Episode 3 | Decision-making for remote teams with Sharon Moorhouse

Episode 3 April 05, 2023 00:37:54
Episode 3 | Decision-making for remote teams with Sharon Moorhouse
Remote Culture Club with Alix Dunn
Episode 3 | Decision-making for remote teams with Sharon Moorhouse

Apr 05 2023 | 00:37:54


Show Notes

Does decision-making tie your team up in knots? Is it sometimes unclear when, where, and how decisions are made?

With decision-making in remote spaces, the devil’s in the detail, and it can be hard to strike the balance between having the right people involved without getting bogged down in endless meetings and conversations.

In this episode, Alix sat down with Sharon Moorehouse, former UX Operations at Shopify and now Partner Enablement Program Manager at Tines. Sharon has lots to share about how to structure decision-making processes; include people effectively; and build trust and consult teammates without wasting their time.

*This interview was originally recorded as part of the 2022 Remote Culture Intensive, a course for remote teams to rebuild their culture, together.

You can find Sharon (and say hello) here


For more, check out our website or follow Alix on Twitter.


View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:06 Remote forced people to get better at actually documenting the idea. What is the brief, like what like problem you're trying to solve, what are you not building, what scope, whatever that might be. And so the thing about decision making that remote has definitely made easier is that it has forced us a bad habit that we had around documentation and not being diligent with like sharing updates, sharing notes, sharing and progress. So I think that's definitely gotten better. Speaker 2 00:00:32 Welcome to the Remote Culture Club podcast. On this show we inspire and equip leaders to build remote culture that works. I'm your host Alex Dunn, and even though I've been leading remote organizations for over 10 years, I'm always learning more. It's really nice to have you here. And without further ado, welcome to the show. Speaker 2 00:00:54 I have the pleasure of interviewing Sharon Morehouse, who works on the user experience operations support team at Shopify. We've had the pleasure of working with Sharon on a variety of projects and she is really dynamic in the way she thinks about cross-functional collaboration. The focus of our interview is on decision making, um, because we hear a lot from teams that decision making, um, needs to be made more explicit. Um, it needs to be clearer in terms of how teams want to consult each other on different aspects, um, in different sequences on choices that they're making, particularly consequential choices. But the devils in the details on decision making. It can be really difficult to know how to do that in ways that don't require a ton of meetings or, um, having, you know, tens of people in the, in a conversation that ends up just being one person talking at them the whole time. Speaker 2 00:01:45 It's very difficult to get right. Um, and uh, Sharon and I have long talked about the intersection between design and decision making. And because she works so much with user experience teams, um, and engages with so many designers who have to make really nitty gritty decisions, but also really big strategic um, and subjective creative decisions that uh, she has seen many decision and making processes in her organization and has a lot of interesting insights and reflections about that, um, that we will dig more into. So if you're interested in better thinking about how you can structure process in your organization about decisions, include people more effectively, um, and more explicitly and clearly in those decisions, effectively consult uh, as you're making decisions but without over consultation or um, creating chaos in your organization, um, then this is the conversation for you. So without further ado, Sharon Morehouse from Shopify. Speaker 1 00:02:44 Hello everybody. My name is Sharon. I'm based in Dublin. You can probably tell from the the Irish accent and yeah, and I've been working in tech for about six or seven years now and started at Intercom back when it was a lot more than it is now and kind of fell into this vision making type roles and ops type roles when uh, we were scaling up our operations of our, our customer support team and figuring out how do we do that at scale and how do we operationalize and kind of make some choices a bit like where do we hire, how do we cover different time zones, all this kind of stuff. And so then figuring out how do we onboard, how do we design learning programs for all those new people coming in? And that's sort of got me into that ops type world. Speaker 1 00:03:24 And then through friend of a friend, that role opened up at ux, the Shopify and I was really keen to kind of apply some of the, the learnings I had from basically like designing learning programs, designing and like a workflow system for CS to, to an actual UX team. And so that's basically what my, my job is now. And so it's a bit of a metal, but it's uh, a UX operations program manager. So essentially the programs that I look after are all things related to learning, um, on an onboarding for our design team. So within the kind of bubble of ux, the Shopify, you have product designers, content designers, researchers, creative technologists, so just like a front end developer type role and then UX managers as well. So for all those groups, I look after designing and working with learning designers to figure out what do we need to teach all those groups when they join. Speaker 1 00:04:13 So brand new hires and get them to speed, get them have an impact. And then what do we need to do to keep, keep offering