Project Collaboration Roundup: staying focused, wishing & planning, startup execution

Posted on 05. Sep, 2011 by ger in Roundup

Are you or your projects in a state of a) constant interruption b) constant wishing or c) constant churn? Here’s some interesting posts and articles we found on the interwebs recently.

project collaboration roundup 4

Wall of Lemons by psd

How to Stay Focused in an Age of Constant Interruption

The psychologist Dr. Elisha Goldstein describes how you can minimize the constant interruptions in the modern workplace. He suggests:

  • Schedule un-interruptible time on your calendar
  • Earplugs
  • The mindful check-in

“It Takes as Much Energy to Wish as it Does to Plan”

Over at lifehacker Adam Dachis expands on the above quote from Eleanor Roosevelt.

    “If you find you’re spending a lot of time thinking about doing something, turn it into a plan. You don’t necessarily have to act on that plan, but if you decide to you’ll be ready.” – Adam Dachis

For startups (and larger companies) it’s all about execution

Over on Forbes, Martin Zwilling summarizes the keys to business excellence for startups. He’s summarizing a book called The Power of Convergence by Faisal Hoque. Faisal’s book is focused mainly on larger enterprises and making them more agile.

    A startup begins with a great idea, but all too often, that’s where it ends. Ideas have to be implemented well to get the desired results. Good implementation requires a plan, and a good plan and good operational decisions come from good people.

Here’s a selection of the “repeatable practices to maximize business opportunities” Martin identifies

  • empower people to take action in the absence of orders
  • communication is critical
  • formulate and recognize when Plan-B needs to happen

This post reminded me of Derek Sivers’ classic Ideas are a Multiplier of Execution.

Thank you for reading

We hope you found something useful. Please try Goshido, our collaboration & project management platform. Goshido can help you and your teams to take action in the absence of orders and communicate with clarity.

Photo by psd, available under a Creative Commons attribution license

Project Collaboration Roundup: improve focus, killer coworkers, agile WBS

Posted on 19. Aug, 2011 by ger in New Ways to Work, Roundup

project collaboration roundup 3

Brain Coral (by Laszlo Ilyes)

Do you want to a) improve your focus at work b) live longer c) connect your agile projects into a larger project WBS? Here’s some interesting posts and articles we found on the interwebs recently.

Understand how your brain works and improve your focus

In this Google Tech Talk, David Rock describes how our brains work at work. He shows why we get distracted and describes some things you can do to improve your focus and reduce stress at work. David Rock is the author of “Your Brain at Work”.

The correlation between co-workers and mortality

In Wired, Jonah Lehrer asks “Are your co-workers killing you?” A recent study from Tel Aviv University has found a correlation between “the perceived niceness of co-workers” and the risk of death. It seems your co-workers are more influence than your boss. The study tracked 820 people over a twenty year period and found;

    “people with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study, especially if they began the study between the ages of 38 and 43. In contrast, the niceness of the boss had little impact on mortality.

Jonah also mentions a larger UK study which tracked 28,000 government workers since 1967. That study linked the person’s “perception of control” with their work peer social support and mortality. Jonah summarizes the outcome:

    “the only thing worse than an office full of assholes is an office full of assholes telling us what to do.”

In July on this blog Donal discussed the knowledge worker’s perception of control. I wonder if social business platforms like Jive could be good for your health? Maybe our product Goshido can increase “perception of control” for your team (and lengthen their lives)?

Connecting Agile projects to Work Breakdown Structures (WBS)

Glen B. Alleman on the HerdingCats blog, describes how you connect agile projects with the WBS of large projects like US federal government contracts. He links the agile taxonomy of work to the traditional WBS.

  • Agile Epics correlate to WBS Program Events
  • Agile User Stories correllate to WBS Accomplishment Criteria
  • Agile Features correlate to WBS work packages
  • Tasks are the same in both Agile and WBS

Here at Goshido we believe there can be more than four layers in a project.

    “Agile does a good job of defining the outcomes of each iteration, and managing the contents of those iterations during the Planning process. What is needed is an upper level process.”

Thank you for reading

We hope you found something useful. Please try Goshido, our collaboration & project management platform. Goshido can help you and your teams work better together (and maybe help you live longer).

Project Collaboration Roundup – leading change, teamwork groundrules

Posted on 05. Aug, 2011 by ger in New Ways to Work

Agile Project Collaboration Roundup 2 (seeds of change)

Seeds of Change (by Clearly Ambiguous)

We’re now in the quiet weeks of August, what better time to recharge the batteries and think a bit more strategically about your business? Here’s some interesting posts and articles we found on the interwebs recently.

