Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category
by Dustin Moskovitz
September 28th, 2012
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.
by Justin Rosenstein
July 17th, 2012
Asana held a small private party on April 19th for some friends and colleagues to celebrate the great things that Asana customers are accomplishing and the future to come. This is a transcript of Justin’s toast.
We are privileged that our jobs are fundamentally creative. That is, they consist in creating — in taking some bold idea or vision that begins life just in our minds, just in our collective imaginations, and manifesting it in the physical world. In so doing, we change the world around us. We can change the lives of others for the better, make something beautiful where before there was nothing.
From skyscrapers to software, from vaccines to space travel, greatness is the fruit of human collaboration, of groups of people with a shared vision working together, step by step, task by task.
Some see work as a way to become wealthy. We see “work” as an act of service, an act of love, for the greater good of humanity. Some people think of “corporations” and think of amassing capital, of accumulating resources for its own sake. While we do intend for Asana to thrive in the fiscal marketplace, we see that only as a means toward an end. We see companies as groups of people contributing something to the world. By working together, they can accomplish so much more than the sum of their parts.
Indeed, when teams are very small, each new member can exponentially increase a team’s capacity, adding a whole new perspective and set of skills. But as anyone who’s worked in a company knows, as teams grow, each member’s value-add quickly becomes sublinear, eventually even negative, as the friction and overhead of coordination outweighs their contribution.
In a brain, effective functioning requires not only healthy neurons, but also healthy connections between them. When things aren’t well-connected, we use words like “disorder” or “schizophrenia” or “amnesia.” The person’s behavior becomes erratic and jerky. This, unfortunately, is the state of companies today.
“Work About Work”
Even in successful enterprises, people waste enormous amounts of time, not doing work, but doing “work about work.” Meetings. Email. People repeating themselves. Entire layers of management and bureaucracy, just trying to keep everyone in sync. And still things fall through the cracks, schedules slip, dreams remain unrealized.
Information technology has made enormous strides already in helping us collaborate. For example, email hasn’t just allowed us to do what we were able to do before faster; email changed the nature and the scope of the projects that we dare to take on, it enabled us to dream bigger dreams. But email was only the very beginning.
Our dream, at Asana, is to build beautiful software that vastly increases the speed and scope of every organization on Earth.
Asana launched in November, and it’s exciting to see how much progress we’ve made toward that goal in just 5 months. It’s gratifying to see Asana providing critical infrastructure that helps a company like AirBnB revolutionize travel. Help Twitter revolutionize communication. Help NationBuilder revolutionize politics. Help Rdio revolutionize music. Help Foursquare and LinkedIn delight millions.
And the impact is deep. Every day, users send love letters about how Asana has changed their lives. Some say “I’ve tried every system out they, and this is the only one that actually stuck.” Some say Asana has transformed the way they do business, empowered them to take on bigger projects, and reduced their stress. Two sent us marriage proposals.
Asana is becoming the center of people’s work. That’s why over 25% of weekly active users use the product every single day, Monday through Friday. Users say it’s the one tab they keep open all day other than email. And once people try Asana, they say they can’t imagine going back — 75% of those who adopt Asana are retained.
There’s a biotech company in Menlo Park called Emerald Therapeutics started by two of the world’s top scientists. Emerald’s mission is “To end disease.” After growing the team, the founders found they had stopped doing science altogether, resigning 100% of their time to management. Last year they adopted Asana, and recovered 75% of their time to doing science, and report that the rest of the lab got vastly more efficient as well.
That’s the power and the privilege of building infrastructure. If Asana could increase every organization’s capacity to achieve its potential by 1%, let alone double or 10x it, that’s a really leveraged opportunity to help the world.
We see a future in which every organization on Earth can coordinate their collective action perfectly, without effort, like a healthy brain. We see a future in which every knowledge worker has exactly the information they need in front of them at every moment, doing only the intrinsically-creative, flow-inducing work that cannot be automated. And ultimately, we see a future in which not just isolated companies, but all of humanity operates seamlessly as a single harmonious Team, setting goals and accomplishing dreams beyond what we can imagine today.
The Asana Project is about touching the heart of how people create together. The heart of how people self-actualize, help their fellow man, and manifest their potential. Asana is about enabling new heights of human thriving.
