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Show Notes:

In this episode of Workflow, Brian and Tom talk about 5 myths about more productive teams.

00:38    Intro
09:50   Myth #1: Harmony helps. Everyone should just get along
12:13    Myth #2: It’s good to mix it up your team.
15:02   Myth #3: Bigger is better. Larger groups will produce a better result
19:30   Myth #4: Working remote is less productive
25:00  Myth #5: Working longer hours will get more work done
28:33  Tips for taking action!

Useful Links

Episode 7: Working from home
Episode 15: Is your team overworked?
Episode 18: Why your team SHOULD disagree

Full Transcription

Tom: 00:14 Work Flow is the podcast that helps teams figure out the best way to work, collaborate, and get stuff done, brought to you by Rindle.

Tom: 00:28 Hey everyone, I’m Tom.

Brian: 00:29 And I’m Brian.

Tom: 00:30 And we’re the co-founders for Rindle and this is our podcast Work Flow. Today we’re talking about Five Myths About More Productive Teams.

Brian: 00:38 Cool, so before we get into that, Tom, what’s going on?

Tom: 00:43 So we Tasks this past Tuesday, which is pretty exciting. Scott really took the lead on that and did the bulk of the actual implementation there and it turned out pretty well.

Brian: 01:00 Yeah, I’m excited about it. The launch went off on time, which is always a great thing, as we planned. We had a bunch of content reviews around it and things like that as well. But I think overall, it’s a better improved experience for our users and I’m already enjoying it. I actually hit everybody up in Slack when we released the night before and said, “Hey I’m already using Tasks in a better way than I was using what was used to be the Dashboard.” So definitely an improvement right off the bat.

Tom: 01:32 Yeah, definitely. It definitely feels better. We’re actually already making some small tweaks to it because we’re using it so that’s a pretty awesome thing. Yeah, so Becky, my wife has been looking around for someone to take some Christmas photos for our Christmas card to send out and my gosh, that is the business I think I’ll go into next, because the actual taking of the photos, that’s where they get you, it’s so inexpensive and then all of a sudden you’re looking at the packages for them to touch up five photos, it’s … you’re like, “What are you gonna do, you gonna feel like a different person in there? I don’t know what kind of touching up you’re doing? But the amount of money that they’re charging is just absolutely absurd.

Brian: 02:18 I had a similar experience with just my third child being born and they have a photographer that comes around when you’re in recovery, right, ’cause you’re in the hospital for a few days and the same thing. The photographs are free, so they come in, they’ll set the baby up, they’ll take all the photos, and they really get you on the packages, where it’s multiple hundreds of dollars for some of the packages, which is crazy.

Tom: 02:41 No, both of us obviously are in this agency where we have an understanding of what it takes. We don’t do photo retouching but photo retouching that they’re doing for these photos is probably pretty minimal and the actual amount … they’re not spending more than a couple minutes on a photo, right? It’s definitely not even half an hour or an hour on a photo, it’s just crazy how much they want.

Brian: 03:10 You’re paying for the convenience.

Tom: 03:12 Yeah.

Brian: 03:12 We’re lucky enough, we do pictures every year just because we use them for our postcards, we send a postcard out for Christmas and stuff like that so … and we like to have a log of a family picture every year. Luckily, we have a friend through Alexandria’s, my wife’s network, who is a photographer, so we’ve been using her so not too expensive, but we’re not paying for packages, she’s just a photographer so she gives us the digitals. So we can just go and print what we wanna print, which is a lot cheaper obviously than going through a company like that where you have to buy packages of preprint and stuff.

Tom: 03:44 Crazy. Speaking up to the seasons, also it’s snowing outside right now, its really coming down hard, first snow of the season which is pretty early November 15th, so that’s pretty crazy too.

Tom: 03:59 Anyway, so what’s going on with you?

Brian: 04:02 Yeah, so I’ve had my iPad Pro as I mentioned on a previous episode. I’ve had it for about, I don’t know, solid week at this point, a little more. And first reaction is good. Actually, I think using the keyboard with it, they do have command tabbing like I’m used to on my Mac, so that’s pretty great to kind of jump between applications. I think the one weird thing is still feeling out, [00:04:30] sometimes you can’t … when I’ll tab to an application for example and the cursor is not active so I have to touch the screen and some apps don’t support some of the shortcuts they have or may never support it and I have to touch the screen to do something.