ongoing education and learning development for those groups. So whether it's things that we know as a team, okay, annually our goal for this year for us all to kinda level up these skills or individually like people wanna, we find it that there's pockets of interest in different things. We wanna offer programs to help them level up those skills. So that was where, like Alex said, it made like a lot of sense for us to, to work together on figuring out how do we design a program to, to help everybody level up facilitation skills, particularly in uh, a remote environment. Cuz we all went fully remote at Shopify in 2020. So that's the kind of quick breakdown of so day-to-day, yeah, looking across all of our different learning programs, what makes sense to keep doing, what do we need to change, how can we iterate, how can we make some of the, the remote aspect feel like it's more of a, a benefit than, than a downside. So yeah, that's a bit of kind of the background to me. Speaker 2 00:05:09 That's great, thank you. And when you think about like your team, there's obviously decisions that are happening day-to-day where you're prioritizing what you do, um, and then there's kind of like the lens that you have when you think about how all of the user experience, different teams, different roles, are making choices all the time to basically make Shopify product work. <laugh>, can you talk a little bit about like the types of decisions that those groups that are making stuff are, are, are taking and then the kinds of decisions that you all are taking just so we can get a sense of sort of how you come at thinking about decision making in remote environments? Speaker 1 00:05:42 I think when people think of design, it is such an abstract, um, concept. So like for our UX team and probably for any UX team, you could either be, you know, designing like where will we put this button on this screen? So you've got your app or Shopify or your shop app, like where are we gonna put this button? Like it's rarely, I feel like all the designers listen, um, would roll their eyes, it's Israeli decisions that simple, but that's like a, hopefully a, a tangential example, but it could be that, but it's more often, you know, a decision between a couple of options. Uh, so like that it could be, okay, we put the button over here, we're going to, we're gonna keep the UX or the UI or the, the, the look and feel of the app really simple and, and minimal, which is like having a moment really in fashion. Speaker 1 00:06:26 Or we could make it re re discoverable. They're putting it over here and have like some flashing things towards never know what to click on but like, oh wait, now we're not meeting this other one. So it's a lot of it's trade offs versus ever like, it's rarely, you know, a very straightforward like this or that. It's like we have a set of, um, design principles and it's more often than not, it's trying to decide like these two are almost at odds at one another and in, in this situation, which one does it make more sense to lean on? So that's like what a lot of what the actual designers themselves, the product designers, the concept designers, that's the kind of choices that they're trying to make every day and it's frameworks, templates, trainings and things to help them make those decisions that I'd be working on. Speaker 1 00:07:08 And then the choices that me and my operations team are trying to decide on is like, okay, for example, the big one for me is like onboarding. It's a case of there is so much that we could show would want to tell people when they join with the decisions that I'm looking at is, okay, but what are the most crucial and essential things like there's a finite amount for the new hire can possibly absorb in their first couple of weeks. So like what are the absolute essentials that this person needs to know by week three to not feel like completely underwater? And then if there's, you know, layer up from that, there's like three big annual goals that the, the senior leadership team want me to help people focused on. And it's looking at, okay, if we can only really get one of these done this quarter, which one of these has the potential to leverage most impact? Which one is the area that we're currently maybe, you know, seeing the most struggle with or the most interesting from UXers? So they're the types of decisions I would make and then the more design of the actual product are what the, the team themselves would be working on. Speaker 2 00:08:04 That's so interesting. The onboarding piece is like you managing the user experience of someone being onboarded to do user experience Speaker 1 00:08:10 Work. <laugh>, that's, that's the thing when I joined I was like wait a minute, I was like reading through all the UX teams like design principles for the product and I was like wait, these are all the principles that I'm thinking of when I'm designing things for them. It's very inception, <laugh>. Speaker 2 00:08:25 Yes. Yeah. But I feel like that connects to, I mean we talked a little bit about this before, but the extent to which designing something is making decisions as well, like there's something quite meta about that. Do you wanna talk a little bit about sort of how you see the relationship between design work and decision making? Speaker 1 00:08:41 Yeah, I think, like I was saying to you earlier, we had a chat, um, before we hit record. I'm like, I think a lot of, a lot of design is just making decisions. And again, I think, like I said earlier, some of that like the concept of design in something can feel a very abstract and far away. But really like once it's a decision that has more than one step to it and it's a series of decisions, you're basically designing