If you want to lead deep organizational change

Steve Denning outlines the four story types you need. By way of example he uses “leaders and managers have to unlearn the management practices that were so successful in the 20th Century but so unsuccessful today.”

    We now know precisely how unproductive traditional management is—declining rate of return on assets (one quarter of what it was in 1965), declining life expectancy of firms in the Fortune 500 (less than 15 years) and lack of engagement of workers (only one in five workers is fully engaged in his or her work.)

It’s not enough to quote facts and statistics though. It’s not enough to force people to change by dictat. It’s not enough to send a pep talk email to everyone in the organization or film a town hall meeting.

    Prose remains unread. Dialogue is just too laborious and slow. By contrast, leadership stories can get inside people’s minds and affect how they think, worry, wonder, agonize and dream about themselves and in the process create – and recreate – their organization.

If you’re wondering what kinds of career paths will be of value in the coming decade

Lynda Gratton on the CorkBIC newsletter suggests Grassroots Advocacy, Social Entrepreneurship and Micro-Entrepreneurship. This will bring real challenges in terms of coordination and project management:

    they will be part of a much larger collaboration of many thousands of people brought together to experience economies of scale. Whatever the mechanism of coordination, we can expect a greater proportion of the valuable work in companies to be carried out by people working independently.

If you are interested in some simple groundrules for teamwork

Kristóf Kovács published three simple principles for effective teams:

  • ASK: If a task is not clear
  • DEBRIEF: It’s not done until you reported it done
  • WARN: If a deadline you know is important will likely be missed

More details on his site. It’s all about clear communication.

If you’re in Ireland and you’re interested in Agile Quality Strategies

SoftTest are organizing a couple of events in August on 10th (Belfast) & 11th (Dublin). David Evans an uber experienced agile coach and consultant will be talking about agile testing and quality. The event is free and sponsored by InterTrade Ireland, Sogeti and Software Skillnet.

Thanks for reading

We hope you found something useful. If you’re interested in a collaboration / project management platform that can guide your teams to be more effective, check out Goshido.

Project Collaboration Roundup – Six Articles Worth Reading

Posted on 21. Jul, 2011 by ger in New Ways to Work

Are you interested in project collaboration and making your organization more agile? Here’s some recent articles that caught our eye.

Collaboration was hot 20-years ago and it’s back in vogue now. Michael Glavich asks “Why then and why now?”. Richard Rashty looks back a slightly shorter timeframe. Richard believes this time it’s different. Information has accelerated, the technology is better but most crucially the consumer experience has changed people.

Gartner and ReadWriteWeb are a bit more circumspect. They believe a few myths need to be dispelled first. For Carol Rozwell at Gartner “…IT leaders should first identify real business problems and key performance indicators (KPIs) that link to business goals.”

Bill Ives believe’s this time the focus on people, engagement (with the associated business benefits) and purpose will make the difference.

If you’re interested in agile planning check out how the Certification team at Canonical do planning poker. Their last game was in Dublin.

Thank you for reading. To learn more about Goshido’s unique approach to enterprise project collaboration start a free trial today.

Five Steps to Inbox Zero (Inbox 0.1?)

Posted on 13. Jul, 2011 by ger in Email, New Ways to Work

Suddenly, loads of people are complaining about email. MG Siegler is quitting email. Lucy Kellaway in the Irish & Financial Times bemoans the lack of an email charter. Mark Suster finds some signal in the noise of all his email.

However, I believe this is a symptom of a larger issue of having too much stuff to deal with, and trying to deal with it the wrong way. It’s like trying to use a bucket to stop the tide.

While email is brilliant, one of the biggest technological advances in the last 50 years, I believe people are now using email as a simple task/project management system and it just can’t cope. I’ll return to the bigger picture of what’s broken about email in a separate blog post soon.

First, let’s do something about the immediate problem, the overwhelming inbox. Merlin Mann has written a series of blog posts on a technique he called inbox zero. I’ve seen people try to apply these ideas, and while they worked for a while, many people ended up back at Inbox 1024. In this post I’m going to focus on the first steps of getting to inbox zero and even simplifying it further (maybe we could call it Inbox 0.1).

I’m also going to incorporate ideas from David Allen and Tim Ferriss (one of a number of authors who suggests batching email processing).

Why should I do something?

Whether you realize it or not, all of your unprocessed “stuff” is there in the back of your mind, bugging you in little unconscious ways.

