Thursday, December 1, 2016

✔ How to communicate effectively with a team using the latest apps

As you know, at Nozbe we don’t have a central office. We all work from our homes. When I talk about it, people look at me with disbelief and doubt. Especially when I tell them that our core team consists of more than 20 people and we also regularly work with several other companies. We do everything remotely and over the Internet. And with the use of the latest apps. Today, on December 1, 2016, I'm releasing a new book that talks all about it: "No Office Apps":

apps

The fact that we work entirely remotely may seem like an obstacle but it has made us think about effective forms of communication. We can’t simply walk up to a colleague’s desk so we had to learn to communicate in different ways. Working in a remote team made us realize that effective work in a distributed group requires communication on many layers and that using modern apps can help us achieve our objectives more easily.

In this article I’m going to describe the apps that we use and briefly discuss how we use them.

If you want a longer version of this article and a deeper dive into this subject, please get my latest book here: "No Office Apps How the Nozbe team uses modern technologies to communicate better and get more done." - it's completely free! :-)

Friday, October 7, 2016

☆ My Company’s Pyramid Of Communication Revisited

How the Nozbe team uses modern technologies to communicate better and get more done.

Nozbe Pyramid of Communication

I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. I'd appreciate if you followed me there and recommended my posts, thanks!

Let's get back to how we use modern technologies to communicate better and get more done in an all-remote team

A few months ago I posted about my company’s pyramid of communication, which we also discussed on the 18th episode of The Podcast. We recently revisited the concept on the 65th episode of The Podcast “Request for Comments” and thanks to this I wrote a whole book on the subject with the concept revisited, please let me know what you think:

Friday, August 26, 2016

☆ TGIF - My team's attempt at working less, but better

Last week I decided to try a new policy at Nozbe. Something that might not seem logical from my perspective as a CEO. After all, I should want my team to work more. As much as possible, right? Well, I proposed something totally different. Let's work less, let's have fewer meetings and let's make more time for self development and weekly review. We called this new policy “Piąteczek” (in Polish), which you could translate to: TGIF as in “Thank God It's Friday”. Here's what it's all about:

Yoda helping us work less but better

Note: I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. I'd appreciate if you followed me there and recommended my posts, thanks!

Note 2: If you prefer a different “audio” version of this article, we discussed this new TGIF policy with my co-host Radek at the #60 eposide of The Podcast.

Introducing an experimental policy that will give us a more productive, yet shorter workweek with more time for a weekly review and for learning new things… or not.

We're already quite an unorthodox company. We all work remotely from our homes and we don't have a single physical office. We've been working like this for almost a decade and hundreds of thousands of users of our Nozbe app don't seem to mind that at all.

But we're not unorthodox just for the sake of it. We are like that because it works. Because we enjoy a better lifestyle thanks to our “No Office” arrangement.

After all, we're a productivity company. When we experiment, we do it for a reason. To work better. To be better. To grow better. And this new policy is supposed to help us exactly at that.

And it all started with 3 questions that I couldn't get off of my mind:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

✔ Why “mobile” is a value, “mobile” is important and “mobile” really comes first

As a reader of this blog, you may know me as a somewhat eccentric guy – I don’t follow the beaten track. My main computer for work is an iPad Pro (which I’m using right now to write this text), my second computer is an iPhone 6S Plus, and my team of over 20 people all works from home. We don’t have a central office. And we won’t have one. This is how I’ve been working on Nozbe for the last nine years.

mobility

Note: The following article appeared first in the 6/2016 issue of iMagazine - the leading lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts in Poland. I'm a regular contributor and write my monthly productivity column there.

Recently our company has been developing more and more rapidly and I’ve had to make more strategic decisions regarding the business itself, tools we use, and many other more or less important things.

Unfortunately, mistakes also happen.

Nobody likes making mistakes. We prefer to be right. And now, with even more decisions, making bad choices is inevitable. Nobody is infallible. You just have to admit your mistake and fix it as soon as possible. There’s shame and wasted time. Not very productive, is it?

Here's what happened:

Monday, June 20, 2016

☆ How banning email improves team productivity

There's a new book "Under New Management" by David Burkus coming soon that includes some unconventional management practices, and one of them is apparently "banning email.” Something I did in my company three years ago. Something I didn't think was new but now I see it really is. Whenever I talk about "No Office,” people ask me about my email policy and they're surprised that we banned email in our company. They give me this "Can you do that?" face. Of course you can. You actually should if you want to have a productive environment for your team. Only allow email to the "outside world" and ban email within your team. This is how it's done:

Ban emails in your company

I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. I'd appreciate if you followed me there and recommended my posts, thanks!

If you manage your projects through email you are doing it wrong!

Email is bad for you and your team because we get too many messages every day and the important internal emails get mixed up with other correspondence with people from the outside world.

To solve this problem we designed a new way to communicate: we use email for the outside world and something else for "internal communication.” We use two apps for that: Slack and Nozbe. This is how we communicate:

Friday, June 17, 2016

► How to motivate #NoOffice employees - Productive! Show #109

What motivates people in No Office company? People work for money but not because of money.