I hope you’ll join me in raising a glass to our shared capacity, all of us, to imagine a better world, and to build it, together.
by Kenny Van Zant
June 29th, 2012
Kenny Van Zant is our Main Business Guy. He is the exec that oversees marketing, sales, user operations (customer support) and a whole lot more. As he revealed to the team at a party to celebrate our recent launches, Kenny is also a conduit for the immortal soul of Dr. Seuss. The following is the poem Kenny wrote in honor of the release of our Premium Workspaces. We thought it was awesome, so we’re sharing it with you. We hope you enjoy it.
Oh, The Places Asana Will Go
Today is our day.
We’re a real business!
People have started to pay!
With reason in our heads.
And love in our hearts
We have steered our new company
into uncharted parts.
We can build A to Z and ALL the betweens.
And WE are the team who’ll decide what that means.
We’ll test our ideas. Split test’em with care.
About some we will say, “no one seems to click there.”
With our heads full of reason and our hearts full of love,
we’re too smart to keep any of the not-so-good stuff.
And we may even find that
Some ideas are quite nice.
In that case, of course,
We’ll just raise our price.
It’s funner these days
with users who pay.
Now an outage can happen
and frequently does
even to teams mindful
and loving as us.
So when processes slow,
don’t worry. Don’t swoon.
On Call may be sleeping,
But they’ll have it fixed soon.
Whoa! THE PLACES WE’LL GO!
We’ll be on our way up!
We’ll join the high fliers
We’ll be one of those teams
who lands all the new hires.
They’ll say “Asana’s a blend of hotness and speed!”
We’ll pass all the incumbents and soon take the lead.
Whatever we build, will be feature complete.
Whenever we launch, we’ll get all the tweets!
Except when we don’t
Because, sometimes, we won’t.
I’m sorry to say so
but, often we’ll cuss
the performance regressions
that happen to us.
We can be thrown off balance
from an unstable patch.
All our sprints can be halted.
All our product plans scratched.
And when things stabilize
our growth might have shrunk.
And the chances are, then,
that we’ll be in a funk.
And when we’re in a funk,
we’re not in for much fun.
Un-funking your team
is not easily done.
We might come to a place where the energy’s wrong.
Some meetings are short. But mostly they’re long.
A place where everyone passes the buck!
Do you dare to stay quiet? Do you dare to speak up?
The people are boring. The parties all suck.
NO! That won’t be us!
Somehow *we’ll* persevere
when our nerves are all frayed.
We’ll remember our vision
is why the customers paid.
With our mission held high,
We’re Doing Great Things!
Ready – for anything that we dare dream.
Ready – because we’re the very best team!
WHOA! The places we’ll go! There’s much work to be done!
There are metrics to be grown! There are markets to be won!
And the magical things we can do with PR
will make us the shiniest company star.
Fire! We’ll be on fire, the hottest of the bunch,
with the whole world reading about us on TechCrunch.
Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.
I’m afraid that some times
we’ll fail to heed
what our customers tell us
and we’ll struggle to succeed
Whether we like it or not,
failing will be something
we’ll do quite a lot.
And when we do fail, there’s even a chance
that fear makes us doubt our statistical significance!
But we’re a pragmatic group, who gets on our way.
Because there are tasks to be done, some later, some today.
So on we will go
though the photographers foul
On we will go
though copy cats prowl
On we will go
making competitors howl
Luna will make
our reactivity strong,
even with r-values right
and our l-values wrong.
On and on we will build
making customers sing
and our rivals will wonder,
“how’d they do such a thing?”
We’ll get mixed up, of course,
as we already know.
we’ll push very hard
and get tired as we go.
So find your right pace,
balance late nights with rest
and remember that Life’s
a Great Mindfulness Test.
Just take time each day look deep within.
And never mix up your yang with your yin.
And will We succeed?
Yes! We will, indeed!
(Because Dustin said it’s a hundred percent guaranteed.)
ASANA, YOU’LL DO GREAT THINGS!
with twister, and boggle, and chocolate & scotch
and the many attempts to read Gödel Escher Bach,
We’ve passed one more hurdle,
We’re a business at last!
Our destiny is waiting.
So…let’s raise a glass!
Here at Asana, we work tirelessly to find ways to make our users more effective. We design, build, test, and iterate on all aspects of our product with the goal of helping all of you do great things.
