In a 2007 World Bank study, researchers found that by replacing dirt floors with cement ones, parasites decreased by 78 percent, diarrhea by 49 percent, and cognitive development improved significantly in children. Dirt floors are, in a word, dirty—but they’re also a breeding ground for illness and mosquitos, and pose other risks to the health of over one billion people worldwide.
When Gayatri Datar first visited Rwanda in 2013, as part of a Stanford Business School course on designing for extreme affordability, she recalled seeing dirt floors everywhere. Following her visit, Gaya set out to design an affordable and sanitary alternative, and EarthEnable was born. Gaya and a fellow Stanford student developed a solution using local materials and a plant-based sealant to create a sustainable, environmentally friendly, healthy, and affordable earthen floor. By leveraging knowledge that already exists in villages, EarthEnable uses grassroots R&D to develop new flooring products and provide local economies with opportunities for masons and builders to build their own businesses.
Today, EarthEnable’s team is made up of nearly 600 employees, 99% of whom are from Rwanda and Uganda, and 100% of whom are based in Rwanda and Uganda. Ryan Conlin is EarthEnable’s Chief of Staff, working closely with the organization’s CEO, Gaya, to execute various leadership functions, manage company-wide communications, and collaborate with external partners.
When Ryan joined the team, there were several different methods being used for tracking progress on projects, including emails, spreadsheets, and documents. “It was all over the place and very confusing,” he explains. What’s more, the organization’s staff is spread out across Rwanda and Uganda, so communicating and collaborating across geographic boundaries was difficult. People in different locations didn’t always have the information they needed to do their jobs.
As a result, the EarthEnable team faced several challenges:
So the leadership team set out to find a solution that would help the organization better manage their work. In order for a tool to serve them, EarthEnable needed to be able to organize work by department (since roles vary greatly across the organization) and assign tasks and due dates to individuals (to help with accountability). Most of all, the tool also needed to be intuitive enough for every member of the team to use as EarthEnable is the first office job for many of its employees.
Gaya and the leaders at EarthEnable ultimately chose Asana because it supported their general project management and timeline tracking needs. Asana had the necessary functionality and it was intuitive enough for the whole team to use right away. The vast library of resources and support available to help the team with their rollout sealed the deal: Asana would replace spreadsheets, word docs, and emails.
Knowing the value of leadership buy-in for successful adoption, the management team was the first to commit to using Asana to track their ongoing priorities and team meetings. Then the rest of the organization was notified that all work would be tracked in Asana, and managers would expect to see the status of projects updated in the tool. With managers and reports both using Asana, holding everyone accountable became easy.
People quickly saw the value Asana provided because their task lists were easily accessible and manager-report communications improved. This started a virtuous cycle and further encouraged people to use the tool—in fact, many employees even started using it for their personal to-do lists.
“Our management team’s commitment to holding everyone accountable to using Asana contributed hugely to our successful rollout. By quickly adopting it and consistently asking employees to point to their progress in the tool, everyone got on board seamlessly.” -Gayatri Datar, CEO and Co-Founder at EarthEnable
Since adopting Asana organization-wide, EarthEnable has seen many improvements to how they work. Both managers and reports are able to hold each other accountable by using one-on-one projects to track individual responsibilities. Comments allow stakeholders to check in on the status of a task easily, no matter which office, role, or location they’re in.
The team has also seen an increase in efficiency from using Asana to apply for and report on grants. By using a task for each grant, they can easily see due dates, who’s responsible for a grant, and when reporting needs to be completed. Rather than relying on one unruly file to track dozens of grants—which made it nearly impossible to know the status of any individual grant—tracking them in Asana helps EarthEnable access more funding and maintain connections with great donors who provide mentorship and ideas to the organization. With Asana reporting the team can quickly and easily show those who support the organization the impact their contributions have made, further helping EarthEnable to hone and improve its goals. As a result, they’ve seen an increase in the number of deadlines met and a smoother grants process overall.
In addition to enabling transparency for external supporters, Asana also provides EarthEnable employees internal visibility across the organization. Using Boards view, EarhEnable now tracks incoming requests from across the entire company in a single project. Doing so provides everyone with visibility into the status of a request and cross-functional stakeholders can easily be looped in. Whether a request is to fix a piece of equipment or a suggestion for improving an organization-wide system, it’s easy to submit and follow along with clearly labeled columns to denote status, so everyone can see where a request stands.
Not only do things run more smoothly across the organization, executive priorities are streamlined, too: Gaya, Ryan, and other leaders maintain a repository of top level concerns and work in a project called “Executive.”
With organization-wide adoption and workflows in Asana, Ryan and the entire organization have noticed that processes run smoother and faster and collaboration is easier for everyone. This means faster delivery to the communities EarthEnable serves—a win for the organization and those in need of better flooring.
What’s more, everyone at EarthEnable has adopted a project management mindset—a win for the efficiency of the organization and for each individual. Since EarthEnable is the first office experience for many of its employees, Asana is a great place to start. Using the tool, every employee is empowered to think through their projects, prioritize their task lists, and focus on their work instead of getting stuck on where to start.
“Using Asana, we can see our progress, stay aligned with stakeholders, keep on track towards our goals, and achieve them faster—which means a more speedy delivery to our communities, too.” -Ryan Conlin, Chief of Staff at EarthEnable
“As soon as I joined EarthEnable, I was directed to set up an Asana account and use it to track my tasks. Every week I check in with my manager about my progress using Asana. Asana is easy to use and helps me stay organized.” -Flora Ufitinema, Executive Assistant at EarthEnable
EarthEnable’s commitment has always been to making floors more sanitary and affordable. In 2019, they developed a method for obtaining materials from customers' own backyards—rather than a local quarry. This new method allows them to continue reducing prices and providing better flooring to Rwandans. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has become even more important because earthen flooring can worsen respiratory diseases.
“Asana has made us better project managers because it encourages an accountability mindset for every employee.” -Ryan Conlin, Chief of Staff at EarthEnable
With a new production method comes much retraining, and EarthEnable has worked with local masons to teach them the techniques associated with these new materials. They tracked and managed the entire process–from R&D to training for masons to new building procedures–using Asana. As a result, they’ve been able to install over 1200 floors using the new method since March 2020.
Ryan, Gaya, and the team remain committed to finding more innovative, hyper-local ways to build better floors starting with an efficient business and have ambitious goals for further shortening the supply chain—and entire installation process—this year and beyond.
Using Asana wall-to-wall has been crucial in helping Hack Reactor scale. As Hack Reactor CEO Tony Phillips puts it, ”We’ve cut our operations costs in half because we’re able to execute more efficiently with the processes we’ve set up in Asana.“ And as costs go down, the quality class experience—and the post graduation experience— goes up. Graduates from Hack Reactor are hired at a 98% rate.