Give your employees something cool, a purpose to work in your company. Let them make decisions and give them freedom. They should choose how they reach the goal and when they'll work on that. The key to keep the flow is asynchronous work.

The most important thing is that you have to trust your employees. Treat them as partners and adults so they'll work as adults.

Check it out:

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

☆ Individual talks with your team members. How? When? And... why?

I'm lucky to be running a small team of 20+ people that I get to know very well. I don't know how it's going to be with a team of 30 or 40 or 50 folks but I'm going to find out in the years to come, since we’ll eventually have to get to these levels to be able to spread Nozbe’s "good message of productivity" to as many people as we'd like. I guess we'll see. Now while I can, I still try to get to know my team as much as possible and be approachable to them. That's why I hold individual one-on-one talks with each company member every three months and this is how I do it:

Nozbe team Photo by Krzysztof Lenda

I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. I'd appreciate if you followed me there and recommended my posts, thanks!

One-on-one meetings are important!

Again, I'm writing this from the perspective of a 20+ person company, not a 100+ one... so my opinion on this might change with time, but for now I think it's essential to meet with everyone one on one at least every three months. I schedule a 30- to 60-minute window for this conversation to make sure we give each other full, undivided attention. And it's important to be prepared for it, to actually have notes and topics to discuss.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

☆ If you want everyone on the same page - you're doing it wrong!

I am a person who runs an "all remote" company and you might already know my opinion on so-called "open offices." Exactly! I hate them. I think they're great for socializing but really bad if you want your team members to perform at their best. However, many smart people defend these setups with the premise of "better collaboration" and "openness" and my favorite one: "keeping people on the same page." Well, let me explain why this kind of attitude is anything but helpful for keeping your people productive, focused and doing their best work. People shouldn't be "on the same page" with their entire team all of the time. Here's why:

Same page

I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. I'd appreciate if you followed me there and recommended my posts, thanks!

Your developer doesn't need to know your up-to-date "lifetime customer value"...

...unless they are working on a piece of code that is exactly correlated with that metric. You see, your developer should know the "overall direction of the company" and the specifics that relate to his or her work. Nothing more. Everything else is just noise and unnecessary distraction to them. Any additional information won't help them write their best pieces of code... and when you're trying to keep them up to date in an open office, you're not even letting them get into "flow" - the state in which the real magic happens.

Ask yourself - why did you hire this amazing programmer if you're doing everything to keep them from entering the flow state. With the distractions of an open office or up-to-date info you're effectively disturbing them and not letting them do their magic! Trust me, you hired them for their magic!

Let people have access to info. Keep them updated. Some - weekly, everyone - monthly.

Yes, in my team people are not on the same page all the time. Eventually they are. From time to time. In regular intervals. But not every minute. Not even every hour. Not even every day. A big part of my team is updated every week. And everyone else gets on the same page at least once a month. And that's how I think it should be done. Here's how I do it:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

☆ How "No Office" makes us… better?

When I talk to people about the way we work at [Nozbe,][] that we have a team of 30+ people (core team and collaborators) working from homes, I get mixed reactions.

Very often, people think we will "grow up at some point" and get a "real office." This is quite funny, taking into account that we’ve been working like this for the past nine years.

Others think I’m just stingy or that the business is not doing so well if we cannot afford "a real office," which is also not true, because our business is very healthy. Selling subscription-based software, we enjoy really nice profit margins which we can then re-invest into the team, sales and marketing.

Better

I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. I'd appreciate if you followed me there and recommended my posts, thanks!

What the people I talk to about the remote work don’t know and what I tell them is this:

Not having an office made me a better CEO in five different ways.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

★ My Home Office 2016: whiteboard, stand-up desk, chill-out sofa and less stuff

Every year I'm changing something at Nozbe headquarters, aka my home office and tonight after work I decided to change a few things as well. Here's how my 2016 home office looks like with highlights:

home office 2016

Whiteboard front and center

I've already sang praises to it, but really, whiteboard is my favorite tool for planning and brainstorming. Lately I've been doing a lot of that so I've moved it a little more to the center of my wall to make sure I can take advantage of every inch of it.

Stand up desk still rocks

I've been standing a lot recently while working and I enjoy it more than sitting actually. And when I do want to sit I just lower the desk and use the pilates ball as my chair or...

Chill out sofa is there!

Haven't had that in a few years in my home office so I decided to bring it back. Makes the space more "cozy" and will be useful for reading or sketching on my iPad.

Less stuff and clutter...

As always when I modify my home office I always end up questioning lots of things there and getting rid of clutter that always piles up. My environment here is now cleaner and nicer!

That's just my home office...

In my company everyone works from home and if you're curious how other people on my team work, feel free to check out our home offices as well as our Nozbe customers offices. Hope these set ups will inspire you to improve your workspace just like they help me improve mine every year.