So when we recently learned that not only do some of our users like unicorns, but others have never even seen a unicorn, our creative engine kicked into action. This could be a highly leveraged opportunity to both motivate our users and give them a very special reward for using our product. Of course, we couldn’t just give everyone unicorns (which are very, very rare) without knowing the consequences. So in true Asana fashion, we decided we’d have to run an experiment.
To test this opportunity, we engineered our product to randomly deliver a flying unicorn, riding on a rainbow laced with an encouraging message, upon completion of a task. It didn’t show up for every completed task, but just once in a while. Then we’d see if our unicorn-spotting users got more productive.
Now, the introduction of a rainbow-surfing unicorn reward raises many questions regarding user productivity. For example, what is the optimal number of colors for the rainbow to have? Is it important that the creature is, in fact, a unicorn? Does the tone or content of the messages make a difference?
Since we like to learn things quickly, we have already prepared experiments to answer these questions as well. We look forward to comparing yesterday’s results with those for users who see a three-color-rainbow-surfing narwhal that quotes the Dalai Lama. Yes, narwhals also have horns. We have to control for something!
So far, the unicorn has been so well-received that there is already talk internally of moving towards a single-horned UI with a rainbow color scheme. We’ll look at the data to figure out just how many colors it should have.
Also, happy April Fool’s Day! We hope you enjoyed it.
by Jack Stahl
December 19th, 2011
In the days leading up to a big product launch, you start to see the finish line. When you cross it, you realize it’s a starting line. Asana was born on November 2, 2011, and now it is time to grow. We’re hiring aggressively, especially for engineers who are passionate about creating great products; our company growth is in the service of our product’s growth. I want to share with you where the product is going, but first we must first understand what the company’s gone through.
This summer, some people headed out of town on vacation, and our team started to fall out of sync. I myself took long vacations to Berlin and Burning Man and spent more time than usual on my own personal development: at the climbing gym, in yoga sessions, in meditation, with a lifecoach, chasing a girl. I was growing in all kinds of ways valuable for the longterm, but it was out of balance with being productive in the now. My personal contribution level was low: relative to my teammates, my historical output, and most especially my capacity. But this was a team issue. It seemed like many of our projects were slipping.
Dustin and Justin set a line in the sand. We’re shipping. November 2, no matter what the product looks like. The team was immediately on board. Well-rested, confident, and ready to manifest our goals, it was time for all that personal growth to pay off for the team. In the six weeks that followed we finished two hugely crucial projects: an entire re-imagining of our look and feel, and a brand new mobile experience. How?
by Jerry Sparks
December 16th, 2011
Welcome to Asana.
We’re excited your first day has finally arrived! Here’s your desk – it’s the sit-stand kind. Right now we put you next to your onboarding buddy, but in a couple weeks you’ll probably be working with different people on a specific project and you’ll all wheel your desks together somewhere in the office. You may also want to check the calendar for upcoming events. For example, we have yoga a few times a week. If you’re interested, bring some comfy clothes — we’ve got mats and other props. Remember that +1s are invited to almost all events so be sure to let your lover or your best friend know.
Your machine and workstation should be configured the way you wanted. You should already have a copy of the codebase along with the software that our engineers typically use; though if you’d like to customize your set-up further, feel free to do so. Otherwise, take some time to look around the code with your buddy…
Now that you’ve spent some time with the codebase, let’s get you something more specific to work on. Open a browser and log in to app.asana.com. We tagged a bunch of tasks that we think you might want to work on today. Some of them are bugs and others might be feature ideas. These feature ideas often begin as simple suggestions one of us puts in the Product Opportunities project. From there, the ideas get discussed, then get agreed upon and designed. You’re encouraged to read the tasks’ comment threads which contains all that history.
Wow, is it noon already? It’s almost time for check-in, short stand-up meetings we have on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Everyone in the company participates, so you should take a minute or two to reflect about what you’ve been doing this morning. Most of us also review our completed tasks in Asana to remember all the things we’ve recently finished. We share what we’ve been working on since the last check-in and what we plan to work on next – it takes maybe 15 minutes, total. This is a nice chance to hear about the other projects and to figure out if you can help unblock anyone. Don’t worry, by the next check-in you’ll be surprised at how much you have to say.