Do you see that letter balanced on the edge of your desk, the one you’re meant to sign it and return to the accountants? Every time your sub-conscious notices it in your peripheral vision it interrupts your train of thought and distracts you from what you’re trying to do. These micro-interruptions cost time and energy. The same thing happens with emails in your inbox.

When you have an email inbox which doesn’t fit on one screen, sub-consciously there’s a little part of your brain worrying about the emails you can’t see that you should have replied to.

Step 1: Look those emails in the eye

Before you can organize your existing email, you need to evaluate what’s in your inbox. I know this might be painful, but trust me, it’s essential.

If you’re like most people you have hundreds (maybe thousands) of emails in your inbox. Many of them might even be unread.

  • Go back to the oldest item in the inbox. Is it something that really needs to be done?
  • Look at the emails on the second page of your inbox, does anything there need to be done?
  • Look at any emails you’ve marked with stars or flags.

If you’ve found emails that you’d kept or marked with flags or stars and they no longer need to be done, pat yourself on the back, at least you didn’t waste time doing something about them in the past. But why are you keeping them now?

Maybe you found emails, that you wished you’d done something about. Maybe it’s too late to reply now. Those emails are the diamonds that were lost in the mud of all the other emails in your inbox.

Step 2: Clear the Inbox

  • Create a new folder in your email client called “Todo Old Inbox”. Sometime in the next few weeks you’ll come back to these emails and process them.
  • Now move all of the emails in your inbox to “Todo Old Inbox”. Look at your new empty inbox, how does that feel?

Step 3: Set up a new simple workflow

  • Turn off your desktop email notification.
  • Create three new email folders “Archive”, “Someday” and “Action”. Some email clients (gMail) use labels instead of folders.

“Archive” is for emails you want to keep but don’t need to do anything about.

“Someday” is for emails you might want to do something about but don’t really have to. Guess what’s going to happen to these emails?

“Action” is for emails you must do something about.

Step 4: Save the diamonds

Did you uncover any diamonds when you looked at your inbox?

  • Go to the “Todo Old Inbox”, find them again, and move them to “Action”. If you have more than seven, you should only move the most important seven.

Step 5: Your new simple workflow

  • If your work role allows it, try to avoid your inbox first thing in the morning. Instead do some significant task, or answer some of the emails in your “Action” folder.
  • Twice a day (I recommend mid-morning and mid-afternoon) process your inbox oldest-to-newest to zero.
  • As you look at each email, make a simple decision (”Delete”, “Archive”, “Someday”, “Action”, or “Reply”). Only reply when it will take less than two minutes.
  • At other points in the day you can work on the emails in the “Action” folder. Start with the oldest.
  • At the end of the day if you have more than 20 emails in “Action”, review the new ones. Could any be moved to “Someday”, “Archive” or deleted?

Tell us what you think

We’d really like to know about your experiences and opinions of Inbox Zero. Did you make it stick? Was it easy to get to zero at first? If you try the variant I’ve suggested, please let me know how you get on.

Agile for any organization – a guide

Posted on 16. Jun, 2011 by ger in Guides, New Ways to Work

Agile management techniques have been used successfully in software and development in recent years, but can they be used to run other kinds of business? I believe they can. If you want to transform your business into an empowered, self-organizing machine that performs better, read on.

In this guide to agile I will, tell you three stories which will hopefully:
- Outline the benefits Agile
- Point out some tips and pitfalls
- Suggest some further reading

It’s about 13 years since I first encountered agile management. At the time I realized we were already naturally using some agile ideas, we just didn’t know they had a label. As you read this guide you might say “We already do that.” If you do, congratulations, you’re some way down the agile road already. Learning a little more will help you see the bigger picture and get even more out of agile.

Agile before we’d heard of Agile

Around 20 years ago (I’m really dating myself now) I worked for a US multinational building software for managing networks of telecom equipment (for a new standard called GSM). The project had run for a number of years with a large team and we had little working code to show but lots of specifications and elaborate plans.

A number of us felt a growing sense of unease so we put together a small team of five engineers and decided to rapidly build a simplified version of the overall system. Our small project was going to be a backup plan for the main team – risk mitigation. The other seventy engineers kept working on the existing plan. Can you guess what happened?

Our small team didn’t put any big plan in place. We commandeered a small meeting room and drew a list on a big whiteboard of the phases of the project. Each engineer owned a specific area of the product. We didn’t work in our regular cubes, we worked together in the meeting room. We lived and breathed that project. In effect the product was built during an extended ten-month meeting.

