The Calm Company Manifesto (Fried & DHH)

Itamar Goldminz
May 14, 2019 · 3 min read

This is essentially a book summary/synthesis of:

It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and DHH of Basecamp

In essence, the book is a collection of short, blog-size chapters each covering a different aspect of how they run Basecamp which together creates a fairly clear picture of the overall philosophy and the experience of working at basecamp.

In full disclosure, they had me at page 27 (of 234):

It begins with this idea: your company is a product… but when you think about your company as a product, you ask different questions: Do people who work here know how to use the company? It is simple? Complex? It is obvious how it works? What’s fast about it? What’s slow about it? Are there bugs? What’s broken that we can fix quickly and what’s going to take a long time?

I’ve always used this analogy and seeing the authors use it was an early indication that I’m likely reading a book by kindred spirits. My only nit about the book is its built-in marketing: the unusual and not-so-visually-appealing cover design (above) and the mouthful, not-so-catch title. Don’t let them discourage from reading this otherwise great book.

Paying homage to the agile manifesto, I decided to personally rebrand it as “The Calm Company Manifesto” and summarize its key points in the form of “x over y” statements:

Work & Life

  • Mutual give and take between work and life over life gives, and work takes
  • 8(hours a day)/40(hours a week) over 24/7
  • Paid paid vacation, and 1-month sabbatical every 3 years over cash performance bonuses
  • Co-workers as supporter/allies of families over “family” company identity
  • Look at actual work over butts-in-seats

Communication & Collaboration

  • Physical space: library for work over office for distractions
  • Personal “office hours” over “always available”
  • Eventual response over immediate response
  • Asynchronous comms (email) over synchronous comms (Slack, messenger, real-world interrupts)
  • Intentional friction in meeting scheduling over easily grab time on someone’s calendar
  • Monthly “heartbeat“ updates (joy-of-missing-out) over FOMO
  • Present out-of-person (asynchronously) with long silence and deep considering over present in-person and get knee-jerk reactions
  • Disagree & commit / consultative (single decision maker) decision making over consensus

Planning & Execution

  • Continuous improvement over goals and targets
  • 6-week sprints over annual plans
  • Time-boxes (fixed time, variable scope) over deadlines
  • Independencies over dependencies
  • Sometimes “good enough” over always “gold standard”
  • What will it take? over whatever it takes
  • Figuring out what works over “best practices”
  • Not now over yes, later (promises)

Recruiting

  • Ramp up time over hit the ground running
  • Work sample test over credentials and pedigree

Comp Philosophy

  • Single market rate based on role and level, regardless of geo
  • Automatic, upwards-only, annual update based on new market data
  • 25% of annual profit growth distributed to employees
  • If acquired/sold, 5% of transaction distributed to employees
  • No performance bonuses
  • No salary negotiations

Org Hacking

Solving Human Puzzles

Itamar Goldminz

Written by

I enjoy solving human puzzles

Org Hacking

Solving Human Puzzles

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