Before the days of Romans building bridges and their farmers sowing crops, organisation has been a practice many have dabbled with, and few have mastered.
Everyone has their own bespoke techniques for the way they work. This article comes straight from the team at Colonel Duck and is a snapshot of our endeavour of improving our processes.
A life skill
Organisation is rarely taught. Most of my life, I’ve had to figure out the best approach myself. It’s not that the subject isn’t given enough attention — just that the approach that resonates most with someone won’t always resonate with others. Family members will each have their own approaches which can be similar and interesting to contrast with.
How do we organise ourselves at Colonel Duck?
We have a selection of carefully crafted processes.
Each morning before beginning work, we catch-up to talk about yesterday’s progress and today’s plans. This Morning Meeting is then followed by a Code Review.
On Thursday morning, we follow the Code Review with Weekly Scheduling. When scheduling, we first look towards the long term, then medium term and finally short term.
Throughout the rest of the day, we maintain a log with careful detail to what has happened and when.
Every morning each of the teams gather in their individual groups and take turns talking about how their work progressed the day before. This allows us to update the other members on our progress and to reflect on whether we achieved what we set out to do.
After everyone is updated, we take turns announcing our plans for the upcoming day. This holds us publicly accountable for achieving that task. It also allows the other members to make sure the tasks we’re doing provide progress towards the weekly achievements.
To help us to retain information on the company’s progress, we write notes in our logs about the other members’ tasks for the day.
The morning meeting is followed by a Code Review. This is a Systems specific meeting.
When we update code on Github, we have an automated process set up that messages everybody on Slack — our company’s choice of communication program.
Each morning we gather in a group and review the code written the previous day — 5 minutes for each person. This allows the team to quickly peer-review the other member’s code. This peer-review makes sure code is written in the same way throughout the project. It also allows us to catch possible bugs, quickly familiarise ourselves with other people’s code, and ensures that code always comes out better than how it started.
When scheduling, start with the long-term goals. We create 3 directions of progress for the team and sub task actionable ideas for moving in each direction.
We also create at least one Quarterly Achievement for each project we’re working on.
For the upcoming month, we then create medium term goals. These medium-term goals are actionable tasks to achieve the defined long-term goals and quarterly achievements. We make sure to write down the expected time taken to complete the task and the importance/priority of the task. This is useful for scheduling later. We make sure that in total, the tasks will only take up to 70% of the team’s time in the month. This makes sure that we have 30% extra time needed for new tasks and unexpected issues.
Breaking these tasks down into subtasks lets us schedule both the AM and PM for that day. We individually schedule our entire weeks this way. The clear priority for that day allows us to immediately jump into tasks without any overhead.
We use Flow for the weekly and monthly scheduling, keeping track of tasks and ticking them off.
Throughout the day we log our progress, what happens and at what respective time.
Our director, James is very keen on this method and has swore by it for the past 6 years.
Since it can be difficult to get into this habit, we regularly set alarms to remember to note down thoughts.
Being able to look back to specific days and know exactly what happened, from any of the team’s perspective, and when is extremely powerful. It lets you summarise what was agreed, who you need to chase up about things and what tasks need doing. You can section the logs however you want.
Our top tips
On the wall, list the priorities of what you’re doing.
Since it’s in public view, it holds you accountable for achieving it.
Tasks feel satisfying to cross off, while the list lets you look
back upon what you’ve achieved.
– Calum Ridyard
Start the week by focusing on what the outcome is.
End the week by reviewing what you’ve achieved.
Be self-critical of your own process.
– James Adie
I always write down why I’m doing something before I start it.
After I complete what set out to do, I look back at what was written.
You’ll be able to see if you’ve solved everything you intended to.
And in the future, when you look back, a better solution might present itself as the requirements might have since changed.
– Mark Macheta
We’re always looking to improve…
This process is a tried and tested product of our company. We try to remain self-critical to improve and discard processes. If you have organisation techniques that you feel others can benefit from, we’d love to hear them.