We get work done in multidisciplinary project teams. We have self-organized into these largely temporary groups since the early days of Catalysts. They exist to get a product or large feature shipped. Like any other group or effort at the company, they form organically. At the start of a project, the team often consists only of a few people, then we scale the project, and later we reduce the team size again.
Often, someone will emerge as the “lead” for a project. This person’s role is not a traditional managerial one. Most often, they’re primarily a clearinghouse of information. They’re keeping the whole project in their head at once so that people can use them as a resource to check decisions against. The leads serve the team, while acting as centers for the teams.
Project teams often have an internal structure that forms temporarily to suit the group’s needs. Although people at Catalysts don’t have fixed job descriptions or limitations on the scope of their responsibility, they can and often do have clarity around the definition of their “job” on any given day. They, along with their peers, effectively create a job description that fits the group’s goals. That description changes as requirements change, but the temporary structure provides a shared understanding of what to expect from each other. If someone moves to a different group or a team shifts its priorities, each person can take on a completely different role according to the new requirements.
Catalysts is not averse to all organizational structure – it crops up in many forms all the time, temporarily. But problems show up when hierarchy or codified divisions of labor either haven’t been created by the group’s members or when those structures persist for long periods of time. We believe those structures inevitably begin to serve their own needs rather than those of Catalysts’ clients. The hierarchy will begin to reinforce its own structure by hiring people who fit its shape, adding people to fill subordinate support roles. Its members are also incentivized to engage in rentseeking behaviors that take advantage of the power structure rather than focusing on simply delivering value to clients.
You can start early or late. You may leave early or late. Just beware of the legal restrictions (like not more than 10 hours per day and 50 hours per week).
You decide when you work – the main constraint being the team(s) where you need to coordinate with your colleagues.
While people occasionally choose to push themselves to work some extra hours at times when something big is going out the door, for the most part working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communication. If this happens at Catalysts, it’s a sign that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected. If you’re looking around wondering why people aren’t in “crunch mode,” the answer’s pretty simple. The thing we work hardest at is hiring good people, so we want them to stick around and have a good balance between work and family and the rest of the important stuff in life. If you find yourself working long hours, or just generally feel like that balance is out of whack, be sure to raise the issue with whomever you feel would help.
Sometimes things around the office can seem a little too good to be true. If you find yourself walking down the hall one morning with a bowl of fresh fruit or a hand-made cake, don’t freak out. All these things are here for you. And don’t worry that somebody’s going to judge you for taking advantage of it – relax! If we ever institute caviar-catered lunches, though, then maybe something’s wrong. Definitely panic if there’s caviar.
The home office
We work in teams. Typically we are more productive if we can discuss in person with each other. On the other hand, we’ve gotten used to working in a distributed setting. So we know how to collaborate over the distance.
If you feel, you’re more productive if you work from home on some days, or if you need some flexibility (e.g. the plumber needs to repair something in your apartment), then coordinate with your team and work from home.