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Working in an open-air environment comes with its fair share of perks; cross-team collaboration, project awareness via osmosis and the intangible benefit of being surrounded by talented and creative teammates to name a few.
Similarly, technology and tools we all use every day can help in making us all more productive.
We always strive to find ways to create efficiencies in our office or identify ways to make our team more productive and more creative. To use an inner-office cliché that I am famous for saying...
“We look for ways to find short cuts without ever cutting anything short.”
Yet sometimes there is nothing better than just going heads down to focus on a specific task at hand. With all of the benefits that our environment and our technology bring, these can be counter-productive to that “heads down” mentality at times. We’ve all been there; ”if I could just focus on this one thing for half an hour, an hour, half a day; I’d get it done and it would be done right” but then “hey, you got a second,” “can I bounce something off of you,” “care to play a game of foos,” emails, meeting invites, slack messages, etc. start flowing in.
We knew something could be done to fix this. We’d recently started running “experiments” in our office. ANYONE could start an experiment as long as it answered 3 simple questions and was validated by another team member.
- What problem is it solving?
- Can it be measured?
- What makes it a success?
I knew there was nothing that could be done to keep the phones from ringing or emails from coming in, but what if our teammates knew to stay away for a short period of time while we focused on something.
That would afford us the luxury of the uninterrupted time we strived for, and maybe it would facilitate more critical problem solving on everyone else’s part because the “person with the answers” can’t be disturbed.
Putting on your noise cancelling headphones with eyes fixed intently on your computer screen can be an intimidating posture to your colleagues and often goes against the atmosphere that creative agencies try to build.
We needed a way to say, without actually saying it, “look team, no offense to anyone but I just need to focus on this. Please leave me alone.”
Hence, the “In the Zone Experiment.” We started it one Friday with the intent to run it for 2 weeks.
Team members could post to our team slack channel or put a colored sticky note on the top of their monitor stating that they’re “ITZ.”
We don’t need to know what they’re working on or how long they’d need, but we all agreed to stay away, let them focus…for the greater good.
You’d have the same luxury if you ever needed it.
What Problem Does This Solve?
Any team member has the ability to say, without consequence, I need a moment-without you or anyone bugging me. Previously there was no outlet, or protocol to establish this.
Can It Be Measured?
Yes, well sort of. We created a short survey that each team member answered after the 2 week trial.
Did you feel more productive during the ITZ experiment?
Yes = +1 point
No = -1 point
Did you feel hindered in any way by others being ITZ?
Yes = -1 point
No = +1 point
What Makes it a Success?
During the introduction of this experiment we talked through this. We agreed that breaking even with this scale wasn’t enough to start changing our process or disrupting our interpersonal communication, so we set the benchmark higher.
Out of our, then, 12 person team, we needed 20 “points” from our survey to consider this a true success.
In full transparency, the experiment was started for selfish reasons. I personally needed “a moment” and likely would need a few more over the course of the next 2 weeks. I knew starting this experiment would at least give me that luxury.
After 2 weeks, the team consensus was an unanimous 24 points (ie: everyone felt it made us more productive or more creative) and here we are a year later and it’s still going. Some weeks people are in and out of “the zone” daily, and some weeks go by with no one needing to “go in.” Something so simple has made a major impact on our team culture.
Stay tuned to hear about more of our successful (or unsuccessful) experiments.