The Power of RAsync: A romantic take on a job market trend

 🌍 Get onboard, look beyond the trend and change the world with it.

Remote jobs are increasingly popular, certainly in the digital world. This was already true before the pandemic, but while most companies could do without it then, now some are forced to accept it, and a few even proudly embrace it and advertise it. It’s mostly sold as a benefit for employees and a way to access more and better talent, in essence, to be more competitive.

Some of the associated benefits of remote work are obvious. Employees save money, time and hassle not having to commute, they can work in the comfort of their couch with their kitchen and bathroom nearby, share more time with kids and pets and run some quick errands in the middle of the day without disrupting the working day much. For the more restless people, it provides a way to explore and change scenarios or even countries without spending precious vacation days.


Now, as Remote work takes off, Asynchronous work makes an appearance as a better way to accommodate the new remote work lifestyle. As personal and work life overlap more and more, a new way to plan your day and organise your focus time is required. Asynchronous work doesn’t require you to be available all the time (or during specific business hours) so it is much easier to find the right balance. In fact, a Remote job without an async communication policy to support it may create more damage than good, definitely misses the point and wastes its power massively.

Many employers will offer remote jobs to be competitive and have access to more candidates. It’s also a way to easily expand and have representation in new markets, offer support in different time zones or even save some costs by hiring in countries with lower wages.

Many employees will accept remote jobs for the convenience of it, plus it offers them a bigger choice of opportunities, not limited by where they live.

That’s all good and there’s nothing wrong with it, however, the benefits of a well-understood RAsync policy go beyond business and contribute to a much bigger cause, changing the paradigm of employment and having a broader positive impact on society.

Inclusion. A true commitment to actually considering every person in the world for a job will necessarily lead you to review and adapt the way you talk about your company in the media, share job opportunities, interview and hire, readjust your views on what to look for and how you reach out to people from different cultures and backgrounds at all levels of society and including those with disabilities and other underrepresented groups. Taking this seriously will have a deep impact on the company, the leadership and everyone else as you transform into a more human and inclusive employer.

True Diversity. Diversity is often simplified by gender or nationality. True diversity is about different lives. A team with 20 nationalities living in London is somehow diverse, but they all share the same weather, local environment, shops, and laws and need to comply with a similar code of conduct as part of the same society. When you really hire worldwide, your people will get up at different times, will buy different things, use a different health system or transportation, will follow different laws and principles and will be at different seasons being your company the only thing in common with the rest.

Distribution of Power. You will be giving opportunities to less favoured people. Those living far from big universities or cities, in underdeveloped countries, or without role models in their society. You can level the playing field a bit and have a unique opportunity to turn someone’s life around and impact their lives and environment. You will be contributing to distributing knowledge and wealth in the world and inspiring others to do the same, promoting education, self-development and giving hope worldwide.

Information Consistency. Just the single fact of working in different time zones immediately brings the async policy to the table as you cannot expect to have everyone available at the same time. Embracing async communication lays down the foundation for a few more fundamental cultural changes. Communicating when recipients aren’t on the other side, necessarily forces you to record that information, mostly but not limited to, in writing. This, consequently, makes you document and register everything that is being said, discussed and decided.
Having everyone consuming the information from the same place brings consistency and alignment and anything worth reviewing can easily be referenced back, by anyone, at any time.

Better Communication. This inevitably pushes everyone to communicate better. Words and messages are recorded demanding an extra effort to properly structure, research and explain the content, growing as communicators in the process and improving the experience for everyone.

Better Participation. Consuming, processing and reacting to the information at everybody’s convenience gives equal opportunity to everyone to contribute. This is extremely powerful and provides unique opportunities. It allows for all sorts of personalities to approach their contribution as it better fits them. Some will impulsively speak their minds, and others will research before contributing. Whatever the case, it will no longer be a matter of dominating a non-native language or having a powerful voice or strong personality to make your point across the table, everyone will have equal opportunities to contribute.

Trust. Remote (or working from home) policies give the sensation of trust, but trust is not real if people can’t control their time. Adding the async element, literally means that people are free to find their most productive time. That automatically generates a great feeling of trust as this new responsibility is put on the employees.

Environmental Friendly. Not having to commute or fly over for business meetings drastically reduces carbon emissions and it also helps with morning traffic. All parents having to drop kids at school surely appreciate it and I’ll go as far as saying that reduces the stress and the bad mood derived from driving during rush hours too.

Conclusion. It’s only when people are in full control of both their space and their time that they can truly unlock their full potential, manage themselves and optimise their focus and productivity. A well-rounded RAsync approach (Remote + Async) provides exactly that.
Time is the most valuable thing we all have and making the most of it will dramatically change our existence. Asynchronous communication goes a long way to achieve that and provides people with a whole new level of autonomy and opportunities to break ceilings that will truly unlock the full potential of the remote workforce while contributing to society.

Creating Teams: Xmas Trees Experiment

There will be always the time when you’ll need to make changes in your teams. This may be due to change in workload, people joining or leaving the group, change of methodology, etc.

We also had this situation in our office. In our case we were beginning to move towards a more agile model plus we were moving to a new office space. As we wanted to have more cross-functional autonomous teams, we thought this could be a great opportunity to take our next step. But how to do it?

It was very early stage in our transformation of culture so we needed to be careful but at the same time we wanted to use this opportunity to send out a message in the right direction.