When the big team tried to put all their pieces of software together, they wouldn’t fit. Then we demoed our simplified product. It was fast, elegant but most importantly – it worked. The simplified product, built by five engineers in a small meeting room, became the basis of future products by that company for many years.

How did we do it? We had a simple goal, a simple plan, a deadline not too far away & we continuously reviewed progress and made many small adjustments. Management didn’t interfere but more crucially provided air cover for our small team. We were agile but didn’t know it.

First successes with Scrum

A number of years later I was working on another project that hit a problem. We realized a crucial software subsystem was more complex than we had estimated, the subsystem was underresourced. Our reputation was on the line. We had five months to turn it around. In a previous company I had been experimenting with two new management techniques, one called Episodes and one called Scrum. To my eye they looked very similar. Episodes went on to become Extreme Planning and Scrum went on to become er Scrum.

Again we put a small team together, this time four engineers. We split the overall project into a series of five month-long sprints. We then focussed only on the current sprint. We held daily meetings and everyone planned their own tasks each day. For each task we put post-it notes on a big A2 sheet of paper on a table in the middle of our work area.

We built the crucial subsystem in five months and three days, which for a software project is remarkably close to the deadline.

Our next project, spanning 15 months with 30 engineers (6 teams of 5) mostly used Scrum. This project we completed one week early (which is very rare in software projects). Other teams in the organization started using A2 sheets and daily meetings. The company’s post-it note bill skyrocketed. Projects hit their deadlines.

I think there were a number of key factors in these successes:

  • Everyone on each team had a sense of ownership both of the project and their own destiny.
  • We didn’t spend time building intricate and brittle long-term plans.
  • Everyone was focussed on a tangible milestone, at most a month away. We didn’t have time to delude ourselves into a false sense of being-on-track. We didn’t change plans during each sprint.
  • We met almost daily and made many small adjustments.
  • We created a simple visualization of the project and progress.
  • Everyone, even the graduate engineers, became a project manager of their part of the project.
  • We held retrospectives at the end of each sprint to decide what went well and what went badly. We saw genuine organizational learning.

Scrum to manage marketing campaigns

Recently Goshido began working with another multinational product company, but this time instead of building products this team was managing retail marketing projects in 13 countries. The team was running well and getting results, but each quarter-end they seemed to have an increasing backlog of open issues dragging into the next quarter.

They decided to look at their projects as sprints. Deciding what needed to be done in the first sprint (month) led to interesting and surprising debates about priorities. They quickly realised they were not all pulling in the same direction, they were being unrealistic and putting themselves under unconstructive pressure.

Today they’ve mapped out their projects at sprints. They’re not looking too far down the road. Instead of post-it notes, they’re using Goshido and their distributed team (some of whom are outside the company) have an always-up-to-date picture of what’s happening on the project. They spend less time in meetings, more time making progress.

We would wholeheartedly recommend the agile approach to running projects. The key challenges are not technological but sociological – resistance to change. Agile is a new way of thinking, but when your team starts thinking in that new way, they feel more empowered, more engaged and will improve your business performance.

Learn more

Kirsten Knipp’s blog post show’s you how to run a marketing team like an agile startup.

Read Mike Cohn’s blog post on how to decide if Scrum is right for your project.

The wikipedia article on Scrum will give you a good primer on the terminology.

Joe Little has written a short but great blog post about getting started with agile and Scrum.

Kelly Waters has written a series of blog posts outlining 10 easy steps to implement Scrum.

A recent HBR article by Eric T. Anderson and Duncan Simester suggests running a business as a series of experiments. Short test-learn cycles sound like the short iteration cycles of Agile.

Stephen Denning’s book The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management applies agile techniques to the organization as a whole, not just a single team or even a product development group.

Update 12-Jul-2011: Steve Denning has also published an excellent introduction to Scrum from a general management perspective.

Jurgen Appelo’s Management 3.0 is a tour-de-force showing how businesses are complex adaptive systems and how this theory can be applied to bring greater agility to any organization, team, or project.

Jurgen Appelo has put together a list of the top 100 agile books. Many of these books are specific to software engineering. I really liked Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum by Mike Cohn.

Try Goshido, a new cloud-platform, which helps people: focus, communicate, and do their best work. Goshido applies new principles for how work can be organized; the perfect blend of Agile, Lean, Productivity and Attention Management.

