The New Future of Work, a Sam Harris podcast conversation with Matt Mullenweg on distributed working

I’m feeling a bit awkward. Why? I’ve just heard another tech founder articulate the value pitch for our product, way better than I ever have.

strategy execution and the new future of work by Sam Harris

Sam Harris’ podcast conversation, The New Future of Work, with Matt Mullenweg is truly inspiring.

Matt is the founder of Automattic, the company behind Wordpress.com, Tumblr and WooCommerce. Every day, every employee at Automattic works from wherever they want to. Automattic does not have offices. Automattic has 1,200 employees working from 75 countries and speaking over 90 languages.

After listening to their conversation, I’ll now have to stop myself using the term “remote working”. Remote from what? Distributed working, with no offices to be remote from, is the new future of work.

distributed working - 5 levels

In his conversation with Sam, and in this follow-up blog post by Matt, Matt describes 5 levels of autonomy in distributed work:

distributed working - challenges

Matt is articulate, open and reflective when talking with Sam. I could listen to the two of them all day.

He describes with candor the challenges of achieving level 4 and striving to level 5, and he provides some great insights on how they solve these challenges at Automattic. Matt explains the moral imperative of moving to a distributed model and the benefits to work:life balance, relationships, productivity, risk (when you pause to think COVID-19 won’t be a one off event, and in many respects this is a rather mild version of pandemic threats), resilience, shareholders and the environment.

Matt was inspired by Daniel Pink’s work in the book Drive, which Matt describes as: “if you want people to be happy, motivated, content, satisfied and fulfilled in their work, it’s not really about compensation or giving them bonuses … it’s really about three things: mastery, autonomy and purpose.

What struck me as I was listening to this, yet another brilliant interview by Sam, is the extensive efforts Matt and his team have gone to to make distributed working actually work. Not just their clever org design thinking and ability to learn objectively and evolve way beyond what analysts thought possible. What really caught my attention (and that of a shareholder who sent me the podcast) is their underlying tech set-up, and the leadership, discipline and processes it must take to induct, adhere to, keep organized and maintain.

distributed working - making it work

Automattic has pulled together a whole bunch of different tech capabilities to make distributed working actually work. When I listen to how Matt describes these enabling capabilities, almost everything he mentions is out-of-the-box and ready to go inside #stratapp.

Hence my awkward realization. Matt Mullenweg can explain the value of #stratapp, way better than I can.

matching Matt’s thinking to #stratapp’s features

Here are a few examples of the existing out-of-the-box features inside #stratapp, as they directly correspond to the capabilities Matt describes in his conversation with Sam:

