Viscerality, Cadence, and Organizational Momentum.

Princess Cadence from my little pony.

This post focusses on identifying the stressors on a business that can impact short-term processes, and what a healthy state of disruption at a company looks like.

I was triggered to write this after identifying weekly anxieties and stressors, and understanding + working through them with our team. Doing this together has always been a mandate; and it’s a process that works.

As a rulebook or a guide, having this model written publicly will make it easier for me to live by. I hope it helps you in the same way as a point of reference.

We’ll explore all of this through three key words: visceral, cadence, and momentum.

1. Defining visceral:

vis·cer·al | ˈvis(ə)rəl | adjective: “Of or relating to the viscera, the visceral nervous system. Relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect.”

On any given Tuesday, we can get a sense in our gut that something is off in our workplace– that it isn’t working right. This thing can occupy our minds, cause anxiety, stress, and stall productivity. It’s a visceral feeling.

The structures that we create for ourselves at Design Cofounders seeks to balance and alleviate the stressors of things that we can’t control– and this structure is reinforced by processes.

ex: In the world of product development, ‘agile’ is a structure reinforced by scrum methodology. In business, mission is a structure reinforced by culture and process.

When something is going wrong, it will slow down the process, re-work it, and iterate it before carrying on like a good soldier. This is the rule, rather than the exception, and the disruption is a healthy part of our organization.

And that’s ok.

The healthy disruption happens often; with a new hire on-boarding, new client relationship, when the tools we use change, or when our current projects and company goals suddenly shift. These things temporarily slow down the processes of execution, re-work them, and leave better, more efficient processes in place.

I’d like to think that our awareness and investment in these interjections is what separates us and other companies from those that operate without a balanced ‘organizational viscerality’.

example: when we hire, we recognize a supportive 6 month on-boarding process.

What is our investment here? It’s an investment in time, in people, and in a loss of immediate short term cadence.

2. Defining cadence:

ca·dence | ˈkādns | noun: “a modulation or inflection of the voice. A sequence of notes or chords comprising the close of a musical phrase”.

An organization’s momentum is made up of cycles of cadence. Consider a cadence as a process. Twice a week status updates across individuals from our team are a process that creates a cadence when moving along swiftly.

As cadences are encapsulated in brief cycles, a healthy loss of cadence is short term. The investment in ‘a loss of cadence’ provides a return in the resulting increase of organizational momentum.

The overall picture looks something like this: from a visceral reaction to the problem with a process, to re-working it over a short period of time, to the resulting in a crisper and more efficient momentum.

<momentum>cadence=(visceral reaction to a cadence)=cadence<momentum>
<momentum>cadence=(re-working cadence)=cadence<momentum>

The cadence of a process is like a muscle: it tears and re-builds stronger in healthy times. And in unhealthy viscerally problematic time, the entire skin of it tears, and creates a scar tissue for that particular cadence. It becomes even stronger.

Throughout this entire process shown above, the organization’s momentum remains intact while the cadences within it are iterated.

It’s a healthy thing until the momentum of the organization is disrupted.

3. Defining momentum:

mo·men·tum | mōˈmen(t)əm,məˈmen(t)əm | noun
1. PHYSICS: “the quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity. The impetus gained by a moving object.”

The momentum of Design Cofounders can never be disrupted. When it is disrupted, it puts our business at risk. The failure to launch a product, project, or initiative, for example, disrupts our momentum. It’s the result of visceral issues with cadences that were not addressed.

We’ve had a lot of successes and failures with dealing with cadences. Some have resulted in strengthening our momentum, and have resulted in disrupting our momentum.

Some examples of re-working the cadence of processes this year:

  • recognizing the need for extended on-boarding and support for new team members.
  • creating written standard operations for all internal processes created and owned by members of our own team.
  • the creation of Asana project templates to standardize all consulting projects, from workshops, to design, to development.
  • recognizing overall project health as an issue, and creating a process for mid-project check-ins and pauses initiated by our internal team in a standardized way.

The resulting increase in the cadence of processes:

  • less turnover and increased commitment and happiness in employees.
  • distributed self and co-management of projects and processes.
  • consistent project schedules and processes, and the ability stand up projects very quickly without impacting ramp-up time, strategy -> design -> development -> client hand offs. De-risking the impact on margins.
  • a healthier team: less anxiety about looming deadlines and changing requirements. Instead there’s a shift in ownership of requirements from product management and clients to the product team who are responsible for self-identifying and taking control of their workflows, increasing communication, and stamping deadlines for change.

An increase in organizational momentum

Spending our time to recognize these items compounded their efficiency and effectiveness as processes, and increased their smooth operation. It increased their cadence exponentially. And this more than made up for any perceived lost momentum at the time.

The very short-term investment of resources (people, dollars) and time + opportunity cost of project work gave us a very real mid-term return in improved cadence, and a long term return of increased momentum of our business to do things faster, and reach our yearly goals.

A final note on making the investment:

This costs actual money to do. It’s where agencies, as an example, want to build products but neglect to put the structure in place and dedicate resources to them. It’s where technical debt adds up in development because we want to push forward towards the short-term goals. because the short term goals ensure our survival.

In building a sustainable business, we re-invest back into our company every quarter, month, week, and day. We build the revenue and the runway to alleviate excuses of other work being more important. We prioritize, and choose where our re-investment goes.

Deciding not to put the time and effort into these things for the sake of financial survival not only shouldn’t be an option on the table, but it’s an indicator that something is not right.

Good luck in dealing with your cadence.

I encourage discussion through Medium responses, comments, and highlights, and requests for revision, as this is a living, breathing document.

Mustefa Jo’shen.