Brian: 04:43 I’m still getting used to that, but so far, it’s already getting a little more comfortable ’cause that device is so close to me that it’s not like a computer or a laptop where the screen is so far away, right, especially a monitor then you’d have to reach across to touch it, it’s right there. So getting used to that.

Brian: 04:59 But I will say [00:05:00] note taking has been great. I’m already more organized I think with my notes. I’m using it for handwritten notes to keep those digitally organized which has been awesome, get them out of scrap paper. And realize that Evernote, ’cause I used to use Evernote, started charging per device which, I’m not a power user of Evernote, I basically use it for basic notes. It’s super functional, it has crazy features. I know some people are really [00:05:30] crazy power users of it. I’m not, so I didn’t feel the need to pay for that so I’m using Apple Notes now because it does naturally sync between all my devices because I’m basically on all Apple devices, so that comes included and, obviously not as functional as Evernote, but for my needs, pretty good so far. They don’t even have embedded structures for folders and stuff, it’s just one layer of folders.

Brian: 05:56 But, that’s something I could live with just to get notes, capture them and keep those things organized. Most of the thing I do are digital anyway within Rindle within other applications so, so far so good. I’ve been using it in that respect. I’m gonna travel a bit for the holidays, coming up so I’ll see how that works, but so far I’m liking it.

Tom: 06:16 Cool, very cool.

Brian: 06:19 And I’m still walking, which is also good thing, so I’ve been keeping up with my daily walks which I’m starting to get kind of in the groove with and kind of become part of the norm become a habit. One thing I’m noticing, which is interesting, is that I was listening to podcasts on my walks and I wasn’t … I don’t know I just felt like I wasn’t getting the benefit of the mental break and I’ve been, the last couple, been walking without any earbuds in my ears, no music, no podcast, just kind of my own thoughts and it’s been really good for my mental state as far as thinking about things I need to think about, getting out of my office environment, right, kind of resetting.

Brian: 06:58 So that’s been interesting ’cause I had to figure that out as I went. I naturally thought, hey, I wanna use earbuds, I wanna hear music or something, right ’cause I’m gonna be bored but it’s actually been way better without.

Tom: 07:09 Yeah, when I run I don’t have earbuds in. Every now and then, I will put music on, on my phone just have it play so I can hear it, but for the most part I much prefer not having music or not have anything on. You can really pay attention to what’s happening around you a lot more easily which is actually the big safety issue too, especially … we don’t live in super high trafficky areas, but you’d be shocked with every now and then a car comes around the corner and when you’re …

Brian: 07:47 Yeah, definitely is a safety concern. I do like the … I use the Apple air buds and I do like those because they’re not noise canceling. Some ear buds suction into your ear and it really does feel [00:08:00] like you can’t hear the outside. But with the air buds, and with normal Apple earphones actually, even the wired ones, but I always felt like I could generally hear. It’s not so suctioned off or these big ear phone. I have bigger earphones too that I listen to music on, and those really ,.. you really can’t hear much of what’s going on around you.

Brian: 08:19 So luckily for safety reasons, those are pretty good but yeah, it’s definitely a safety concern if you’re too distracted.

Tom: 08:26 Absolutely. Cool. Before we get started though, if [00:08:30] you have any questions, topics or team scenarios that you want us to tear down, our voicemail number is 860-577-2293. You could also email us at workflow@rindle.com.

Brian: 08:42 Great, yeah if you’re liking what you’re hearing as well, please leave us a review, definitely helps us reach more people and also lets us know that you’re digging what you’re hearing. Always a good thing.

Tom: 08:53 Awesome, yeah so let’s get into the main topic, Five Myths About More Productive Teams. Do you wanna give a little background as to what the overall topic’s about?