The traditional approach would have been easy. We could have told a couple of people to change teams and desks and that would have been it. But how was this solution aligned to our new philosophy based on feedback and self-management? Nothing.

Instead we went down to the bazar where we often go for inspiration. They’ve got so many things there that the probability of finding a solution for your problem is high.

It was Xmas time, so the bazar was full of Xmas motives. The usual, Xmas trees, tinsel, balls, stars and all sorts of glittery stuff. We looked around for a while and then it stroke us.

This is what we did:

-We bought as many Xmas trees as teams we wanted to create

-We bought a Star for every PO we had

-We bought a tinsel for every QA we had

-We bought as many balls as developers we had

We were about to transform the office and we were aware that the impact could be significant. We did it by surprise on a Monday morning. We brought up the Xmas trees and put them in front of everyone and explained that we needed to reshape the teams to accommodate recent changes and also to prepare for what’s coming ahead.

We cleared everyone schedules for the day and decided to invest the day in going through this exercise in the best manner we could think of. We named the trees as Team A, Team B and Team C.

We asked the POs to take a star, Devs to take a ball and QAs to take a piece of tinsel. The instructions were simple, they needed to decorate the trees in a way that they all had all elements.

Sure this implied that each team will get one of the POs, each team will get one of the QAs and the a few developers each; but we believe that this way it would be more engaging than imposing some new teams made by management.

We went several times, let the teams repeat the exercise with different configurations and took pictures of it. Then we showed the pictures and they all voted for the best combination of team members and skills and the new teams were born. Scrum masters were assigned by draw.

Next step would be to create team identities. We encouraged the teams to spend sometimes thinking about their new name, their logo, their values and prepare a short presentation to introduce the new team to everyone.

This was a very positive exercise, new team mates started working together in a fun project. Even couple of teams decided to look for complementary names as they were going to work on the same product.

Once the teams had their identity, they needed to decide how to distribute the desks. You can imagine a huge mess of people fighting for the window or the best desk by some personal criteria. In fact, none of this happened. We gave them a floor map of the office and made paper balls with different colours. Each colour represented a team and asked the teams to work together around the map to place the paper balls in a way that everybody is happy. They did in under 20 minutes with no major issue.

The rest of the day was spent getting settled in the new desks, discussing on sprint format with Scrum Master and for POs to rearrange backlogs for each team. By Tuesday morning, all teams were planning the sprint and getting on it.

Was everybody happy? of course not, we crashed their teams, their previous identity, they lost their loved desk and nobody likes changes. But it needed to be done and this is the least disruptive and fun way we could think of.

Adding HR Skills to the Mix

For years, we have lived with no official HR person. This is pretty unusual for an office of over 70 employees, but hey, we aren’t a usual company; after all, who else is investing in a team of 3 full-time employees fully dedicated to transforming our culture? We thought this profile could help us and we decided to include it in our Kaizen team, and for that, we found the ideal person, her name is A.

13-mixing-peanut-sauce

The main responsibilities of A are still the typical ones that an HR is expected to do but on top of that, she is part of the Kaizen team.

In the Kaizen team, we do our best so that everyone in this company feels empowered and informed enough to be the best at their jobs. No matter how many processes we put in place or how many tools we can use, at the end of the day, there are always people behind it. Our focus is on people and finding ways for everyone to be safe and free to make good judgment calls and to improve their work continuously.

To that end, working with people is essential, from building teams to their development and growth. This is why we do our best to find frameworks that enable this philosophy, and these include management models, appraisal processes, training and hiring among others. HR brings expertise in all these fields. A doesn’t only help us to stay within the law but also advises when designing and implementing a lot of these ideas to make sure people are considered carefully and respected. We use her experience to anticipate possible outcomes and ensure a positive effect in the long term. At the same time, she can represent Barcelona office in the Global HR organisation to make sure our culture and model are considered in their approach as well as keeping an eye on the competition and the talent market, to make sure we stay competitive.

Since our teams are self-managed, she doesn’t need to get involved in vacation approvals, team assignments or any of those things where she would just be a bottleneck, adding seldom value. That gives her more time to focus on the really important stuff such as making sure all of the above is possible and defining global strategies for motivation, engagement, recruiting and retention.

It took a while for everyone to understand this configuration? always. Are we convinced this was the right configuration? Completely. And when is not, we’ll change it.

Climbing the Self Management Mountain Range

Self management may mean different things to different teams depending, among other things, on the scope in which they are being self managed. I’ll give you an example. In Scrum we say that teams are self organised, but what does that mean? Does it mean that they can distribute tasks among team members as they find appropriate? Sure. Does it mean they can decide on how to take days off? Maybe. Does it mean they can decide how to increase the salary of someone within the team? Eeeeh, What?

This model is a simplification of this very complex topic and help managers, coaches and leaders in their approach to self management and delegation.

After several years of working with self managed teams in different countries, we found that Self management is very much like climbing mountains. It can be enjoyable and healthy but also challenging and dangerous. It’s definitely not for everyone and the higher you wanna go, the more practice and preparation you need. You can easily reach a low peak but you need training before you can climb a higher challenge. In the following model, we show the different peaks you will find while climbing towards self management, where to start and where to move next.

The self management mountain range, is based on real mountains (can you guess the names based on their shapes?) and each one of them represents a step towards a more mature self managed group.

SMMR-cropped

We’ll write separate posts to describe what each mountain looks like, with real life examples of teams that we’ve coached or found at the different levels. Are you ready to start climbing? Let’s start with Mount Fuji!