it grow out of proportion

Asynchronous Communication

  • Avoid methodologies that require people to be online at the same time
  • Have an open culture where people can come in and challenge anything at any time regardless of who’s working on what
  • Leverage fresh eye mentality from newcomers
  • “The only synchronous thing we do are meetings, and we keep meetings to a minimum. Everything else is asynchronous. The way we discuss things is very much forum-like” – Gonçalo Silva
  • Asynchronous communication leads to better discussions and more thoughtful ways of approaching a problem, which leads to better decisions
  • What you lose in decision speed is made up in decision quality

The Do System

  • Groups are assembled from different areas of the company: designers, engineers, and people from marketing, to execute a month-long project
  • On the first day of the Do Cycle, people talk a project through and then split themselves across different initiatives based on interest
  • That squad has full ownership over what they’re doing throughout that month
  • At the end of the month, the group can be disassembled or assembled again to work on something else
  • “We don’t have a water cooler. We don’t have an office. People don’t meet face to face. So, the fact that we assemble these squads somewhat randomly every month gets people working with random other people across the company” – Gonçalo Silva
  • It’s a way to share knowledge and promote ownership over the things you’re building

The Challenges Of Team Formation

  • Have strong guidelines for how the group/squad should work, especially within the first couple of weeks when the work is still undefined
  • Schedule a kickoff meeting that outlines the problems you’re trying to solve
  • Determine the actionables for each of the squad members – this creates some structure where people can get a headstart
  • The first couple of weeks are structured for these squads to get up and running and to start producing results as quickly as possible
  •  After a couple of weeks, the work to be done becomes a lot clearer so, there’s less friction
  • Try to leverage people with strong opinions by letting them be part of the decision circle – be as open as possible to discuss before you decide

Maintaining Culture In An Asynchronous Organization

  • Take ideas into consideration, let people be upfront and challenge things but don’t make the mistake of doing nothing
  • If people go out of their way to challenge something about the company, it should be dealt with the respect that it deserves
  • Keep a good culture by practicing what you as a company preach every day, not every once in a while

Avoiding the Pitfalls

  • The core principles of working remotely and working asynchronously are:
    • trust, autonomy, independence
  • In the idea-forming phase, the more arguments you have, the better
  • When it comes to making the final decision, decision making needs to be clear
  • if you want to have an open culture, you also need to be open about who’s responsible for making specific decisions
  • “In the end, I think it’s also about trust. Trust each other to the point where you don’t micromanage Keep things as transparent as possible” – Gonçalo Silva
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Notes By EWerbitsky

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