something. So like, yes you can design an app or a website, you could also design a t-shirt, you can also design your wedding day. You make choices about what way you want that day to go or you could design, you know, your, your work day. You're like, I'm gonna take my lunch at 12 instead of one because it fits in at my yoga, whatever you're designing all those things. And so like they're, that whole process to design is really just to make a series of decisions together knowing that like these, the decision I make now is gonna impact like the options I have further down the line, it's gonna change the choice that I have to make in future. But like they are very much almost one and the same. Like you, you can't design without absolutely having to make several decisions. So yeah, they're actually like, they're very related in, in my mind anyway. Speaker 2 00:09:44 Yeah, that's super interesting. Yeah, and I think that's part of the reason why when I started thinking about, cuz it's, it's a question that comes up a lot for us is, is how do we ensure that we're making not just good decisions, but that we're communicating those decisions in a way that feels inclusive and, and so that people know what's going on. Cuz in a remote organization oftentimes there's that feeling of fomo where you're like, oh, how did that thing move ahead and I didn't know about it? Or how do I not have every single person in the organization on copy in every single email that we send out about every decision and like what, what does that, what does it look like to meaningfully structure decisions or making good ones, but the right people are included at the right time and we're communicating that. Speaker 2 00:10:22 And I think when I started considering who could speak about it, you were the one of the first people I thought of cuz I was just like, design duh, like <laugh> design is decisions. And I think that's just like, yeah, um, I hadn't thought about it like that, which is cool. I mean I'd love to talk to you a little bit about like use discretion in terms of how much you share about this example <laugh>, but I'm, I'm thinking about like getting concrete in that like the horror show of like everyone being copied on every email to make a decision that's quite small and we waste a lot of time and energy as an example. Are there ways where examples you can, you can draw on where it's just gone totally haywire in terms of either a design process or sort of a series of decisions in remote spaces in particular? Speaker 1 00:11:02 Yeah and I think I definitely can, and to be honest it's like there's examples from Shopify and other companies. So I'll leave you all guess which because, because I really do think that, you know, one of the common features across most tech companies and that's the space I've worked in for the last six or seven years is this like moving very fast. Change happens really fast, decisions have to be fast, you have to either like keep up or like you are very much left behind. So like very fast decisions are being made all the time. And the, there is also like a tendency for a lot of tech companies, especially in the early stage to to kind of, to really want to hang onto this like very startup, um, feel. So they don't want processes cuz they're like, oh no, that's slow and that's, that's anti what we are. Speaker 1 00:11:44 So that obviously can lead to um, can lead to and has in my mind led to like things going quite like horribly hardly wrong, but like things going wrong and making decisions and things that could have been a lot easier. So like there's one particular example I'm thinking of of like number of product teams who are all building, obviously like the one company, but different features and different sets within that company. Each of those being given like free, free reign to just work in the way work whatever way makes sense for you, your decision making process, your approval process, like how often you ship, how often you meet. All of that is like separate. But there's one example in my mind where like there's varied, so like app stores, like a, this particular app had an app store feature within it in different places. And so a designed decision was made to basically over completely overhaul, like how are we gonna the look to feel decisions around like, will we put ads in this space? Speaker 1 00:12:39 Like all of this was made over here and these three or four teams all deeply ingrained in the product and decisions they had made had an absolute interface as well. And so were like, now there's changes. Everything that we have built, this makes what we've done out of date. Like we weren't really told about that decision. Like we don't feel like we understood that was happening. When did it happen? Like why weren't we considered? And it's, it was like, I think it was lack of communication, lack of like almost empathy and consideration of those cross-sections, which can can happen at any big companies where it's like, it's really hard to your point without get getting everybody on copy with every single decision, you can't do that. It's very difficult then to go, okay, well what's the right level of fi like of, of fidelity to, to tell people and to make sure everyone knows. Speaker 1 00:13:28 So like that resulted, it, it resulted in like a lot of duplicate work, a lot of revisiting meetings that previously had been like this was, the decision was made in this meeting and it was like feeling like we were rehabbing the decision making meeting because it never happened with the right people in the room in the first place, right? And so we were like, wait, we had moved past this, we're back to here. We kind of know this decision can't be remade, but we're talking as