Brian: 09:05 Yeah, basically just talking about five myths, getting around a number that we can wrap our heads around as we talk about them, but a lot of things that you and I have talked about over the years and we’ve even mentioned some of these in previous episodes, things that just don’t make your team more productive or a lot of times we’re talking about doing work faster and getting more things done and all these things to kind of short cuts around [00:09:30] making your team more productive and its just a lot of them are myths. So I thought it’d be cool to just run through these five and just tackle each one and give our personal experience and opinions.

Tom: 09:41 Absolutely, yeah. Some of them I think are might come across as a little counterintuitive but yeah, bear with us. So let’s roll right into it.

Tom: 09:50 Myth number one, harmony helps, everyone should get along.

Brian: 09:54 Yeah this one we touched on in episode 18 just recently why your team should disagree. This is really something that, hey let’s all get along, right, it’ll be better if we all agree and move forward. It’s really a myth and its proven with a lot of things we talked about in the episode, but just that in general, that disagreement is healthy if you control it and all those things you’re actually gonna hope we get a better result as opposed to everything’s harmonious and we all agree and everything and we’re never gonna really push the envelope and move things in a way they should move.

Tom: 10:29 Sure, yeah, I think it is important that you work with people that you don’t mind going out and grabbing a drink with, right, but you don’t have to do everything with them. That’s not really the feeling that you should be getting with people you work with, because if you’re surrounding yourself with people that you always wanna hang out with, they’re most likely almost too similar to you and they’re probably not helping push the envelope enough right? You need [00:11:00] some people with different thoughts, different ideas, different way of life.

Tom: 11:00 Some people with different thoughts, different ideas, a different way of life.

Brian: 11:04 They say opposites attract. Even what we talked about in episode 18 as well, just the different agendas too. If everybody has the same agenda and the same personality, like you’re saying, it’s kind of boring. It’s just going to be like, “Hey, we’re not really pushing each other. There’s no real edge to our team.”

Brian: 11:26 You’re not bringing any different aspects or different outlooks to the team, so I think opposites do attract in a lot of ways for a lot of reasons. Not only in relationships, but in relationships within teams and working relationships. I think it does definitely push the team in a direction that is gonna be better for whatever you’re working on.

Tom: 11:44 I think you can look at this at a micro level, like within departments and also a macro level. Especially at the micro level. Within developers or whatever, you typically have stereotypical developers. It’s good to get people in there that change it up a little bit. [00:12:00] Some people that are old school or new school, or different ways of thinking. Different ways of approaching problems. It’s definitely a good thing.

Brian: 12:13 Myth number two. It’s good to mix it up in your team. I think you were just commenting on that, but I think this is really more, as far as a myth saying, “Oh yeah, we should constantly mix up teams,” right? As far as, “We’ll keep one team on together for a month, then change [00:12:30] it up for a month, then change it up for another month so we’re always getting new blood in.”

Brian: 12:33 I think we’ve experienced this Tom ourselves, as far as even from a development standpoint. The longer members stay together as an intact group, the better they do. I think even at Rindle we have that scenario, where you get to know each other. You get to know how each other works and it just starts to run smoother. You start to figure out, how is the best way to work together? What is the workflow?

Brian: 12:54 Then if you’re constantly changing that, it throws a wrench in the works. Even [00:13:00] from a development aspect, bringing a new developer into the mix or something like that, yes. Could add a new energy to the team or anything like that, but you have to get them onboarded. They have to figure out the workflow. They might have opinions. It’s just gonna constantly mix things up and change.

Tom: 13:14 Sure. You start to learn people’s strengths and weaknesses. You can, I don’t know if cover is the right word but you can basically, supplement each other’s strengths and weaknesses a little bit the longer that you know them, as opposed to if it’s a fresh person you kind of have to figure that out as you go.

Tom: 13:37 There’s a learning curve there and a learning curve’s always a bit of a time sync. Keeping the same group intact. Even if you look at a football team or a baseball team or a basketball team or anything, the longer the same players are playing together, the better they typically do. [00:14:00] Not all the time, but for the most part.