Question: How does your productive workspace look like?

Sent from my iPhone 6 Plus

Thursday, March 3, 2016

☆ I don’t have an office. Why should I anyway?

Running a business has become synonymous with owning an office. While planning to start a company, almost every entrepreneur’s main concern is where to set up the office. The question is: will our clients visit us there? Most likely not but we mainly need the office for ourselves. To have a sense that our new company is “serious”. But in reality, it’s not the office that gets the work done, it’s you!

I don’t have an office.

I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. I'd appreciate if you followed me there and recommended my posts, thanks!

I’m not even working on a “serious” computer…

A few years ago, when I switched to the iPad as my main computer, many people thought I was crazy. They kept saying that for “real work” you needed a “real” computer. That the iPad is just a touch-screen toy and you can’t use it for work. That it’s not serious.

This reminds me of an old definition of the word “revolution”:

Thursday, February 4, 2016

☆ How a company without an office makes a great team… better?

Exactly 9 years ago today, I launched my productivity startup: Nozbe. I wrote this web application to help me get things done and decided to show it to the world. Back then, I was a one-man-shop. I did all the coding in Javascript+PHP+MySQL, I wrote the website copy, I designed most of the graphics… and I was the one responding to emails in case someone actually tried it and had a question. When I launched premium plans, I was the one to write the payment system and automate accepting money. And for the rest of 2007, I was doing all of that. Part time!

NoOffice Team

I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. I'd appreciate if you followed me there and recommended my posts, thanks!

From a part-time one-man-shop to a team of 30+ people...

That’s right, for the first year Nozbe wasn’t my full-time project! I still had my day job as an “Internet Marketing Consultant” for my past customers. I’d start working on Nozbe after my “day work” — between 4 pm and 9 pm. I decided to go full time with Nozbe a year after the launch — in Spring of 2008, and then I hired my first developer. Today he’s still with me and he’s the CTO. A year later, I hired a support person, then another one… and as Nozbe grew, I kept hiring.

Today we’re 20+ core team and 10+ contractors working on Nozbe. And we have an amazing team, here’s why:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

✔ My #NozbeOffice - what's my desk like? What helps me get things done?

On our Nozbe blog we started an action showing our offices. We also asked our users on Twitter with hashtag #NozbeOffice and it's amazing to see how and where people get their things done. So in the spirit of sharing my home office space I decided to write this blog post explaining why my home office in 2016 looks like this - because everything is here for a reason:

Michael's Nozbe Office

My 2016 home office setup in a nutshell:

Ikea height-adjustable desk, iMac 5K with Microsoft Sculpt keyboard and Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad, iPad Pro with Logitech Ultrathin keyboard and Apple Pencil... and lastly my iPhone 6S Plus (taking the picture). And a mug with my hometown (Gdynia) name on it.

Now, why I use these devices? Here goes:

Monday, January 11, 2016

☆ There is no office…

I’m a big fan of the movie Matrix. It has quite a few memorable scenes. One of the best is when a boy is “bending” the spoon. In this article I’d like to explain how this scene has everything to do with how we get things done every single day:

There is no spoon

I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. I'd appreciate if you followed me there and recommended my posts, thanks!

Try to realize the truth: there is no spoon.

In this scene the boy is telling Neo, the main character, that bending a spoon is impossible… but as they are in the Matrix, the truth is that there is no spoon, and the only thing they can bend is themselves… not the spoon.

There is no office… there is only work that needs to get done!

It’s so funny to me that the modern pre-requisite of getting job done is the office. It’s like there is an equation between the two: work = office!

Maybe, but if you think about, why would you need an office? Here are a few reasons:

Monday, December 14, 2015

☆ Open spaces: the Industrial Age of the 21st Century?

If Facebook, the $300B company is building the “biggest open space in the world”, they have to be doing something right? Right? Wrong… Why? Because productivity.

In January of 2010 I was traveling to Silicon Valley. It was my second trip to this “Mecca” of startups. I was just about to celebrate my third year running my own small productivity company, Nozbe, and my friends from Codility invited me to join them on a trip to the Valley and visit some of the best companies in the world. It was so great. To me personally, visiting different offices was so much fun. Just seeing how the best of the best organize their work and get stuff done was eye-opening. But my eyes really popped out when I finally visited the offices of Facebook. I saw this:

Open Office

I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. I'd appreciate if you followed me there and recommended my posts, thanks!

Facebook is “fostering collaboration”, right?

Industrial Age of the 21st century…

I was in the office of the most successful company in the Silicon Valley. That same company that was growing like crazy and “aqui-hiring” the best and most talented small software companies in the world. They were famous for hiring or getting the best engineers around…

And then they put them in that office. Seriously.

It was a huge “open space” where everyone would sit next to each other like workers in the factories of the Industrial Age in the 19th century. Yes, they’d give them the best tools of the 21st century, like iMacs, screens, chairs… but then they’d just cram them next to each other.

And they’d expect them to do their best work.