Personal Productivity – a guide (FTF and GTD)

Posted on 04. Jun, 2011 by ger in Guides, New Ways to Work

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the tasks and projects you have, then some personal productivity techniques might help. Maybe the five minutes you spend reading this post might save many hours of procrastination in the future.

I’ve experimented with a number of techniques in my time and two in particular made a big impact on me. In this post I’ll give you a quick guide to Stephen Covey’s First-Things-First (FTF) and David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD®).

Getting Things Done (GTD)

Getting Things Done (GTD) helps you capture all of the tasks and projects bouncing around in your head into a system you can trust. It’s a bit different from other time management methods because it doesn’t focus on priorities. I’ve used GTD for a number of years and it is an excellent way to get and stay organized, calm and productive.

GTD – key concepts

Actions, are indivisible chunks of work. An action is something that needs to be done.

Contexts, are the situation in which an action can be completed. For example, an action that can only be completed in the office, would have a context of office.

Projects are activities that will take more than one action to complete. Each project has a desired outcome, a simple description of what success looks like. One of the key benefits of GTD is the idea that you should always identify the next action for a project. For example, if the project is renew insurance, the next action might be “get insurance company phone number”.

GTD has a simple workflow. You have a number of collections – notebooks, inboxes (electronic and real paper), voice recorders. You regularly process these collections and capture the actions. You can make a simple triage decision on each item in a collection:

  • Is it actionable?
  • If yes, and it will take less than two minutes, do it now.
  • If actionable, and it will take longer, defer it.
  • If not, bin it or store it for reference.

There’s a number of stages of the GTD “workflow”:

  • collect- gather possible actionable items
  • process – all the items and decide if they are actionable or not
  • organize & review – review your existing projects and actions, make sure every project has a next action
  • do – don’t forget to get things done

GTD Benefits

There’s more to GTD, but that’s the rudiments. When I’ve managed to apply myself for a consistent period of time I’ve found it excellent, felt calmer and more in control of my work. It does take some time though.

Getting the most out of GTD

The danger with GTD is you spend lots of time feeding the system, you could if you’re not careful, spend more time organizing than doing.

You really do need to do the weekly review every week – not every so often. The hard thing is stopping long enough to do the weekly review. I’ve let it lapse for a time and if you haven’t done a weekly review in more than a week you do start to feel harried and start to mistrust the system and feel like things are “getting a bit out of control” (instead of “getting done”).

The total number of projects starts to rise quickly. This is good and bad. It’s good because you become more conscious of the number of projects you’re involved in, they were all there in the back of your mind anyway. I found within a few weeks I was up to nearly 70 projects which is a lot to review weekly in just an hour. In the end I had to review only part of the project list. I used my “areas of responsibility” to prioritize my projects.

If you do read David Allen’s book and you’re not quite sure about GTD, try reading the book a second time at least a month later. I found the concepts made much more sense on the second read.

Tools for GTD

You don’t need any tools for GTD. You can do everything with a notebook and a simple physical filing system.

However, a number of excellent tools have emerged in recent years. On the Mac (and iPhone / iPad) you’ll find both Omnifocus and Things. Things is a very elegant and simple application. Omnifocus is more complex but more powerful. ThinkingRock is a java GTD application that runs on Windows (as well as Mac and Linux). All of these tools are for a single individual.

Our product Goshido is a platform for managing work. It runs on the cloud and any web browser. Goshido allows you to capture, organize and do: actions and projects. Goshido enables you to implement GTD either on your own or within a team.

GTD summary

One of the refreshingly different things about GTD is a lack of emphasis on priorities. The main idea is to select a next action based on context, on the day and in the moment.

If you’re finding you are harried in your day to day work and starting to feel out of control, give GTD a try, it could leave you feeling like you have a “mind like water”, a calm awareness.

Prioritizing work with FTF

A number of years ago I also tried using the productivity system outlined by Stephen Covey in his book, 7 habits of highly effective people. Habit #3 is “First Things First”. Covey recommends you decide the importance and urgency of each task.

This means each task can be categorized in one of four quadrants:

  1. Important & Urgent
  2. Important & Not Urgent
  3. Not Important & Urgent
  4. Not Important & Not Urgent

Many people spend too much time in quadrant 3 and not enough time in quadrant 2. Covey recommends intentionally tipping the balance toward quadrant 2, saying no or delaying tasks that arrive that are part of quadrant 3.

Years ago a US multinational I worked for sent us all on time management training. They recommended prioritizing tasks on a scale of 1-5. When I started using the Covey technique I found it much more effective.