Brian: 14:04 I actually, this is a little tidbit that a lot of people don’t know about me, at least listening, but I did competitive swing dancing for a while. I was on a dance team for a while, actually. We did choreographed pieces that we put together to a piece of music and we performed them. That’s a perfect example. Similar to a basketball and baseball team, like you mentioned but, you’re learning. You’re together, right? Over time you’re practicing. You’re getting together. You’re figuring out how everybody’s going to work together.

Brian: 14:33 You’re pairing up people potentially, based on certain strengths and weaknesses. Then all of a sudden, somebody gets hurt or a new person comes in, has to sub out or somebody gets sick. Whatever it is, it just throws a major wrench in the works just because you’re so used to one way of doing it or together as a certain team and it really is not as good. It really is. From that experience I can say, it definitely is not as good. It takes time then, again, with that new person or the new set of people to get back to where you were [00:15:00] with the solid team.

Tom: 15:02 Absolutely. Myth number three. Bigger is better. Larger groups will produce a better result. This has been disproven time and time again. There is a famous programming book, I believe it’s called The Mythical Man-Month. It gets into this in detail but basically, [00:15:30] if you double the number of programmers, your thought might be that you’ll be able to get something out twice as fast, but in actuality it might take two times longer to get it out. It definitely is probably going to take longer. There’s basically, an upper limit to where you can add more people to produce results faster.

Brian: 15:54 Not only faster, but also better. Making it a larger team also doesn’t mean that it’s gonna be a better result potentially, because there is more effort to manage a bigger team. Yes, it could add to the timeline and all that stuff, but it’s just harder to do. Sometimes a smaller team’s actually better. You’re actually gonna get a better result from a smaller team than a larger team. That’s kind of a myth in itself. But also, I’ve seen this myself too.

Brian: 16:18 With larger teams, there’s definitely a chance of free riding? People who can hide in a larger team and ride on some other people’s coattails or not work as hard because [00:16:30] the rest of the team is carrying them, but as far as a small team, that’s a lot harder to do. You have a small team and somebody’s not carrying their weight, it’s pretty evident pretty quickly.

Tom: 16:39 I guess, just also in the same breath though, if you are feeling overwhelmed or things are taking too long, your team could be small. You might need to add a couple more people to improve things. I mean, there’s definitely a chance there. Usually it’s not just that easy to add people. There’s budget concerns. There’s a lot of concerns with adding people.

Brian: 17:05 To that point I was saying, I think in the end we’ve always talked about this too. Adding people isn’t a quick fix. If you have a problem at hand, even for us sometimes. We’re like, “We’d really like to get something done a lot quicker. Could we add some more developers?” Technically, yeah. I guess we could but really, that’s not gonna solve our problem. A larger team is not gonna make the result better, or really get it done faster.

Brian: 17:31 We have these conversations all the time, actually where it’s like, “Well, is it the right time to hire, maybe to get some things moving faster or not?” Most of the time we end up saying no, because I think a lot of times we’re just trying to move things unrealistically faster and we think adding a person on is gonna be the right choice.

Tom: 17:51 Definitely. I think when hiring, especially at a startup, you almost need to have a very specific role that someone’s gonna be coming on and taking over. You should definitely expect that they’re not gonna be productive for a period of time, which is unfortunate but you can’t really have long periods of unproductive people in the startup world.

Brian: 18:17 I think too, larger teams too, I think about some of the projects we used to do back in the day where we’d have a big customer. We’re doing a logo design or something, or some kind of branding exercise. It was a really important customer so we’d start to throw everybody in there. Where it’s an unusually large team around this, because it’s such an important project and all these things.

Brian: 18:40 Before you know it, actually causing tons of problems because now you have potentially, in this example we had multiple creative directors in there, art directors, all different people that had opinions. It actually, in my opinion, definitely made the project slower for one, because we couldn’t move as fast like we normally would on the project, just because we’re more opinions, people going on different directions and doing different work. Nobody else knew what they were working on.

Brian: 19:09 They would come and present it. We’re like, “Wait a minute. What’s going on here?” It’s a lot harder to manage in general, and people just tend to go in different directions, but from a quality standpoint I think, for that reason, everybody’s minds were not on the same problem and solution. They were kind of, in different directions. Ultimately I think it did give a better result in the end.