  1. Live Meeting Notes - Matt articulates the importance of live meeting notes, to reflect the shared understanding on what’s agreed to. This is a core feature of #stratapp (including a timed agenda, live editing, private notes, social chat, links and meeting actions that automatically appear in your workspace). You can link the Live Meeting Note to any workboard or card (strategy, KPI, risk, idea or task) inside #stratapp, so you can easily keep track of what Live Meeting Notes belong to what, and easily navigate back to the source.
  2. Social with Context - Automattic have configured an internal blogging solution, so that the organization can collaborate on topics, with nested conversations, including search and keyword trending. This is built into #stratapp. Not only that, those nested and searchable social conversations take place on each card or workboard, giving immediate context to the social conversations and appropriate notifications. #stratapp presentes global hashtag popular vs trending data, and trending conversations are presented for strategy and KPIs. Imagine all that, combined with powerful filters and one click access to the source and context.
  3. Social with Structure - Matt describes how writing with clarity is key for distributed working. Atlassian came up with an idea to tag social posts as a comment, action or decision. #stratapp has taken that to a whole new level with: comment, agree, disagree, question, task, risk, idea, decision, decision request, approval, approval request, response request or note that. Imagine the power of that, for example: I’ve been away for 72 hours. What strategy related questions have been asked, and what decisions or approvals have been made, whilst I was away? Great, now let’s narrow that down further to only the strategy aspects I own or am directly involved in. Matt describes how it is critical to find something to replace email. We agree, #stratapp kills internal email.
  4. Direction & Strategy - Matt talks about allowing people to see, understand and contribute from all over the world, at a time of day that best suits each of them as individuals. Again, this is natural part of #stratapp’s design, whilst applying the latest frameworks from Harvard, Dr Roger Martin, Richard Rumelt and Simon Sinek, in a simple and easy to understand UX that every employee can engage on, with little or no end user training.
  5. Live Org Chart - Matt describes how in some ways the methods and culture of distributed working make it easier to see who is working on what right now, as opposed to the well dressed employee who turns up early everyday, asks smart questions and might be doing nothing for weeks or months whilst looking busy at their cubicle. #stratapp takes radical transparency to a whole new level. You can browse a Live Org Chart to see the latest direct and matrix reporting lines, and you can also see who is working on what right now, the status and interactions, and the progress on the KPIs/OKRs they own; with these views of course subject to security settings. This functionality takes collaboration to a whole new level, especially for millennials and new joiners, who are proactively looking to get up to speed and contribute beyond their immediate set of assigned tasks.
  6. Org Design - there are 11 attributes of org design, and as you shift to distributed working being able to tap into these is a game changer for connecting and collaborating with the people and teams you need to, without having to remember individual names. #stratapp is the world’s first SaaS app to build @org-design into both social and work collaboration.
  7. Output Matters, not the Hours Worked - Matt talks about removing the hard-wired lizard-brain bias we all have. One thing I love with #stratapp, is being able to see the work of all levels in the organization, and to interact within the context of that work. Output is what matters, and #stratapp helps you achieve Ray Dalio’s thinking on an ideas meritocracy - an environment where the best idea wins, not those of positional power. I also love the bottom-up accountability. When a person 4-5 management levels below asks me a question on a card or workboard inside #stratapp, I feel compelled to answer thoughtfully and timely, as a bunch of our colleagues at all levels will probably see the interaction.
  8. Well Being & Work:Life Balance - this is a core value of Automattic and we have some exciting ideas for our product roadmap. Right now we add value through real time clarity, structure and context - we give a purpose to the work and we power autonomy. We also kill about 95% of internal email without flooding users with a firehose of random social posts - that alone seems to elevate employee well being.

Upon reflection, I wish I had reached out to Matt a few years ago as we were starting our journey on product design. I think he would have saved us a few iterations and lots of time to arrive at the wonderful UX and roadmap we have now.

distributed working - seamless EX

#stratapp makes it easy to provide all levels of your organization with autonomy and purpose.

#stratapp is the world’s first SaaS product to bring together strategy, KPIs/OKRs, people and work into one seamless employee experience:

distributed working - journey success

I recommend listening to Sam Harris’ podcast conversation, The New Future of Work, with Matt Mullenweg, and as you start to think about your organization’s journey to what Matt describes as levels 3, 4 and 5, I encourage you to embrace #stratapp.

#stratapp will make your journey through levels 3 and 4, and then onto 5, so much easier.


Ash Richardson
Author:
co-founder

20 years digital tech and strategy experience, including co-founding #team, Accenture, MP of Oyster Partners (now DigitasLBi) and ex-VC investing in technology startups. Unique skills on product strategy, design and offshoring.

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connects to:

culture elevation

  • radical transparency and trust
  • real-time alignment and collaboration
  • genuine digital transformation and remote working

next gen ready

  • by 2025 more than 75% of employees are y-gen / millennials
  • asking y-gen to collaborate via email and static docs, is like asking all of us to go back to using fax machines

employee productivity

  • 15-30% increase in productivity
  • provide every employee the tools to succeed
  • attract and retain the best talent, for the right reasons

business performance

  • 15-30% increase in business valuation
  • de-risk and make the business agile
  • execute strategy and daily work above expectations
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