No Half Measures

Photo from Welcome Industries

Pam Daniels had an idea to make an everyday household item—a set of measuring cups—more useful and fun. When her first plan to get her product into the world fell through, she found a different path. The latest episode of the Rework podcast tells the story of what it took to get one product launched.

A quick programming note: This is our last Rework episode until September, as we’re taking a short hiatus for the rest of August. During the break, we’ll play some reruns of the old (like ten years old!) 37signals podcast, so stay subscribed! We’ll be back with all-new episodes in September.

How to share your company vision as a leader

The #1 piece of information you should be focused on as a leader is sharing company vision. Here’s exactly how to do it.

“Company vision” might be the fluffiest business term I know.

Thrown around by every nearly business book and article, “vision” is often used vaguely, without nuance or thoughtfulness.

Yet despite it’s watered-down usage, “vision” is the most important information for us to communicate across a team. According to a survey we conducted with 355 people in the fall of 2018, vision was ranked as the #1 information people need to share in a team.

Given its significance, how to best share a company vision within a team?

Before we can answer that, we must start with what company vision exactly is and why it’s important. Then, we can dive into to how you can make sure it’s shared across the team.

Keep reading “How to share your company vision as a leader”

The worst part of hiring

We ask a lot of job applicants at Basecamp. First, they have to make it through a long, detailed description of the opening. Then we request a dedicated cover letter that’s unique to Basecamp. And then there’s the polishing of a CV. It can easily take hours to apply to a job at Basecamp.

It used to be even worse too! For programmers, for example, we’d ask everyone upfront to submit code samples as part of their first application. Finding a good piece of code, either through open source, learning apps, or whatever, takes time. (Thankfully we don’t do that any more. You have to make it to the second round for us to talk code.)

So it’s not an unreasonable expectation to hope for some detailed feedback if the application isn’t successful. It’s entirely human to wish for feedback on “why didn’t I progress in process?”, “what could I have done better?”, “what else were y’all looking for?”.

And yet the math simply makes that impossible for us. A recent opening for a senior programmer drew over 400 applications (for customer support, we’ve seen over 1,000 applications per opening!). For that programmer role, someone spending just 20 minutes giving diligent feedback per application would keep them busy for almost 7 weeks, if they worked on that for 4 hours per day, 5 days a week!

That really sucks! It’s easily the worst part of hiring to reject hundreds of applicants who’ve put in a lot of their time with a generic “thank you for applying, but unfortunately we’ve moved forward with other candidates!”. Ugh.

So the least we can do is to be honest that this is the process. And, evidenced by the feedback from several applicants in the last hiring thaw, we clearly failed at that. So apologies to everyone who had reasonable expectations of some actionable feedback, and were left cold with a generic rejection.

Next time we’ll spell it out in the post. And applicants can make a more informed decision as to whether it’s worth their time given the risk that the sum of a response might well boil down to “thank you so much, but sorry!”.

Hiring is hard.

Shape Up Roundtable

Basecamp’s new book, Shape Up by Ryan Singer, explores the way designers and programmers at the company build and ship software. In the latest episode of the Rework podcast, Ryan, designer Conor Muirhead, and programmer Jeff Hardy go deep into Shape Up principles, talking about the parts of the process they find most useful and sharing real-life examples of both successes and setbacks.

(If you haven’t yet read Shape Up or listened to last week’s interview with Ryan, it might be helpful to do that first. We’ve also linked to the relevant sections in Shape Up in the show notes for this episode if you’d like to follow along that way.)

How to onboard a new hire

Recently I hired someone new here at Know Your Team. Here’s exactly what I wrote on Day 1 and the 23 questions I asked as a part of our employee onboarding process.

Something new happened recently: We hired a new employee at Know Your Team – and it caused me to rethink our entire employee onboarding process. As a small, profit-focused team, we don’t hire often. As a result, this time around, I wanted to be intentional about how to onboard a new hire.

After all, the numbers on how likely it is for a new employee to leave within the first 90 days are astounding: 30% employees leave before their first 3 months are up, according to a survey with 1,500 people.

It got me reflecting deeply… How to onboard a new hire, and make sure that person feels welcomed, encouraged, and well-equipped to contribute to the team?

Keep reading “How to onboard a new hire”

Shape Up with Ryan Singer

Earlier this month, Basecamp released a new book by Ryan Singer, the head of strategy. Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters is a “spiritual follow-up” to Getting Real, Jason and David’s 2006 guide to how product development happens at Basecamp. In Shape Up, Ryan goes deep into how small teams get great work done in six-week cycles without sprints, Post-it Notes, stand-up meetings, backlogs, or long hours.

Ryan sits down with the Rework podcast to talk about some of the major themes in Shape Up and how the book came together as its own product.

Next week, we’ll bring you a roundtable discussion between Ryan, a designer, and a programmer at Basecamp to go deeper into the process described in Shape Up. Be sure to subscribe to Rework in Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, or your favorite podcast app so that you get the episode as soon as it’s released!

What great managers do: Prune

Being a great manager and English gardening have more in common than you might imagine.

If you want to improve your leadership skills, there no shortage of analogies that have been made about great managers.

A great manager is a “coach,” a “captain of a ship,” or even a “human shield.”

However, I heard a more unlikely comparison about leadership made on our podcast, The Heartbeat, when I interviewed David Cancel, CEO of Drift. He told me:

“I kind of think about most of this stuff as English gardening. If you want an English garden most of the work is actually the pruning and the taking care of. It’s not the planting, it’s not the plant selection. It’s this constant pruning. The day that you stop pruning is the day that the garden is full of weeds and overrun.”

I found this to be a brilliant analogy on several levels.

Keep reading “What great managers do: Prune”

Hire When It Hurts

You may have noticed that Basecamp is in the midst of what qualifies around here as a mini hiring boom: five open positions across customer support, programming, and ops, as well as a newly created marketing role. The company has received more than 4,000 applications and every single one is read by a human being. In the latest episode of the Rework podcast, hear about why Basecamp briefly lifted its hiring freeze, how job ads are written, and what the process is for evaluating candidates.

Am I micromanaging my team?

Here are the 5 most telling signs of micromanagement – and what you can do instead.

I won’t tell anyone:  You think you might be a micromanager. Argh. If there were scarlet letters for a bad manager to wear, “m-i-c-r-o-m-a-n-a-g-e-r” would be among them.

But, how do you know if you’re a micromanager, for sure? 

Yes, you can directly ask your team members if they think you’re micromanaging them. If you have a direct report who has a penchant for shooting you straight, I highly recommend this. (In fact, when we asked through Know Your Team to 606 employees across 61 companies, “Do you feel micromanaged?” 12% said “Yes.”)

But it’s also probable that your direct report might not concede the truth. You are their boss, after all. And telling a boss they’re a micromanager is the equivalent of, well, slapping them in the face. 🙂

Keep reading “Am I micromanaging my team?”

Six Hours of Phone Calls

When Jason put out a call on Twitter for SEO consultants, he received dozens of responses. In order to choose someone to work with, Jason and Basecamp designer Adam Stoddard interviewed all of the candidates in one six-hour block of back-to-back phone calls. They sit down with Shaun in the latest episode of the Rework podcast to discuss why they’re looking for SEO expertise, how they conducted the interviews, and what it’s like to shop for something you know nothing about.