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Post #1288

Week 241

Nik, one of the builders, was in this morning smoothing out some of the plastering work here at the new studio, and Robbie, the electrician, came in to move the light-switches around. He also swapped the florescent tubes out for much brighter, bluer ones. The old ones were yellow, like the 1970s.

Our 10am all-hands today was a full house. We all stood up in the meeting room because there aren’t enough chairs. We have some more chairs on order, but the ones we prefer are industrial workshop chairs with anti-static wheels and they’ll take 2-3 weeks to arrive. They’re not too pricey and they’re super good on your lower back. Kari ordered four this afternoon.

In the all-hands: Nick, Tom, Matt B, Kari, Jack, Matt J, me.

Let’s do a pretty detailed weeknote today, I’ve got time.

Kendrick: Nick is implementing custom controls so we can have a beta iPhone app polished and in the hands of the client as soon as. Matt B is supporting there, with designs and assets.

Ashdown: Tom is working on data, performance and infrastructure. Matt B is wireframing the entire beta site on the wall. It’s good to have that, it’s a mix between a map and a goal. But it’s something we can collaboratively chew over and sketch on. That’s the best pattern Jack and I picked up during consultancy, actually from one of our clients: always put something on the table, no matter how half-formed the concept, and then it’s perfectly okay to critique it and pull it to bits… but only if you can replace it with something better. It’s a strategy that means you’re always left with a working concept, and not something about which you know everything that’s wrong but nothing that’s right.

Service+, for Bonnier, is bursting into life since Jack and Matt J got back from San Francisco at the weekend. Matt briefed us in the all-hands this morning, and it was great for everyone to see the project shape, design ideas and timelines. I’d like to do that for all big new projects. Chris H is working with us on this, and Campbell will be for a month too. I’m looking forward to having him sit with us in the studio.

Trumbull is a new project that started yesterday: this week Matt J and I have a series of workshops defining a product. It’s supposed to be Web and mobile, with a good eye to how it’ll work with telly, but all our favourite ideas so far are about taking it offline, mainly onto bits of paper. After this week we’ll schedule about two months of design and development. We’re not yet clear what that that’ll be — that’s the point of the invention workshops.

A smattering of other things that came up this morning: Tom is supplying data to Nicol├ás for data-mining; Jack is commissioning furniture and writing a Product Description Specification for Availabot (I write that in caps because it’s a Very Serious Document); Jack is going to Copenhagen Friday to teach; we’ve got creds on a big project code-named Logan today, and three or four other major ones also pipelined for meetings and proposals; Matt J, Jack and I are going out for a long breakfast meeting tomorrow morning.

The three of us used to go out on Wednesday afternoons for what we called Design Direction sessions. Really they were ways to get to know each other better, in the new working relationship we were figuring out. But the sessions stopped as we got busier.

Without the two of them in the studio last week, I was reminded what weird multiplier network effects happen in a studio like this. We feed off each other so much — ideas emerge in sparks during conversations that roll around the room. So we need to communicate better. We’ll talk about big projects, the strategy, the shared values, and hey, the things we don’t do so well: sharing information internally about self-initiated projects; knowing our dreams and aspirations. Chewing the fat together to work better together. It’s easy for two people for find time to talk about these things, but three rarely happens by coincidence.

So I’ve put a long session in the calendar for tomorrow, and then a long breakfast every Wednesday for the next few months.

Processes and visibility are coming along well. The new accounting software will really help with individual project P&Ls, which we really need, and Kari and I did a whole lot of the work in moving to Xero today. The client projects pipeline is on the wall behind me, as is a month by month calendar till end June which shows studio activity each week (by project stage). We’re also using OmniPlan to make a Gantt chart of all projects, and who’s involved in each stage (with percentages).

A lot of these I did on Saturday. Jack phoned me on Friday night and I couldn’t get to sleep for thinking about capacity and possibilities. I came into the studio in the morning and did built scenarios from the ground up, looking at the risks and opportunities in each, and roughing out strategies. Tools for thinking.

It sounds dull, but these print-outs are the first step towards Here & Theres for the studio’s two major resource constraints, the ones I mentioned way back in week 221: cashflow and attention. We need a studio-wide literacy and knowledge of the landscape of both of these, to best be able to navigate.

For my own part, I’m looking forward to caring about attention and cashflow less… or at least Kari and these processes meaning I don’t need to obsess about them day to day. It’s true I get a kick out of operations management (which is what this part of my job is), but that’s not my vocation, and the kick I get is just my OCD speaking.

As to what I do care about, it’s the gestalt: happiness, growth, and direction, and not how I do it but how we do it, together. I’m not sure I’m terribly good at it yet (it requires a level of self-awareness that I’ve yet to develop), and in fact I slip an awful lot, but maybe it’s because I find it so hard that I find it so fulfilling.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on and what I’m thinking about in week 241. You’ll pick up from my cadence today that it feels nicely business-as-usual and manageable. Not too exuberant, not too beaten up. That’s good, it means there are clear skies.

4 Comments and Trackbacks

  • 1. Greg Borenstein said on 20 January 2010...

    Interesting to see Availabot re-enter the mix. Haven’t heard tell of it in awhile? Makes me wonder: what other physical interaction projects do you have banging around? Are you still playing around with arduinos and the antidote to Big Product or has that gotten a bit swept under all the client web interaction work?

    Just curious ’cause I’ve always found your physical stuff inspiring and there are so few (any?) design firms successfully playing on both sides of the line between web and thing.

    — Greg Borenstein

  • 2. Alper said on 20 January 2010...

    Hey Matt!

    Do you have a link to that chair? I was browsing for chairs myself and would be curious as to your choice.

  • 3. Mark Jensen said on 21 January 2010...

    Is it possible to attend Jack’s lecture in Copenhagen, or is it a closed session?

  • 4. Michael said on 26 January 2010...

    Was thinking the same thing as Alper re: a link to the chair. Would love to see what make and model.

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