if it will be because there's trust that has been broken, there's resources that they need to be allocated to a different, like a whole lot of different work streams had to happen in a way that was, it was like fine if the work had had to happen and people were happy with it and it, you know, it was agreed upon early from the outset and people cut it, like build it into their roadmap and they knew those changes were coming but it was a lots of change that people didn't plan for it b like unwelcome ones and a feeling of like, we weren't really considered in this and like you just moved ahead without us. Speaker 1 00:14:25 And so yeah, that's one particular sign where obviously speaking as a very opposite person, like I am all for autonomy and for people working the way that suits them. But there is a critical breaking point where like absolute lack of process across a big group, it it, that's the kind of problems that leads to like it actually leads to duplicate work. It leads to like communication crosses and things were like, if there's not a trip worry to say okay at this point in the process, even though we all have our own one, we all have a shared point where we'll loop in other groups to just be like, here's what where we're at. Just so you know, and then we move forward whatever way that looks, but no process around that whatsoever I think can then lead to things like that. Speaker 2 00:15:13 Yeah. When you say tripwire, so I'm thinking a moment after which, um, it's important sort of urgently important to be mindful of how to proceed with a particular decision because either it affects a lot of people, it's gonna, you know, potentially require other people to do things that they might not wanna do unless they understand why. Yeah. And sort of how it's connected. Can you talk a little more about like what those conditions are where, when you see someone sort of racing through that trip wire, like what is, what is that trip wire when you're thinking about decisions? When Speaker 1 00:15:47 I think about it, how I would do it for my own like okay, I'm like, oh I've bit of a weird, like new idea for a way we could run a program for let's say for example for the UX team only and I'll like write a brief like outline, like high level here's how it could work, here's what it could look like. And then in my mind I reach a point where I'm like, okay, if I'm gonna go beyond like, and actually start to like tap people ask can I like allocate time to build this? That's for me when I, my trip wire for myself is like, make a stakeholder map now and like just jot down like who are everybody that you know of that, that are gonna be in any way impacted by this. So, so for the example of the UX team, so I know if I'm like, okay, if I change radically changed onboarding for ux, well the rest of the r and d group also have some groups shared with ux. Speaker 1 00:16:37 So I should probably think about that. Shopify overall has like a welcome to Shopify onboarding. So like I gonna make sure that I'm not crossing overboard them all the leads need to be on board, my team needs to be on board. The learning designers who I'd work with those facilitators, I'll just like jot in all the people have a note for myself like really scrappy of like what, what's the relationship between me and them in this part of the decision? And if I, if there's no like red, red light that I'm like, oh this I should definitely like I can add them to the project, share the brief with them and keep moving forward. But if there was somebody that I was like, Ooh, this like is gonna directly impact what they're doing may, that's my trick where it's like maybe I'll put the breaks on, have my conversation with them. Speaker 1 00:17:20 And I almost think that's what I like those teams in that example needed was like great that you had started this new rework but there was no point in time where they all had to, or maybe there was and it just wasn't done thoroughly. But like it didn't seem like there was a point in time where they did a a check of like where are all the other parts of our overall product that are gonna be impacted by a change of this design. This is how I do it for myself and it's dumped into that effect is what I think would would be a, a potentially useful trip wire in in a decision like that that Speaker 2 00:17:49 I love that as an exercise. I feel like I do that in my head <laugh>, but I feel like accu writing it down is really probably helpful cuz it probably gets you thinking in a different way which leads you to discover people you might have forgotten or like think about how the people on that list kind of relate to each other as well. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:18:06 And I actually find it really easy for my brain anyway rather than writing the list down, I'll either like draw it, like literally map them and then I'll move like the people who are like further from, I'll put like me as like a circle in the center and I'm like, okay these teams are like quite close to it, these ones are further right, these ones probably won't care. And just the visual that even makes me be like, okay, so I can kind of see like the map of like what's the like glass radius almost of this decision and like who's closest to it. Okay. I definitely need to talk to them first and like these people are like further out, they're like, they probably won't get blasted too badly and I can like loop them in. But I, and just like that visual for me really helps to just scrub that down onto a page or like on a figma board or on something to like visually map it out versus just list them and it helps me to kind of, yeah, para out the like closeness to the problem. I suppose Speaker 2 00:18:58 That also