Episodes: how we add rhythm to our work

22 April 2015
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Our mission to help teams of people work together effectively starts right here, at the Asana office in San Francisco. We can’t empower our customers to be better unless we’re an effective organization ourselves, so we spend a lot of time reflecting on our internal patterns (a form of mindfulness). Does the team spend their energy on the most important problems? Is every Asana working at their full potential? Are we creating a culture built to last? As we find things we’d like to change, we incorporate them into our company processes and a lot of those processes are encapsulated in the recurring way that we segment and plan our efforts; a structure we call Episodes.

Turning small milestones into progress

Episodes provide rhythm to our work. They transform a continuous stream of small milestones into progress that feels tangible and worth celebrating. Between each one, we can look back at the collection of goals we accomplished and clearly witness the advancement of the company and the product we’re building, day by day. We also look forward and consider the most important activities, out of anything we might do, that will accelerate that progress. Coordinating this intentional reflection allows us to be explicit about the way we balance our time and energy across priorities, instead of just making each decision on the margin, as it comes up. After we have created clarity of plan, we can proceed confidently with execution, aligned in a common direction.

Almost all companies have a repeating process to facilitate planning, typically on a quarterly basis, but there’s surprisingly little discussion of how they work in practice, and how to get the most value out of the time spent. To help other teams figure out what will work in their organization and to get feedback on our own system, we’d like to share our primary internal documentation that describes how Episodes work. In addition to giving you insight into how we plan each Episode and track goals, you’ll get insight into various episodic traditions that define our culture.

The complete internal documentation on Episodes

Today, we have a well-defined, but nonetheless continually evolving process that facilitates alignment across the entire company. Whenever we’ve publicly shared parts of the process, the community has engaged enthusiastically and we’ve seen many teams adopt some elements for their own organizations. We’d like to continue to share what we know and have learned about working this way by publishing our internal documentation on Episodes.

Would you try it?

Although we only really know how our version of quarters works at Asana, we believe it would work well in a range of organizations. We’ve tried to highlight what we think might need to be tweaked in circumstances other than our own (particularly for much larger companies) and have also described some alternatives we’ve considered over time. We’d love to hear what you think of our approach, and learn about structures that have helped make your team more successful. The future of work is rapidly changing, and we believe our processes should, too. I’d love to chat with you in the comments.

We’ve chronicled some of our other company practices in the Workstyle section of our blog and hope to continue the series with more detailed explanations of the elements of Episodes there in the future. You can also read about Areas of Responsibility and No Meeting Wednesdays at Asana.

Interested in working this way at Asana? We’re hiring.

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