Book: The Year Without Pants, Scott Berkun

The Year Without Pants

Review

Great look at one of the most interesting companies on the web, WordPress. While not everybody is as lucky to be able to focus only on product and leave everything (especially marketing) as a second thought, this book still has some great lessons and ideas, especially on managing employees. Definitely a recommended read.

Buy on Amazon.com.

tl;dr

Hire by trial. All employees participate in support. Scoreboard for the entire company. 5 people in team is best. 1. hire great people, 2. set good priorities, 3. remove distractions, 4. get out of the way. Always ask “how will this impact the user?”.

Summary

  • they split the company (50 at the time) into ten teams
  • there are no formal interviews for positions at the company; instead they hire by trial: you are asked to do a simple project, get access to real tools and work on real things
  • all employees participate in support = help customers, improve knowledge of the product and befriend coworkers
  • they have a robust scoreboard for the entire company
  • if the supporting roles, including management, dominate, the quality of products can only suffer
  • all of the communication channels are logged and searchable
  • they have internal blogs “P2” where brainstorming, discussions, rants and jokes are published (each team has one + watercooler convos and similar)
  • general workflow: 1. pick a problem, 2. write a launch announcement and a support page, 3. consider what data will tell you it works (what users are doing), 4. get to work, 5. launch, 6. learn, 7. repeat
  • 5 people in team is best because people get enough say
  • results first culture
  • 1. hire great people, 2. set good priorities, 3. remove distractions, 4. get out of the way
  • an environment for autonomous adults – a place for people who know best what they need to do great work
  • each employee, each team decided which tools to try and which to keep
  • many employees were T-shaped, one very deep skill set and a wide range of moderate proficiencies
  • every time a company settles for a mediocre hire, it becomes harder to recruit the best
  • asking the user experience question (how will this impact the user?) is the ultimate way to prioritize engineering work as it shifts perspective to customers and not engineers