The Value of Unguided Work

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anchorEmbracing Experimentation and Failure

  1. Team Culture and Mindset: Cultivating a culture that allows for experimentation and failure is critical. Encourage open communication and reassure team members that trying new ideas and learning from mistakes is not only accepted but celebrated. Acknowledge and reward innovation efforts, regardless of their outcome.
  2. Solid Tools and Infrastructure: To effectively foster unguided work, organizations must provide their teams with the right tools and infrastructure. Version control systems like Git, collaboration platforms like Slack and Notion, and solid continuous integration and deployment pipelines are essential to streamline development processes and enable rapid experimentation.
  3. Bug Prevention Mechanisms: While it is essential to avoid bugs, it is equally important to set up an environment that minimizes the impact of bugs. Implement automated testing and robust monitoring systems to detect and prevent potential problems early.

anchorMainmatter's Experience with Unguided Work

At Mainmatter, we've seen the transformative power of unguided work in action. Here are a few key aspects of our experience:

anchorOpen Source Work: A Testament to Unguided Collaboration

Open Source projects epitomize the value of unguided work. Hundreds of thousands of developers worldwide contribute to these projects, often in their spare time, without direct supervision. This collaborative and unguided approach has given rise to some of the most influential and widely used software in the world, such as Rust.

anchorEmbracing Flexibility: Working Whenever and Wherever

The traditional 9-to-5 work model is no longer the only viable option. Embracing unguided work means acknowledging that people can be at their best at different times and locations. Offering flexibility in working hours and remote work options empowers individuals to find their optimal productivity zones and leads to better work-life balance.

anchorAsync Work and Distributed Teams

Moving away from traditional meeting-heavy approaches, asynchronous communication has become a hallmark of unguided work. Distributed teams can collaborate effectively through platforms like Notion and GitHub, reducing the need for constant synchronous meetings.

Shopify introduced its Meeting Cost Calculator in July 2023, helping estimate the cost of meetings. By getting rid of three meetings a week per person, the company expects a 15% cost reduction. (Read more)

Shopify's meeting cost calculatorSource: Spotify

anchorTime for Experimentation and Learning

Following the concept promoted by Google, our team members spend 20% of their work time on open source projects and experimenting with new ideas. This "creative time" has yielded remarkable results, as several innovations have found their way into new projects.

anchorRethinking Project Management

In the context of unguided work, the role of project management evolves. Instead of rigidly being on top of progress and timelines, letting go of those constraints is at the core of unguided work. Teams experiment, learn, and adapt constantly, with project management’s main role being to make sure things are on track in the right general direction.

Solid developer tooling, infrastructure, and practices enable teams to experiment and fail without causing havoc. We’ve worked with many international teams over the years and helped them set up and improve automatic testing and deployment, incremental rollout strategies, quality assurance, and other mechanisms that can raise a team’s ability to experiment.

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