then makes me think that you create tiers or like zones, which then probably affects how you choose to communicate what information when to people too. So even if you just say there's no like red here, I can keep working that grouping. Exactly. Does that then affect like how you keep people in the loop and like when you update them and notify them of what's going on? Speaker 1 00:19:20 Yeah, definitely. So I would be thinking like, okay this like, yeah my like inner zone. I'd probably wanna actually book a meeting with them and like speak through it with them, make sure they're on board next zone I like, maybe they'll get like added to like an email update for like all stakeholders, just an fyi. And then like the furthest out I can like add them to say like if it's an asana board that you're using or whatever your project management tool is, add them to it so they can like follow along themselves but there's no like I need to directly communicate with that person and that's kind of, again, those zones help me go Okay, like what's the, yeah, the like level of communication that I need and I think do I need to be proactive or can I just like give them the information that that sort of, I'm handing it to them to say like, you follow along, you have questions ask me. Versus like, I need to like run things past you. Speaker 2 00:20:03 That's interesting. It's almost like a racy but for like involvement Speaker 1 00:20:08 Kind of. Yeah. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:20:09 That's interesting. So when you think about that type of a process, what do you think remote makes easier and what do you think it makes more difficult in decision making processes like that? Speaker 1 00:20:20 Um, I think what it makes easier and what I've definitely seen at Shopify is that remote forced people to get better at actually documenting the idea. <laugh> fully fleshing out like actually what is this? What is the brief, like what like problem you're trying to solve, what are you not building, what scope, whatever that might be. And so documenting like what are you doing even after meetings, like things like there were no like agenda notes really after meetings in the past, a lot of the time it was when we were in office it was a lot of like, okay if I like bring this person for a coffee and I like pitch the idea to them verbally and they're in, then I'll just go get <inaudible> and there's no, like, there's no track of that for the person who's not also in that office or it's in a different time zone. Speaker 1 00:21:07 So I think the, the thing about decision making that remote has definitely made easier is that it has forced us out of bad habits that we had around documentation and not being diligent with like sharing updates, sharing notes, sharing progress. So I think that's definitely gotten better. And then I think the thing that's gotten that, that remote has made harder is trust. Honestly I think for newer people like a, it is really difficult to, you know, or it can be at least really difficult in a remote environment to, to build a safe enough like psychological space that you feel like I can make a decision that is like a brave one or like, you know, a creative design one and I feel safe that like failure is gonna be okay here or like learning as I go is gonna be okay. So I think, you know, there's, there is something to be said for like the, just the connection that you have made with a manager, with teammates, with like since then how do people work? Speaker 1 00:21:59 How is it reacted to when a mistake happens? All those little nuanced things I think has made decision making in a remote environment feel more risky maybe than it was in person. And so I think like for managers and for teams, like the challenge that we've definitely seen there is like, it really is around like building trust and cohesion on a team. Like that's not just a nice to have, you know, oh like do a, do a nice break or like do a team building thing like on Zoom when everyone rolls, right? Like no, what if you neglect that stuff like when those more, you know, the, the, the higher risk, let's say decisions and things have to get made. If people don't feel safe and feel that trust is there, they'll just make the safe decision. And from a design perspective that blocks innovation blocks like really doing like creative cool shit that you're like oh we could got this doing if everybody wasn't kind of operating from that place of fear versus that place to feel unru trusted. So yeah, I think that's what's remote was definitely made a lot harder. Speaker 2 00:22:55 So interesting cuz I feel like it connects to what makes it easier cuz there's something about being forced to articulate an idea that can be kind of scary cuz you can mm-hmm. But that whole like what do you think of this? Like why you're having coffee, you can be a little shy about your level of confidence, about an idea being a good one. Whereas I feel like in remote it feels when you express an idea because it's explicit communication and you have to document it and you have to sort of make it clear outside of spaces that you can intervene. So like here's a document person in, you know, 10 hours ahead of me. Like I won't be awake when you read it, which means I can't answer your questions. I can't be like, oh but yeah, no, I didn't mean it quite like that. And I think there's like a real anxiety or, or I mean I experienced this Speaker 1 00:23:38 Where yeah, Speaker 2 00:23:38 They put down on paper it's like, it feels like an act of confidence that you feel like might be too intense or aggressive or too like I'm sure of this thing. And then I feel like it can be received that way too, where people are like, oh, that's your idea. Speaker 