From the very beginning of Catalysts it was clear to me that I wanted to set up an environment that allowed me to sleep well. You could call “Sleeping well” our “uber value”. Nothing (at least not a lot) is more important than that.
For an entrepreneur there surely are a lot of things that drive you crazy, still you have to maintain your balance, keep your cool.
As a software developer, you don’t want to rely on testers to find bugs in your code. If you want to sleep well, you’d rather develop code in a test-driven way.
As a software architect, you’d rather want to have automatic checks that guarantee that the code still conforms to the defined architecture.
If you want to sleep well, you’ll become creative and invent ever more safety nets, e.g.
- a tool that performs some automatic checks
- a process that invites (or requires) you to follow certain steps to achieve something
- a buddy who reviews what you’ve done
- a dear colleague who mindfully observes your everyday behaviour and lets you know of any glitches
Now think back of Mindfulness. You expect something but experience something (slightly?) different. What do you do if you a.) are perfectly mindful, and b.) want to have safety nets? You will question yourself:
- Why did it go wrong?
- What could I have done to recognize it earlier?
- What could I have done to not let it go wrong?
- What can I do to make sure that it doesn’t go wrong anymore in the future?
All of that will lead you to another safety net.
You do continuous process improvement. Many small steps that make you and your environment more reliable. Step by step. That’s what the Japanese call Kaizen.
According to Kaizen, it is important to
- Be explicit about the goal (what shall be achieved)
- Be explicit about the expected behaviours (how the goal shall be achieved)
- Share those expectations (goal & behaviours)
- Teach everybody to be mindful and take 100% responsibility when something doesn’t go as expected
- Foster an environment full of confidence and trust, which allows everybody to speak up
In Japanese factories, you can often find detailed work instructions on a sheet of paper attached to the outside of a work cell. Why? Not so much because the worker would need them. But because any observer can check the actual behaviour against the expected steps.
Christian Federspiel once told me that there have been a lot of initiatives in steel plants to increase personal safety. One initiative was way more effective than all others: the buddy system. People were trained to take care of each other. They had to find a buddy and form pairs. One would always observe and try to prevent danger from the other.
We are working hard to establish that thinking everywhere – in regular project work and in all our support functions.
All because of our “uber value”: we want to sleep well. Every night.
What’s the alternative? Constant firefighting. As of 2016 we have around 30 projects running at any time. Without all our safety nets, I would be the chief firefighter, running around to fight one crisis after the other.
I prefer to sleep well. Really.