Brian: 19:30 Myth number four, working remote is less productive. I think we talked about this in episode seven a little bit, working from home. In many cases, that’s actually the complete opposite. People are more productive at home, and just to get some stats around this because that’s, I think, our opinion. There is some data around this. There’s a Stanford University study that looked at companies like Zapier and Xerox, and US Department of Transportation. They all had one thing in [00:20:00] common, that telecommuters are 14% more productive than their in-office colleagues.

Brian: 20:06 According to that study, there’s some hard data around it. Tom and I, I know, I’ve been working remotely for a number of years at this point. Probably going on eight years at this point, pretty much. Almost full-time remotely or whole-time. I am definitely more productive as a whole than I used to be, going to the office just for the mere limitation of distractions. [00:20:30] I’m able at home, to control my environment a lot better. When I used to go in the office, I was constantly torn in different directions and meetings and all kinds of craziness.

Tom: 20:41 I feel very similar about this. I’ve been working remotely. When I worked at the agency and then on top of that, even my role at the startup, I worked in a team but mainly the work [00:21:00] that I was doing was more individual work. It was just basically projects that, I interacted with people sometimes.

Tom: 21:09 I could go in the office when I needed to interact with them but nine times out of ten I didn’t need to interact with anyone face-to-face. It just really did seem like a waste to have to go into an office every day, just because that’s how the company liked to operate. They didn’t believe in remote work.

Brian: 21:28 I think we touched on that point too, in that previous episode. Episode seven. The amount of time you lose commuting, I was commuting in the city too, at some point, from Connecticut. Well, I was commuting from Connecticut to New Jersey at one point and then from Connecticut to New York.

Brian: 21:47 I would lose three hours minimally a day, just in commuting. I’ve commuted longer periods of time than that actually, for previous jobs in my career but if somebody’s working from home they can start their day at 8:00 a.m. if they want to and they’re already working for maybe two hours.

Brian: 22:00 … home, they can start their day at eight a.m. if they want to and they’re already working for maybe two hours before you land in the office. And then when you land in the office you’re like, hey, I’m going to get a cup of coffee, I’m going to talk to a couple of people. Before you know it, you’ve lost, probably in a total, like four or five hours just from commuting and all the things that go on at the office.

Tom: 22:18 I actually really question how people get work done when they’re going to an office. Because you’re right, you go into the office, you lose time commuting there. You get in the office and [00:22:30] you go for your cup of coffee and you’re BS-ing with other employees and that eats up 45 minutes of your time. You sit down, you check your email then someone comes and they interrupt you. You’re just eating up time left and right and there’s not a lot of then, time to just put your head down and actually work. So you’re definitely probably getting less work as a whole done at the office.

Brian: 22:55 I used have a routine, obviously. I’m sure many people do regardless [00:23:00] of where they work. But when I went into the office I’d get in and by the time I’m done commuting I put my stuff down, we have a meeting right when I got into the office. And then did like an hour and a half of work or something, then I took a break for lunch, left the office, went out for lunch, came back, got resettled again. Another meeting. So I think you’re right. When you look at a day in the end, between all the interruptions and all the start stops when you’re in that environment, and then you have the desk visits and all that stuff, it definitely adds up.

Tom: 23:32 And then on top of that you hear or you read stories all the time about people promoting, this is why I go into the office at like seven a.m. And they’re going into the office early because the office is empty so they can get work done. And that’s just crazy. That’s just crazy in my head. If you worked remotely, you would have that all the time. Or way more often, right? Obviously we still have meetings and we still have [00:24:00] times that are not as productive, but for the most part, we minimize that.

Brian: 24:07 Absolutely. And I think the downsize of remote work sometimes is that face-to-face, which we talked about as well before. But there are ways around that. You can have check-ins or events every quarter or half a year. Whatever it is, however you run your team. But if you are co-located remote, getting together in person occasionally is always healthy and great, [00:24:30] and I think there are benefits to that. But not enough to where it’s like we should go into an office every day, in my opinion. Just because of all the reasons we talked about. It’s just the technology we have today and all of the things that we have today just make it pretty easy to work from home. You’re not really that disconnected, outside of the human interaction face-to-face. Or I should say in-person interaction.

