Notes on “It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work”

Fried, Jason and David Heinemeier Hansson. It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work. London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018.


8:  “When we say crazy, we’re calling situations crazy, not people.”

56-58: “Office hours”

57: “Imagine the day of an expert who frequently gets interrupted by everyone else’s questions, The may be fielding none, a handful, or a dozen questions in a single day[…] You can’t plan your own day if everyone else is using it up randomly.” Covers that people with questions must wait (not email, not call, wait) for office hours for questions, and it works fine.

71: “writing monthly ‘heartbeats.’ Summaries of the work and progress that’s been done and had by a team, written by the team lead, to the entire company. All the minutiae boiled down to the essential points others would care to know. Just enough to keep someone in the loop without having to internalize dozens of details that don’t atter.”

81: “The trust battery”

82: “The adoption of this term at Basecamp helped us assess work relationships with greater clarity. It removed the natural instinct to evaluate whether someone is ‘right’ about their feelings about another person (which is a nonsense concept to begin with). By measuring the charge on the trust battery, we have context to frame the conflict. The reality is that the trust battery is a summary of all interactions to date. If you want to recharge the battery, you have to do different things in the future.”

108: “Don’t negotiate salaries” – covers how workers want to be paid fairly and not to haggle/fight for it, and how haggling as a process means winners/losers outside of actual equity support.

119: “Library rules” – discusses huge, known problems of open office plans, implemented “library rules” for quiet and do not disturb others rules when people are in an open space, with other collaboration rooms for any discussion/noise

134: on chat system discussion and how they are a mess for actual decision-making; same as what many community organizers have found: chat is for logistics (we meet when, where) and jokes; any actual decisions or meaningful discussion have to be outside of chat, or people get left out and there are bad processes and outcomes

136: “Dreadlines” and how deadlines that are stretch/miracle goals are bad and create dread

138: ” A deadline with a flexible scope invites pushback, compromises, and tradeoffs–all ingredients in healthy, calm projects. It’s when you try to fix both scope and time that you have a recipe for dread, overwork, and exhaustion.[…] Constraints are liberating, and realistic deadlines with flexible scopes can be just that.”

139-140: working to counter knee-jerk and reactions, and to have processes and work that are 140: “Considered!”

141: “Watch out for 12-days weeks” on why to do releases on Mondays, not Fridays (Fridays mean working through the weekend on testing/fixes; Mondays mean working a normal work week, and not two combined weeks across a weekend).

148-149: “Bad habits beat good intentions” focuses on bad habits and difficulty to change. Could be the same on patterns and practices; we are what we do day by day.

152-154: “Commitment, not consensus”

153: “disagree and commit”

154: “Calm companies get this. Everyone’s invited to pitch their ideas, make their case, and have their say, but then the decision is left to someone else. As long as people are truly heard and it’s repeatedly demonstrated that their voice matters, those who shared will understand that even if things don’t fall their way this time. […] What’s especially important in the disagree-and-commit situations  is that the final decision should be explained clearly to everyone involved. It’s not just decide and go, it’s decide, explain, and go.”

164-166: “Worst practices” covers how best practices cannot be taken without context– someone else’s best practices from another scale, industry, can be worst for the team

166: Best practices “They’re like training wheels. When you don’t know how to keep your balance or how fast to pedal, they can be helpful to get you going. But every best practice should come with a reminder to reconsider.”

187-188: “Season’s greetings” on how people need seasonal change, and modern remote workplaces often don’t give us enough.

188: “Be it in hours, degrees of difficulty, or even specific benefits that emphasize seasonality, find ways to melt the monotony of work.”

207: “Change control” “You’ll often hear that people don’t like change, but that’s not quite right. People have no problem with change they asked for. What people don’t like is forced change–change they didn’t request on a timeline they didn’t choose.”

214-215: “No big deal or the end of the world?” – described as choice between two tokens. 215 “Keep that in mind the next time you take a token. Which one are you leaving for the customer?”

223-225: “Choose calm”