1 00:23:53 Uh, yeah. Speaker 2 00:23:55 Interesting that you think that's a good idea. It's like a Twitter kind of vibe where you're like assert critique, assert critique, assert critique rather than like discuss and like jointly Speaker 1 00:24:05 Come to Speaker 2 00:24:06 Some, something Speaker 1 00:24:08 Probably is both good and bad is that you have so much less control over who sees the idea. So like in person I'm like, I'll just like tell Alex only in a room, I share a doc with you. And like, and I guess like at most companies, like there's definitely like a, a default to open internally at Shopify where we're trying and like encourage like sharing things. So I'll come back in the next day and there's like four people who I didn't share it with who are in the doc and there's like comments and you're like, oh god, the idea has like, it if you feel a lot more exposed and you have less control over, like who who will I select to bring into this meeting where I talk about it or like to the coffee chat where I share it. So yeah. That's really interesting. I hadn't really thought about that, but it is so true that you, that that remote aspect really changes that piece too. Speaker 2 00:24:52 Yeah. You feel like you're kind of, you're, I think you're exposed. I think that's the word. I mean like that that's what it feels like and I think that then requires even more trust to be able to be brave and like communicate clearly about what you want, what you think your ideas, even if they're not, you know, even if they're half baked, that takes Yeah that that's a scarier proposition than I've gotten to know people in an office space and I can float something and kind of see what the reaction is and then kind of maybe sort of write it down and then kind of maybe sort of like Speaker 1 00:25:20 <laugh> Speaker 2 00:25:20 Exactly around it. Uh, so funny I asked you like what the sort of nightmare scenario was and I think from that we got some, I think really good tips on thinking about how to structure process, taking that kind of the rest of the way. If you imagine sort of a good decision making process in a remote environment, like what does that look like to you? Like what features exist and you can use a specific sort of design example or something more operational depending on, you know, what feels right. Speaker 1 00:25:45 A lot of like design thinking, and I don't mean to do this but like it, like there's a lot of like frameworks and stuff Brenda, but if done well that process that would be applied to product design or like design in in would work for any other decision. And so like a lot of that like first piece is like define the problem. Like truly spend some time figuring out like what is the decision we're trying to make? Like what is why, why do we care? What's the problem to be solved here? So like defining that, doing a bit of research that's obviously a big part of UX is understanding whether it's like asking users if that's the case, asking teammates, asking other people, like gather some data, why is this causing an issue? Maybe it isn't causing an issue. Maybe that means that like the problem that we're solving that's actually the wrong one. Speaker 1 00:26:26 And you kind of bounce back and forth between these two solutions figure out like whether again it's some design, it's a new process that you're gonna use and then prototype it, like do it, test it, pilot it for two weeks if it's a new meeting that you're thinking to happen because the decision is that like, you know, the comms have been like broken recently so we're actually gonna meet like do that pilot it, evaluate, and then iterate and kind of go back like it should be circular. And I think when it's done really well and decisions like actually follow that and everyone is either doing a similar process to that or like has a point where if it's not that everyone's doing the same one that there's a point, like we talked with that trip wires in there of like, okay and who else do we need to, if we're like, before we like apply the solution or before we like ship a design, who else do we need to talk to about that? Speaker 1 00:27:11 Is there anybody that's in like the blast radi? It's through dangerous. If not, let's just test it, iterate and move on it. And then I think that can help with the, the trust piece cuz it, I think it makes the decision feel less, less risky, less finite like, or less like final I should say. It's, it's, we're gonna try that one and then we're gonna evaluate it in two weeks and then we get to kind of go back through this whole process again anyway. So when that's done well that's kind of ideal in my mind. Yeah, Speaker 2 00:27:38 I really like that. I think it also reduces the risk, which I think connects in remote spaces where if you try and take a decision that that that holds you too far, like the step is too big. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, that's I think also where you get loss of trust, confusion, misalignment because people didn't sort of organically see the process by which you got to that like later stage. And I think I, I see that a lot where people are like, here's the document of how we're gonna do things for the next 12 months. And it's like, oh, who came up with that? How did Speaker 1 00:28:08 You arrive with that? How did get here? Yeah. Speaker 2 00:28:11 Yeah. So it's like the st having smaller steps that are based on observable things and having conversation when appropriate about what everyone is observing to make sure that you're not seeing it from just a single perspective that might be wrong. And then building momentum for a trajectory that you shape over time is what it sounds like. Yeah. Suggesting. Speaker 1 00:28:33 