Tom: 24:55 Definitely.

Brian: 24:56 You still have human interaction.

Tom: 25:00 We definitely interact with other humans daily. Myth number five: working longer hours will get more work done. So we had a whole episode about this, episode 15: Is your team overworked? We touched on it pretty heavily in that episode about how working longer hours will up to a point probably help, and after a certain point, you’re probably just hurting yourself. When working longer hours [00:25:30] could be beneficial is when you have longer periods of uninterrupted time to work. If you’re really heads down in something and you spend an extra couple hours working on that, that might be super productive. But working longer hours just to say that I’m working hard to get something done, doesn’t always mean that you’re going to be getting more work done.

Brian: 25:56 And a lot of things we talked about, even in a previous episode, 15, is that your body will reach a point where you reach fatigue and you technically might be working an extra two hours, let’s say, than everybody else. But that work quality is poor, you’re making mistakes. You’re also not doing a lot for your physical health and your mental health and all those other things that go with it. It’s really a myth just because it’s not sustainable. You can’t sustain that forever. Your body will shut down. I’ve had that happen to me where I’ve pushed for a couple weeks and I’m like, I’ve got so much to do, I’ve got so much to do, and then I would crash. Your body’s just like, enough. I’ve had enough.

Brian: 26:40 And in the end, I use the example too, I was writing one night and I was tired, but I had to get work done. I thought well, let me just bang this out before I go to bed, and then I read it the next day and there were mistakes all over the place and I had incomplete sentences. Actually ended up causing more work because I had to go back and redo it and edit it and change it. I ended up shutting my laptop that night, but the next day then, I’m using time on that day to now fix all the mistakes I made, or scrap it all together, whatever I did.

Brian: 27:11 So in the end, I think that’s the reality of it. It’s like of course you can push an extra couple of hours if you have to, but that’s really used sparingly.

Tom: 27:20 Sparingly.

Brian: 27:22 As opposed to the norm.

Tom: 27:23 And actually what you just described then, not only is working longer hours not helping you get more work done, it’s actually then generating more work for you in the long run. You’re basically working longer to then work longer.

Brian: 27:41 And there’s been times too that I’ve been forced to work longer. It wasn’t my choice. I literally was given a project that had an unrealistic deadline. It was what it was and I ended up having to work late nights with some people in my team, or even sometimes the weekend, which [00:28:00] is not my choice by any means. Should that project happen that way? No, but it did and I had to deal with it. So sometimes it’s not your fault, but again, that should be the exception not the norm. If you end up being like, well, our company works like this and we just always work constantly and we’re going to work nights, weekends, and we’re going to push, push, push, it’s not effective, it’s just a myth. It’s not going to get more work done in the long run. The norm has to be something that’s manageable.

Tom: 28:27 Awesome. That pretty much does it for the myths.

Brian: 28:33 So tips for taking action. I don’t know if there are really any tips for taking action, but if these myths hit home at all with you and you’re listening like I actually do believe this, maybe it’s an opportunity to take a look at it and say does the opposite actually apply, are you doing something that might be actually hurting your team than it’s helping your team, but that’s the accepted norm so you’re going with it. But it might be an opportunity [00:29:00] to take a hard look at your team and say maybe we can rethink this a little bit. Maybe this isn’t benefiting as much as it could benefit for all the reasons that we mentioned today.

Tom: 29:12 That’s pretty good advice. I think if you do hear a myth and you’re like, oh man, I do that all the time or my company does that, you definitely want to step back and evaluate is this the best. And honestly, if you [00:29:30] think we’re wrong, let us know because I’d be really interested to hear some people’s opinions about some of these.

Brian: 29:37 They might have the exact opposite myth. They’re going to bust our myths. So absolutely, I’d love to hear different opinions on it.

Tom: 29:45 Well, I think that about wraps us up for the day. If you have a question for us, you can call into our voicemail number at 860-577-2293. Or you could email it to us at workflow@rindle.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from Thunder Rock by MagikStudio, used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for Workflow. And visit Rindle.com/workflow-podcast for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.