Today I want to share with you a story about how I changed ‘working hard’ to ‘working smart’ and why we all should do it too.
This is also a story about how important is not only our attitude but the culture of the whole organization.
What’s my background?
I’M NOT A GIRL, NOT YET A WOMAN
I’m too young to die, but I’m old enough to have experience in working for a few companies, including a corporation, agencies and small businesses. Every one of them had almost the same approach to management, people and clients. I’ve learned damaging habits, and I know that many people share them too.
Last month I found a completely different approach and culture in Untitled Kingdom, a software house. ‘I can see clearly now the rain has gone’ and so many things I was doing just wrong. What was it?
YOU’RE TOO GOOD TO WORK IN A BAD ENVIRONMENT
First of all, I found out that the ‘I’ve got 99 problems’ but the organization can be almost every one of them. Even if you’re productive and organized, with a proper mindset, a dangerous environment can destroy you.
What did I change after just one month of absorbing rules and conditions at Untitled Kingdom? It’s not only working in scrum and agile methodology. Quality, transparency, and family are values that spread over every activity at work. What does it specifically mean?
1. YOU REQUIRE QUALITY? GIVE QUALITY
You’re told to give the best quality of your work, but you see that no one cares about the comfortable office, efficient computers, most recent software or just quality feedback?
Quality should spread over every level in a company. In Untitled Kingdom it’s required from everyone equally: developers, leaders, heads, and CEO. It’s obliged from the office itself as a place for work.That’s why we have high-quality desks and chairs, air purifiers. That’s why we use the best hardware (yes, we all love Apple) and software.
Quality is also in our attitude to peers at work. We give quality feedback. We believe that great things sometimes have their beginnings in mistakes. Experiment. Fail. Learn. Repeat. A company is the people. When people are happy, ambitious and they develop their skills, the company develops itself too.
2. FAMILY AT WORK? IT’S A SECT?
I know that speaking about a family at work is funny. Moreover, sounds sectarian. What does it mean?
We care about each other. We don’t only remember about our birthdays, but what’s more important, believe each other, understand that we’re just humans. We make mistakes, and that’s ok.
We all fret about the stability and pleasant atmosphere, so when we recruit new people, we ask not only about experience and skills, but also important is a cultural fit and shared values.
3. DON’T ASK, JUST DO IT. REALLY? WHAT IS TRANSPARENCY
When working with a family, there’s no need to hide or lie about anything. A family means support, protection, and consistency. You can be yourself. You don’t need to know everything. You can ask, no matter what it is.
In Untitled Kingdom nobody’s waiting for your mistake to laugh about it when in corporations it’s often a standard procedure. Thanks to it, we avoid many mistakes or wasted time. We don’t judge. We give feedback.
To know well what’s going on in a company, once a week we have ‘Stand-ups’. We all gather in a circle and talk about our achievements, plans, blockers and fun facts. We are also invited to attend in ‘Leaders meetings’, to get to know financial, operational, sales and marketing situation — no need to hide anything.
REST IS FOR THE WEAK. HAHA
Yes, maybe rest is for the weak, especially when you’re at a party and want to coax your friend into more drinks and dancing.
Actually, for a few years, I’ve been working 12+ hours a day. During my studies, I did internships and worked as a freelancer. After graduation, I mixed a full-time job with freelance projects. Then, I was used to working overtime, over the weekends and I believed that’s what successful people do. In fact… they don’t. See what, e.g. Richard Branson says about work and other winning people. They put maximum effort to work smart, not just hard.
Working 12+ hours a day I really could do a lot, but my creativity was blocked. I’ve been solving many tasks, but I wasn’t satisfied with the quality. I’ve learned to be ‘fast and furious’, but I missed a strategic approach. In the end… I was just ‘sick and tired’. During the rest of my free time, I couldn’t think about work or read business books, magazines, blogs. I stopped developing my skills. Know that feeling?
Now I know, that the rest for work is like sleep for a body or like rain for flowers or the Earth for the Moon (ok, ok, that’s it). Time for hobbies or traveling, meeting friends and sports are necessary to unblock creativity, clear your mind and to have maximum energy to work productively every day. When a company wants to have robust and happy employees, it should support it. Untitled Kingdom does, and I’m glad about that.
Doesn’t matter how many hours you work, important is, how effectively you work. Also, to work productively, you need to rest. Unless you’re a robot, aren’t you?
LET’S HAVE A MEETING ABOUT THE MEETING BEFORE THE PRE-MEETING MEETING
So, when we talk about effectiveness… Don’t you think that most of your meetings are unnecessary? No agenda, no action plan, too long, too many people, people who are not responsible for the discussed topic? How much time could we spend on more important tasks? Or rest? Or plan and organize work better? Sometimes the Pareto principle is a perfect solution. 80% time for planning and 20% for actual work.
In Untitled Kingdom we have ‘Effective meeting rules’ and everybody sticks to them. Throughout last month, I didn’t happen to be invited to a meeting where nothing productive came out. Or I would feel unnecessary.
Again, I need to say a word about a healthy environment (you could name it: agile, scrum, lean, whatever), where we focus on productivity and the company’s rules are respected by everyone.
We have OKRs and simple metrics to organize our work. Everybody knows what you’re working right now or if you’re overwhelmed, or you’re free to help somebody else. Makes sense?
WHAT I WANTED TO TELL YOU
After just one month of working in healthful conditions, that fits my uptake and values, I bloomed. I started to work smarter, not harder. From my perspective, happy employees and effective work depend on:
1. The organization, management, values followed by everyone. It’s the foundation.
2. Time for rest and time for self-development. Smart work instead of hard work.
3. Not wasting time on bullshit meetings. Instead: productive meetings.
Of course, it’s not everything that makes a company a great place. However, these are for me the most important basics.