Yeah, exactly. And then I think having, like having a shared set of, of principles or, or values or something around the thing that you're making the decision on also takes away some of the, the risk ambiguity. Like I know like a lot of companies would have, again, design principles or they'll have, you know, a design system. And so the, the goal of that is to like reduce like decision making when we don't, if there's decisions we don't have to keep remaking, we're all on the same page. We've all agreed upon like these are our principles. There's still, it still shouldn't mean that your like a system should be like the, the floor of decision making, right? So like we'll always do at least this and design it should be, but like it's not the ceiling. It should be, okay, so another decision is when do we use the system and when does it make sense to break the system? Speaker 1 00:29:20 Where does it make sense to go outside of it, add to it, when is a situation a snowflake that needs a new decision, decision? When does it fit the system? And so like having an either like a system or some principles or something to help guide the decisions so people don't feel like they're, you know, completely solo and, and they're at least aligned to begin with. And then it's really transparent communication through it I think can really yeah. Can just continue to take away unnecessary ambiguity. And like the decision you're focusing on then is like the, is the right, right one, you're not making the first four stages of it that have been made 20 times before in your company that like, you don't need to recreate that decision. Speaker 2 00:29:57 Yeah, totally. I think that's the, when you start getting spun out is when it's like, well we made this decision, well why did we make that decision? We should go back. And then you're, you're making decisions about how you make decisions while you're making decisions, which is never a good thing <laugh>. Um, and it becomes this like through the looking glass of like, you know, you're, you're, you're sort of proxy warring about something rather than just talking specifically directly about what you wanna talk about, which is yeah, never good. I mean I'm wondering, so there's a question from the community space about um, how to effectively communicate the process by which a decision was made without either overwhelming people with information or being like coy or glib I think is the subtext there about like, well you weren't there for the choice, but like here's the decision and now Yeah, now you're included <laugh>, you're welcome. Speaker 1 00:30:50 Yeah. Speaker 2 00:30:50 Yeah. Enjoy it. So how do you think about, um, I mean we talked a little bit about it in terms of thinking about how the extent to which people are affected should relate to how and when information is shared with them, but do you have thoughts on that as you just cited that sort of transparent communication process around choices? Speaker 1 00:31:05 It's always hard, right? Like it's really hard to know exactly how many people and, and it's like how many people should be included in this level of communication this level. But I think what can kind of serve as a bit of a safety blanket so to speak, is if you have like a general, typically when we're making decisions, here are the stages we're gonna go through. Like we always wanna make sure these are the things we prioritize, these are the things we care about, we're always gonna pick this over this or like we're always gonna try to value this. And then it's almost that like when you see the decision, you, we use this decision making process is how was got us here, we made some trade offs but like here's kind of the, we did stick to the template that we know we all agreed on and that we always used. Speaker 1 00:31:50 Cause I think that saves the like the like in the weeds, this is how we got from this stage and this stage to this stage on this specific subject and but yet gives a transparent like here's how at our company or on our team we're gonna think about this and then like, are you aligned to that kind of broader higher level one? And if not, like that's a cool like one-to-one conversation with a manager or whatever around like, oh like kinda like philosophical, like I don't know if I agree with and that that's a different conversation. So like I don't like this specific decision and I think they're like, it's helpful to separate their Speaker 2 00:32:24 Out. Yeah, that's super interesting. Like a, like a Rosetta Stone kind of for decisions or something <laugh>. Yeah. Yeah because I think, I think that's a really important and nuanced distinction of when you disagree with the decision that was made versus when you disagree with the process by which the decision was made versus when you d disagree with like one choice among the many choices that constituted a decision. Cuz I think sometimes when you're not communicating effectively about the frameworks and thinking and values that guide choices mm-hmm <affirmative> people use one thing to crack open conversation about a bigger thing that they don't feel comfortable broaching. So rather than them saying, uh, I'm not sure I see a consistency in a coherence in how we make choices, could we sit down and like write that down? They're gonna say, I think that was a bad choice. And I get really frustrated whenever we try and make decisions because da da da da. Like no one is gonna be able to see that their problem is that they don't have a code for understanding like how the organization makes choices. Um, and I think that's just like a really great, for me at least way to separate it out in terms of what people might take issue with and also what is a fundamental problem that you need