Asana from the inside out: A summary of episode 5 (April – August 2012)

Dustin Moskovitz

At Asana, we don’t follow a traditional quarterly schedule. We’ve found that a set of big projects often demand more than three months of effort, so setting goals based on a quarterly rhythm seems artificially constrained. Instead of quarters, we have “episodes.” Each episode is architected around a set of Programs and “Key Results” (KRs) that we define before the episode begins and set out to achieve by the episode’s end. The length of each episode varies according to the scope of the projects within it.

Mindfulness and reflection are at the core of our values, so at the end of every episode, I take stock of what we accomplished across every function of the company. I look at the goals we hit and those that we didn’t. Then I write an “End Of Episode Summary” that I share with the entire team. We do these summaries at regular intervals to make sure the every team’s roadmaps are aligned with our top level goals. They also serve to communicate my beliefs about where we stand as a company, as well as what I think about the performance of the individual teams.

Today, for the first time, we are sharing an End of Episode Summary with the world. We have made some edits for clarity and redacted some sensitive sections, but this is otherwise the same document that I distributed internally two weeks ago. We are sharing this externally for three reasons:

  1. We want to help our customers and prospects understand how we make decisions about our product and company direction.
  2. We have spent a lot of time thinking about and building new kinds of organizational structures and want to share what we’ve learned.
  3. We believe that the more open we are about how we do things, the more feedback we can get to help us improve.

Read the End of Episode Summary for Episode 5 here.

  1. avatarLP

    Great post. How do you track your “episodes” in Asana (tag, project, other) to get a view of all the tasks that are part of an episode?

    1. avatarDustin Moskovitz Asana Team Member

      There are thousands of tasks completed in any given episode, so we don’t try to look at them in any one view. Each program area tends to have a project dedicated to the episode though, e.g. “E5: Mobile”. Whatever we don’t complete in the episode we move over to “E6: Mobile”.

      We also have a project “Sprint Foci”, which lists who is working on what in any given sprint.

  2. avatarLP

    Thanks. This is helpful. So then do you add all the tasks in a sprint to the “Sprint Foci” project as well, or is “Sprint Foci” an isolated list of tasks and people?

    We’ve experimented with several ways of mapping tasks to time periods in Asana. We re-organized all of our tasks around a few times, without yet finding a definite way to view all the work (projects and tasks) to be done in a given timeframe dynamically.

    1. avatarDustin Moskovitz Asana Team Member

      It is a separate list of tasks and people. Generally, we have found it preferable to repeat some information in places, rather than attempt to create a perfect graph of references. Our goal for the product though is to make it feel natural to do the latter one day, i.e. start with a high level roadmap and drill down into specific action items.

  3. avatarLP

    Got it. Glad to hear you may be looking into this ability to “drill down” in the future.

    Perhaps a user could create:
    1) Project folders (to file your “E6:Mobile” and “E5:Mobile” projects, as well as any other projects related to the “Mobile” program area), or
    2) “Due period” field (similar to “due date”) that could present a sorted view.

  4. avataranxomourelle

    Very good Dustin, thanks for sharing the in-house thougs. Why do not create a “superproject” with the objective to include all the projects related (like areas expresed in the GTD methodology). Asana can be even more powerful if the tasks integrates some atributes like: context, priority and labels (and maybe the energy level). That will be perfect and definitive because you can see only the tasks that you can perform in the context you are. This is specially important when the number of tasks is hughe.

  5. avatarNaomi

    “For example, at a hackathon, Dan created a form with Wufoo that allowed applicants to post job submissions directly into Asana.”

    I would LOVE this. Producteev has something like this with theapplicants.com, which connects directly to a Producteev workspace. (History: we used Producteev before switching to Asana.) When it worked, it was fantastic and made life SO much easier during a hiring process. But more often than not, it didn’t work. If Asana could put out a plugin or service that would bring this functionality, I would be over the moon and would pay good money for it!

  6. avatarJeff Franchetti

    I really appreciate that you posted this. Ties me in closer to Asana, and provides me with some ideas for communicating progress gates in my own organization.

  7. avatarSash Catanzarite

    Thank’s for sharing this, it’s an awesome glimpse into the company. I see a reference to the elusive subtasks feature under “launches”, is that still pending or am I missing it in the product right now?

    1. avatarDustin Moskovitz Asana Team Member

      Sash – it’s rolling out this week (some users already have it); apologies for the delay.

  8. avatarJosh C. Kline

    Good read – I love the peek behind the curtain. Under the Operations/Sales & Monetization section, no mention of Media & Entertainment vertical > Content Creation. It’s an entirely workflow-driven industry utilizing archaic processes and tools. I know it’s half a state and a cultural world away, but Hollywood represents opportunity for Asana. I have my team at Final Draft using it. With whom at Asana can I talk re: this market?

  9. avatarJesse Dundon

    Wow, I just got a chance to read this after coming to the blog via the subtasks launch. I’m really digging the vibe I get from your team… focused on getting s*** done while still enjoying work! I guess that’s kinda like Asana itself! Keep up the good work Dustin and co.

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