I’m coming up to four years at Deliveroo, and I’m serious: for a long time, I imagined five or six people was as big as our design team would ever need to get. Maybe one day, I thought, I’ll be the guy who designs all our stuff for riders. Sure, the speed at which things were happening was impressive… but still, we were only available in parts of London. The number of Deliveroo orders barely registered on any graph you’d draw today. I still remember seeing a rider out on the road for the first time — three months after I started.
So I don’t mind saying that the idea I’d be writing this as part of a combined Content, Research and Design team — a group of 50 that works collaboratively every day and now dwarfs the company I joined in the first place — did not occur to me. Equally (and completely reasonably), our team’s size often comes as a surprise to people outside the company when they hear it. It means I’ve come to expect the question that often follows… what do we all actually do?
You’d be forgiven for asking that question. I’ve wondered it myself.
“I’ll go first.”
The Deliveroo products you’re likely most familiar with — our apps and website — are really just the tip of the iceberg. Our apps for riders, our tablets for restaurants, our tools for internal teams… the list goes on. All of these things exist, all of them are being worked on right now, and all of them are heavily interconnected and dependent on each other. It makes for a really interesting product design challenge.
Naturally, whatever people are helping build, there are all sorts of opportunities for regular, more polished sharing of their work to a wider audience. But early last year, I couldn’t help but wonder: all these people making all these products… what are they actually working on right now?
Without thinking too much about it, I fired off this Slack message to the researchers and designers who, like me, were at the time working on all our non-customer-facing things:
And that was it. Don’t polish it, don’t think too much about it — just post a photo or screenshot of whatever you’re up to right now, and sum it up in a sentence. Bonus points for leaving amusing Slack reactions on other people’s posts, more bonus points for going and having conversations with other people about what they posted. A quick half-dozen replies later, we decided to keep it up daily.
For any tradition that’s regularly scheduled to the same extent, it’s possible for it to quickly become more burdensome than useful if you’re not careful. But I think there’s a handful of things that made this format catch on for us:
- Keeping it lightweight. People are busy, and any block in someone’s calendar is a potential interruption. Nobody needs to spend more than 30 seconds a day preparing for this — what they happen to be working on might be super-polished, barely more than a first sketch on a napkin, or anything in between. It’s all useful for others to see, and therefore a potential conversation waiting to happen.
- Keeping it light-hearted. Nobody’s quietly keeping score here. Sometimes people forget to post on any given day. Some days have more overall posts and reactions than others. It doesn’t matter — the emphasis is just on helping the team stay more aware of and invested in each other’s work and thought processes, and ultimately in each other. Messy is good. Stupid Slack reactions are good.
- Keeping it communal. In theory a team could set up a Slack reminder to trigger this every day — but I think rituals like this have a tendency to die if they’re left to one person (or no people) to organise. So if you’re the person who’s reminding people to post today, you get to pick the next person to do it tomorrow.
By organising it like this, our new daily tradition seemed to largely run itself, and awareness of what others were focusing on seemed to be improving. Before long, we’d expanded it to the entire CRD team, with its own dedicated Slack channel to encourage everyone to pile in with quick updates once a day. The name we’d gradually adopted — What Are You Working On (or, affectionately, WAYWO, pronounced as a single word) — stuck, too.
It still runs today.
The format remains exactly the same almost two years later, with just a little extra structure to make it work for a larger team.
We still nominate someone every morning to make it happen. Anyone can pick anyone else — one team member even built a little randomiser with everyone’s names. And if someone hasn’t been picked for a while, we’ll make sure they’re more likely to get a turn.
That person asks everyone what they’re up to. With an @here to the Slack channel whenever they like (mid- to late afternoon normally works best), our daily nominee will ask the team ‘what are you working on’. And although just posting that is entirely acceptable, people have turned out to have some enjoyably creative ways of doing so.
In come the posts! Across Content, Research and Design… across our customer, rider, restaurant and other products… our daily snapshot of what everyone’s thinking about and doing comes in. The team’s now big enough that it’d be almost impossible to find that out otherwise. And as we work on ever more complex projects, and have abstracted away a lot of interface decisions through our UI Infrastructure team, it’s been interesting to watch people’s daily posts evolve naturally over time to show the details of their underlying thought processes in addition to nice-looking pixels.
Posts are seen. Reactions are used. Memes are born. I may be spending the rest of this writeup emphasising WAYWO’s ability to help us share our work, but I do have to take a moment to appreciate how many of our team’s in-jokes are borne from it specifically. 🍉
The cycle continues. Today’s person in charge can nominate the next person if they like. Either way, we’ll do it all again tomorrow.
Although this all started out of a genuine desire for us to share and have conversations more easily, it’s also fair to say this isn’t necessarily a tradition that every team would find useful. Smaller teams might be more naturally aware of what everyone else is doing. Teams that work across a more focused product surface might find regular updates like this get repetitive quickly. TL;DR: YMMV.
For us, though, with our ever-larger Content, Research and Design disciplines collaborating across an ever-larger product surface, there remains a place in our team for a tradition that encourages visibility, conversations and simple team togetherness — without being another thing in the calendar. Within Deliveroo, the CRD team tries to work ‘in the open’ wherever we can, and we ultimately can’t hold each other accountable for stuff we can’t see.
WAYWO has never replaced our team’s more formal and structured sharing initiatives — but that’s because it was never intended to. And the ratio of awareness it provides versus effort required is something that only gets more valuable the more we grow. If you think it might work for your team, I’d encourage you to give it a try!
One last thing: for obvious reasons, there are a lot of things that get posted in our WAYWO channel that I can’t show in a blog post.
Is this where I do the ‘come and join the team to find out about them’ thing to finish? Yes. Yes, it is.