So, how does Sidestep actually do work and get things done? It's a very good question! We create focused and uninterrupted time that allow us to operate efficiently and productively. It's thoroughly planned out ahead of time. There are no sprints and or daily stand ups. We call these cycles. They are long enough periods of focused time to ship the best version of anything that we want to build.
We focus and tackle projects that relate to a general theme(s). We also have smaller tasks that we'd like to tackle, too. Themes are generally bigger projects. Adding international support with foreign currencies was one of our themes in a past cycle. The themes generally involve multiple different groups and roles within the company. To support foreign currencies we had to update our apps, apis, SDK, web store, designs, and much more. We outline what we want to build with some background and prior knowledge. This allows us to understand the what and why of the problems we’re solving. It also helps the groups involved to think about the problem clearly.
Cycles help us stay focused.
In a cycle we avoid add new issues and tasks. The goal is to have focused and uninterrupted time to work. This allows us to prevent feature and scope creep as well as preventing burnout. We think diligently about what we want to tackle over the next 5-6 weeks throughout various meetings and observations before we define a cycle. Then we write it all up.
Between each cycle we have about 1-2 weeks of non cycle work. This is a great time to pick up tasks and features that did not fit into the cycle. Usually they are smaller tasks or one-offs. We also use this time to plan out what we want to do next.
Ideas are collected all the time – they come from everywhere. From clients, new hires, fans, and from the shower.
Determining what to focus on in a cycle is fairly straightforward. We have a backlog of stuff we'd like to tackle. We may see trends or patterns that help guide us to the bigger projects we want to build. We think a lot about this stuff and carefully decide what to work on. It's very easy to say yes, but saying no helps us focus and define our cycle. When planning, we say no to a lot of ideas – we can't possibly do everything!
Transparency makes it fairly obvious to the team what we want to focus on. Recurring requests are usually a good place to start. We have a plethora of these requests from our GitHub issues, to our support inbox and biz-dev conversations. There's no shortage of ideas.
We then decide the things we really want to focus on and try to streamline the cycle. We don’t treat it as an opportunity to cram as much as we want to do – productivity doesn’t work like that. Instead, we focus on the few big things that matter for the next 5-6 weeks and hope to finish early so that we can polish, refine, and ship the best possible version of our product. We take advantage of do not disturb in slack, ask less "quick questions", and get more done.
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