Over-collaboration and 'The Meeting' as a last resort

Are you familiar with the daily bombardment of email, text, instant chat and social media while trying to get real work done? Don’t worry, Jason Fried, the CEO of base camp, has some tips for us all, especially those who work in small team environments and want to find better ways to concentrate. I picked up these lessons from the Harvard Business Review podcast, which I highly recommend for anyone interested in business or organisational psychology. 

Here is the podcast and here is the summary:

  • There is an epidemic of over-collaboration and over communication. Managers seem to think that a noisy office means that work is being done. The only way to evaluate the work is to look at the work as the work should speak for itself. 
  • People don't typically get work done during the day and they don't have hours anymore - they have 15 mins, 10 minutes, 6 minutes etc.  
  • His company, Basecamp has implemented a “No talk Thursday” or a "Silent Thursday”, which essentially means that the company has library rules during that time. In other words, the focus is on studying, learning and thinking. 
  • The problem with virtual communication is that there is very little penalty to send messages or bothering people. 
  • Figure out when you should chat about something and when you should write something up. "We find that asynchronous communication works best: give people time to think and respond on their own time. When conversations are owned by the initiator, you end up in a very distracting culture. When you have an expectation that the receiver can get back to you when they're ready, then you have a much calmer environment. It's not as fast, but what is our obsession with speed all the time?" Chat is fine if it's trivial, but if it's important, it's better to write it up. "We found that chats are really good with 3 people in the conversation, any more than that and it doesn't really work." 
  • On expectations: "If you respond on a Wednesday night, they'll ask you for Thursday and Friday night. You can have a clear conversation and set the rules. Setting the tone is something you have to do."
  • "People think that being busy is doing work but it's not."
  • On meetings: "I think meetings are typically a major waste of time. Meetings force everyone to be on the same schedule for an hour and talk about something right now that's not related to right now. "I think 'the meeting' should be the last resort."
  • On working hours: "I think 40 hours is absolutely enough if you squeeze out all the stuff that doesn't matter." 
  • On management: "I think that if you need more hours from people, then you're not really doing your job… your job as a manager should be to help people be efficient, to protect people's time and attention. Those are the only resources people have at work."

This was one of the best podcasts I’ve listened to in a while. Here is the podcast if you want to have a listen.