to address versus what is a one-on-one conversation because it's always, there's always subjective components of any position. Speaker 1 00:33:40 Exactly. And I think even for you yourself, like it's a lot easier for me anyway to know like there is times when everybody has to, you know, like disagree and commit. You're like, it's not how I would've done it, but I can't. But I, I agree and I'll move forward with it. It's, I find it so much easier if I'm like, I agree with the, the, you know, the, the principles or the, the, the fundamentals that drove that decision. I still don't like this particular choice. Uh, the actual, like the output from it. Like this one I wouldn't have, but I understand where, how you got there. So it's easier for me to, to get on board and to, to be like, oh, I don't have to grade you this time, but I can commit and I can get on board and move before did it. Versus if I'm not sure which one of those things and that's all tangled up and I can't tell if it's that I don't actually, hang on, I don't fundamentally agree with how we like what we're valuing and what we're choosing and how we're choosing versus the actual, I don't mind the, if that's tangled, I find it a lot harder to, to move forward with. So I think, and I know for teams of mine and stuff, that's always been like a helpful way to kind of par those two things. Speaker 2 00:34:42 That's super interesting. And I imagine if you have a fundamental disagreement with the way that your organization makes decisions or the values they bring to those choices, that's something that you're probably never gonna get over. Um, and that's again, I think that like you might wanna consider leaving the organization because you're just gonna be annoyed every time there's a choice that gets Speaker 1 00:35:02 There. Exactly. Yeah. And that's a really healthy conversation to have with somebody, right? Like if you're having a one-to-one and you're like that real talk like that is how we make decision at this computer. These are the things that we value and it's gr it's, it's okay if you're not aligned to that and it's okay, attrition is okay, like those things are fine, but like having that decoration helps you spot that and be like, oh wait, it, it's a different conversation we need to have now. And that's, that's not always a bad thing either. You know, Speaker 2 00:35:25 It also makes things explicit in a way that I think in the same way we try and use the like hey, like I have kind of this idea maybe that it is interesting. Like it's a similar thing of like I've been thinking that we're gonna do this thing thing, okay we're doing this thing, okay, get on board, we're doing this thing is a slippery way of making choices and I feel like that's a huge problem. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and I think it's common. Whereas I think if you say this is what a decision looks like in our organization, these are the values we bring, make those choices, this is roughly the process we use for most decisions that rise to a level of we need to actually like really be mindful of the group dynamics or whatever. And then, you know, we do it every time. This is when you'll know whatever. Um, that feels so much harder to do because it requires a level of confidence and explicitness and um, clarity of thought and you know, willing to have the conflict necessary to arrive at it. Cuz I imagine that's like when the real, you know, existential conflict happens when you're figuring out like what are the values that influence our decisions? And that's such a more interesting conflict to have than the really petty, I didn't know, why am I the last to know kind of Exactly. Speaker 1 00:36:30 <laugh>. Yes, exactly. Speaker 2 00:36:33 Um, super interesting. Okay, well I mean I guess that's a lot. I was gonna say that's it <laugh>, but it's <laugh>. Um, it's a whole lot and I thank you for kind of, I don't know, thinking about something maybe from a lens that's slightly different than your normal, um, day-to-day. Cause I know decision making is this like massive, strange, interesting topic. Um, yeah and I found this. No, it was really helpful. Speaker 1 00:36:56 Yeah, it was fun to think of it, like to zoom out a little bit and think about it. So no, I loved having the chance to do it. Speaker 2 00:37:01 It was great. I guess we'll leave it there and folks in the community space, if you wanna drop questions for Sharon below, we have invited her into the space. Depending on when you ask those questions, she may answer them if, and this happens in three months and you only get around to it then maybe not. So get get your questions in now so Sharon can answer them. But thanks so much, this is fantastic. Speaker 1 00:37:20 Yeah, no, I hope it was helpful and I'm more than happy to chat with anybody who's got questions, so please yeah, pop them in and thanks for having me. Speaker 2 00:37:27 Awesome. Okay, see you soon.

Other Episodes

Episode 8

June 14, 2023 00:32:06
Episode Cover

Episode 8 | Making magic and momentum in virtual events with Sarah Allen

When in-person conferences became impossible in 2020, Mozilla’s Sarah Allen and her team had to move their renowned annual convening MozFest online. But how...


Episode 4

November 01, 2023 00:06:45
Episode Cover

Episode 17 | How to save time with good documentation

Good documentation fuels remote teams, giving your team the info they need at their fingertips to get stuff done without having to ask a...


Episode 5

November 15, 2023 00:06:03
Episode Cover

Episode 18 | How to make and communicate decisions remotely

How does your team make decisions? Are individuals empowered to make choices on their own, or does everything happen by committee? In remote life,...