The best places I've worked at actively used the products they create. This process is known as "eating your own dog-food" and it's something I deeply care about.
While there's a balancing act between building a product you personally want to use and one your customers want to use, oftentimes these goals can be accomplished at the same time.
The purpose of this post
At Friday, we use our own tools everyday and it helps us build a more useful product.
In this post, I want to document precisely what that looks like. Ideally, this gives you a bit of inspiration on how you can use Friday as an individual or with your team. Additionally, this serves as a form of accountability and potential conversation starter for how you can adapt the tool for your needs.
I will work to keep this updated as we change our processes over time.
Defining the Problem
First, I'll quickly outline the pain that I'm trying to solve with Friday. I've broken the problems into two sections:
- There are days where I feel like I'm on a treadmill, in a constant state of reacting. Not all work is treated equally, so I need a checkpoint to make sure I'm working on the right things and prioritizing my work
- I want to keep a running log of what I'm working on, learning, and what I'm thankful for. I want to be able to look back and see that I've grown as a person & professional.
- I want to be able to "journal" on a regular basis, but I had a difficult time creating a habit around it. I've found this to be valuable, but the habit never stuck. I want a digital "log" of what I'm working on with automatic reminders so I don't forget.
Pain as a Leader
- I run a distributed company and the team works at various hours throughout the day. I need to understand what people are working on in a way where I'm not "nagging." I don't have time to manually reach out and see what's going on. It's annoying to be on the receiving end of this as well.
- I want each person to share their priorities and what they aim to accomplish in a way where there's little ambiguity and it's something that can be referenced if necessary. I can't measure how many hours someone works, so I need a way to set expectations around someone's output. I want to establish common ground around someone's work expectations for the week. I believe this should be driven by the individual with a feedback loop from the team leader, almost like how a coach behaves.
- I want to adopt best practices like saying "thank you" on a regular basis without it feeling contrived. This is something I valued as an employee, so I want to make sure we do this on a regular basis. Sometimes I want to do this publicly, other times I want to do this in private.
- I can't stand meetings that exist primarily to share information. I love meetings where we collaborate. I don't want to spend my day in boring internal meetings.
- I want to understand how people are feeling about their work. Are you doing your best work? Do you feel good about it? Does working at Friday excite you? If I don't keep a pulse on this, people may not be doing their best work, which impacts their happiness and company productivity as well.
Perhaps these pain-points resonate with you too?
How we use Friday to solve these problems
I'll share how I use Friday to solve the personal pain points that I experience. I hope this serves as inspiration for your personal rituals. This will continually be a work in progress.
Personal Benefit: A Morning Plan
I use the Friday app to establish a regular habit of prioritizing my work by creating a workflow called a "Morning Plan." Every weekday at 7:30am, I receive an email notification that asks me to answer three questions:
- Current mood (emoji question)
- What are the top 3 things you need to accomplish today? (open-ended question)
- What are you thankful for? (open-ended question)
The goal is to spend less than five minutes quickly outlining my priorities and thoughts for the day. I may add a question where I can write down what I'm thinking about, but this process is very simple and aims to help me be more proactive about what I'm working on.
I've been doing this cadence since we launched this feature into beta (~3 months ago) and I've only missed a few days. I enjoy looking back and seeing past responses in the feed (screenshot below).
These responses are not visible to the rest of the team, only I can see them.
I'm considering exploring other cadences as well, including:
- I'd like to document my week/month at a zoomed out level. Am I on track to hit my goals? What did I learn recently?
- I'd like to write 2-3 paragraphs on a regular basis. Almost like a longer Twitter update.
Team/Company Benefit: A structured way to share on a regular basis
Now I'll share how we use the tool as a team to make sure everyone stays on the same page.
1.) Weekly Priorities (every Monday)
Every Monday at 11am, we all share what our weekly priorities are. The goal is to be able to capture and document what each person aims to achieve in the upcoming week. This serves as a key building block for our goal of measuring results vs. hours.
I found that the daily standup was too tactical and didn't give enough directional guidance around someone's personal expectations for the week ahead. The information shared here serves as a checkpoint to make sure we are doing what we say.
As you can see in the screenshot above, we also have the opportunity to say "thanks" to coworkers by enabling the kudos power-up.
This information is shared with everyone on the team, so we can improve visibility. We send out prompts via a Slack direct message. Results are pushed into a Slack channel for visibility.
2.) Daily Standup (Tuesday-Friday)
The weekly priorities workflow provides direction, but that doesn't mean we avoid having daily standups. We run our daily huddle asynchronously at 9am based on the person's timezone, as it's difficult to coordinate a time where we all jump on a call.
We answer the following questions:
- What did you accomplish yesterday?
- What are you working on today?
- Anything else you'd like to share? <- we recently added this question to create a place to share other information that may be relevant.
I like sharing this information daily because it helps you understand what people are working on, but it also provides a sense that everyone is "rowing" in the same direction. At past companies, there have been times where I've felt like I'm the only one working (even though I know that's not true).
This information is shared with everyone as well. We send out prompts via a Slack direct message. Results are pushed into a Slack channel for visibility.
We also send kudos as part of the daily standup as well.
3.) Regular Check-in (every Friday)
The weekly check-in is one of our most popular features and primarily exists between employees and the leader. For any full-time employee, we run this cadence on Friday afternoons as a way to reflect on the week and discover ways to improve in the upcoming week.
Here's an example of the questions we ask:
- What went well this week? (open-ended)
- What do we need to work on for next week? (open-ended)
- How did you feel about the week? (emoji question)
This information is only shared with team leaders as some of the responses are more private in nature. I particularly enjoying seeing responses to the emoji question as it's a way to understand sentiment and is interpreted like a real-life facial reaction. This kickstarts meaningful conversations for our Monday meeting (the only synchronous meeting we have internally).
4.) Company Update
Finally, I also do a bi-weekly company update with my co-founder. In this update, I document:
- Financial performance
- Product progress
This makes it really easy to do monthly investor updates, as we've been collecting/sharing the information on a regular basis already. It also helps us keep track of the high-level business metrics that we care about.
Ben Horowitz has a great comment in his post on 1-1 meetings:
Perhaps the CEO’s most important operational responsibility is designing and implementing the communication architecture for her company. The architecture might include the organizational design, meetings, processes, email, yammer and even one-on-one meetings with managers and employees. Absent a well-designed communication architecture, information and ideas will stagnate and your company will degenerate into a bad place to work.
I take this responsibility seriously. When information flows on a regular basis, people feel connected to their work and the people that they work with. Otherwise, your company will become a not-so-great place to work.
If you want to improve the way you work, you need to create habits to the way you work.