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Tactics or Toxin? « from the gut

I love seeing companies trying unconventional ways to motivate their employees to keep them healthy, happy, and more productive.

The folks at 37 Signals have always been pushing this envelope. They have a small office in Chicago, but less than half of their (dozen or so) employees work there with the rest are spread out around the globe. They build software that enables collaboration online, so I suppose this work model is dogfooding for them.

Their latest experiment, over the last year, was to switch to a four day workweek. It started as a summertime experiment — something that was common in my days in academia — but worked so well that they kept it going year-round. After almost a year, the results are in, and they are getting things done!

At the core of this adoption is a philosophy that emphasizes planning and strategy over reactivity. How often have you stretched yourself to get something done only to find out your colleague or client didn’t even glance at your product until days (or months!) later?

One thing I’ve come to realize is that urgency is overrated. In fact, I’ve come to believe urgency is poisonous. Urgency may get things done a few days sooner, but what does it cost in morale? Few things burn morale like urgency. Urgency is acidic.

This is a simple way to switch your group from working in tactical to strategic mode: raise the bar on what you consider an emergency. If you need to make a case for this, then take notes on each emergency you fix, and then report to your supervisor what the result of that emergency fix was. How long did it take for your “fix” to be consumed downstream? What strategic goals were put on hold in the time you spent?

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