At 12:30, it’s lunch time! If you have any specific dietary requests you’ll see that Donnie or Kim has placed a name tag next to your plate, otherwise grab a seat anywhere you like. Lunchtime discussions are varied and often entertaining; people frequently use lunch to talk about different aspects of the product, technology, and business – and occasionally, cute kitten videos. Since we’re small, we all eat together; this is another opportunity to keep up to date on what is happening outside your team.
Now that you’ve finished lunch and have explored the vast reaches of our chocolate selection, let’s see if we can get some code committed! Open up that task that you picked earlier, and grab your buddy. Your buddy is there to help you keep moving quickly until you feel comfortable on your own. In fact, this is your buddy’s top priority; and for at least the first week we encourage you to do a lot of pair programming.
Once the two of you have finished coding – and written a unit test – it’s time to make your first commit. Our automated test-and-release pipeline means that your code will start being used internally in about 20 minutes, and will go live within a day. The pipeline has four safeguards against bad code going live: you, automated tests, code reviews and dogfooding; and in the rare case that serious bugs get through, we can roll back to an old revision right away. There are countless benefits of releasing on a fast cycle — some are obvious and some are subtle — but it’s a core part of our development culture.
Now that you’ve made your first commit, you should spend part of the afternoon looking at some of the notes and projects from our recent roadmap week. We have these once every four months, where the entire company collaborates in subcommittees to discuss plans for the upcoming few months. Some subcommittees are engineering specific, like “performance” or “scalability”, some are product oriented, like “mobile” or “redesign”, and others relate to how the company is run, like “recruiting” or “marketing”. These topics change as needed and you are encouraged to involve yourself in whatever parts of planning you find interesting. Don’t feel pressured to be on too many subcommittees — we’ll have a round of presentations near the end, where we incorporate more feedback.
We plan at these intervals so we stay in sync, and can execute effectively and smoothly. Between roadmap weeks, we split our time into three week periods: two weeks of working with a small team on a specific project and one week of catching up on everything else. A lot of the requirements for each project will already have been identified during roadmap week, but it’s up to you and the rest of your team to decide the full set of tasks to be completed. For the non-project work you won’t have a set team, but you can grab anyone as needed to help you with whatever you’re doing.
At the end of the day, Asana is about helping people accomplish the work they want to do, and realize their potential. It’s as true for us here, as it is for our friends, family, and all the teams who use Asana in their effort to create art, cure disease, or build the next great company. We feel strongly that the best way we can contribute to the world is to help others contribute to the world.
And look, it’s getting close to 7pm – wonder what Donnie’s made for dinner?
–Many thanks to Avital Oliver and S. Alex Smith, my delightful co-authors.
by Jack Stahl
June 28th, 2011
In between quarters at Asana, we take a “roadmap week” to focus on reflection and planning. We decided for the most recent one to add a peer feedback session to our technical, product, and company discussions. We liked a process we heard about from Quora: a full-company round-robin series of 1:1s where each pair takes 3 minutes per side delivering face-to-face feedback.
When the team collectively expressed that we wanted more feedback from each other, I think most of us pictured critical feedback: “if there’s something I could be doing better, I want to know!” What we ended up choosing to share was “this is what I love about you, please do it more!” In fact, we decided to make the feedback session positive-only: research has demonstrated that focusing on strengths is more effective than focusing on weaknesses when it comes to personal and professional development.
by Jerry Sparks
January 7th, 2011
Shortly after Avi moved from Israel to California to join Asana, we discovered we share an intensity for music. Every few days we would cloister ourselves in a meeting room with our laptops to share our favorite tracks on the office speakers, and dance around in our chairs while we coded and answered email. We dubbed this practice workdance. And it was fun.
Unfortunately, this meant that we had to be in a separate room from our coworkers to avoid disturbing them. As this became a daily occurrence, we started looking for ways to make our marvelous musical journeys even more magical — and share them with other asanas who craved the beatz, without distracting those who wanted quiet. So we set up a room on the wonderful Web app Mixapp, which lets groups of people listen to the same music simultaneously. Then we elevated our sit-stand desks (which we have at Asana for ergonomics), and….victory!!
Now anyone in Asana (and our many friends in other companies — some on the East Coast) can experience our musical escapades at the comfort of their own desks without distracting those around them.