Our management culture at Asana


At Asana, we value transparency, balance, working together as peers, and investing in each other, and we try to apply these values to our management culture. We think that good management requires balance. We try to give people the freedom they need to contribute at their full potential, while also providing the support that helps them grow to become even more capable.

Our approach is “distributed responsibility,” exemplified by our AoR (Area of Responsibility) program. Instead of having all decisions flow through the management hierarchy, we go out of our way to distribute them as evenly as possible across all employees. At the same time, our approach emphasizes personal growth, especially through mentorship. I believe the most important contribution of a manager is to serve their reports by unblocking them, mentoring them, and pointing them in a direction that best serves their needs and the priorities of the organization. I explained our approach more in a blog post I posted today on Medium.

We’d like to share our internal document that outlines the beliefs and practices that help inform our management culture at Asana. Our goals for sharing this document are to start a conversation about management culture and inspire other companies to share their own thinking. We’d love to hear your thoughts on management culture in the comments.

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  • GP
    Why do you make a point of saying management is not a career path, yet you seek to avoid promoting good functional people into management if they lack the necessary skills? I can see where it might be desirable to have “manager” as a rung on someone’s ladder, but if someone wants to specialize in the particular set of skills necessary to be a quality manager, wouldn’t you want to acknowledge that as a legitimate career choice?
    • Dustin Moskovitz
      We really mean we want to discourage people as thinking of it as *the* career path, not that we want to delegitimize the development of those sets of skills altogether. Probably we should/will change the wording, but I think we got to this phrasing because we’re trying to counterbalance the prevailing culture in which people generally believe that the best people move up this specific ladder and if you fail to climb the rungs, you must be inferior in some way. People are multi-dimensional and these skills are just one of many dimensions they might develop.
    • Dustin Moskovitz
      I reworded this line; thanks for the help!
  • Lars
    Spot on.
  • Brett E.
    Thank you for sharing this! It’s nice to see an inside glimpse of other non-traditional approaches. Keep pioneering!
  • Eric Siu
    Would be helpful if you shared an example AoR list :)
    • Dustin Moskovitz
      The medium post has a screenshot of part of ours: https://medium.com/on-startups/c01c6846e06e

      The full list will be quite different at every company, but hopefully the examples help get you started.

  • Jeff Franchetti
    Thank you for posting on these types of topics and opening up about the inside of Asana. The thought leadership is the part of your brand that impresses me the most.
  • Albert
    There are many facts not explained here (hope you can post them) that allows a team to achieve a democratic responsibility distribution.

    As a manager, I realize the sabotage in staff’s many dimentions: culture, habits, skills, maturity, unconsciousness, etc.

    I really think Mr. Moskovitz, the key is personnel selection. Once your surounded of a staff willing to evolve and work over high quality stardars, every democratic or fair policy will wonderfully works.

    I congrats Asana for having that great team, take care yourselfs each other.

  • Dori
    This is an inspiring read, thank you.

    Dustin Moskovitz, Is this doc kept up to date? The title says it’s from 2013, and I imagine you guys have refined much since then.

    Also, I love the goal “Discourage people from thinking of management as the only or best career path.”, but it makes me wonder what other structures you guys have in place for “career development”. We all understand the management ladder by default… have you guys found other useful development tracks or milestones for people outside of the management ladder?