As Dwight D. Eisenhower once said “Most things which are urgent are not important, and most things which are important are not urgent.”

Next Actions


Goshido is not licensed, certified, approved, or endorsed by or otherwise affiliated with David Allen or the David Allen Company which is the creator of the Getting Things Done® system for personal productivity. GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. For more information on the David Allen Company’s products, please visit their website:

Speaking on Cloud Software Development – ICS / University of Limerick

Posted on 16. May, 2011 by ger in Events

Do you want to learn more about developing software for the cloud? Are you going to be somewhere near Limerick (Ireland) on Thursday 19-May-2011? If so, come along to the event organized by the Irish Computer Society (ICS) in the University of Limerick (6-8pm).

Richie Bowden of Cloud Consulting will be speaking about all of the options out there for cloud software development. I’ve seen Richie speak before and this is a great opportunity to catch him in Limerick. Besides consulting on all things cloud, Richie is also a ScrumMaster and PMI certified project manager.

I will be speaking about our experiences developing Goshido using Ruby-on-Rails on Amazon web-services.

Next steps:

Try Goshido (free trial)

Five Degrees of Online Project Collaboration – Common Pitfalls

Posted on 26. Apr, 2011 by ger in New Ways to Work

Businesses like yours waste valuable time and money on a bewildering array of communication and project management systems. This overview will make you aware of some of the common pitfalls encountered by Lisa, Michael, Andrea, Pauline and Donald.

Most people now realize email is a huge waste of time and attention. Researchers are discovering email can even affect your physical and mental health.

If you search for alternatives to email you’ll find so many products they’ll make your head spin. However, if you squint hard enough, most fall into one of these categories.

  • Online Task Lists
  • Online Project Management Systems
  • Domain Specific Workflow
  • Social Software for Enterprise
  • Email Fixer-Uppers

Online Task Lists

Lisa manages four small teams of software developers. They started using a popular project management and task tracking tool and found some immediate benefits. They were able to create projects and tasks online and share and assign them to other people on the team. They moved all their tasks from post-it-notes and spreadsheets to a system that gave everyone visibility of what was happening whether they were in the office or working from another location.

While they saw short term gains, they quickly hit the limitations of these systems. One team, five engineers working on short projects (one-month iterations of the software) suddenly had lists with 250 tasks. No one could see who was doing what next. Even worse, everyone on the project was getting email notifications of all task completions, generating a lot of noise.

The system had a fixed structure; projects contained milestones which contained tasks. When the team wanted to sub-divide tasks they started sending emails. Suddenly, some of the project information went invisible again – black market tasks.

Simple task and project management systems hit limitations even for small teams.

Project Management and Domain Specific Workflow

Michael is a game producer managing a 120 person multi-disciplinary team. Michael started the project, created the initial plan on a Gannt chart. But he realized the Gannt chart was really just good for planning and wasn’t so useful for the day-to-day running of the project.

The software developers on the game used specialized tools, an agile project tracking system & a bug tracker. The QA group used the bug tracker but not the agile system. The art & animation teams didn’t like the agile system or the bug tracker and used neither properly. The marketing team didn’t like any of the tools, so they just used email and spreadsheets.

The agile project management system helped the team leaders allocate work to different releases and track the progress as a project was ongoing, but the individual engineers felt they were just feeding data into the system and seeing very little value in return.

Everyone on the project wrote a progress report at the end of the week. This was then filtered by their team leads and sent to Andrea an associate producer. She collated and summarized everything into a single 9-page email that’s was circulated and reviewed by all the producers once a week.

Andrea spent most of her time doing clerical work, chasing people for late status reports, cross checking everything and reconciling it back to the original project plan. Everyone spent time writing status reports and sitting in meetings. By the time the executive team analyzed and acted on the 9-page email, the information was watered down and a week out of date.

When tools are complex and specialist you won’t get broad adoption in a multi-disciplinary project. Critical project information gets scattered into a number of information silos.

Email & Enterprise Social

Pauline runs a European sales and marketing team for a multinational corporation. Each quarter they start 40 different projects in 13 countries in Europe. Some projects involve external sub-contract companies.

They tried a popular internal collaboration system but it became cumbersome to track a large number of projects. They could never convince their IT team to make the system accessible to the external sub-contractors. Everyone reverted to email and a weekly three-hour status meeting.

Now Pauline receives on average 104 emails a day. 11 of them are actionable – things she needs to do. But she has to read all 104 emails, just in case an action she’s expected to take, is nestled in the third-last paragraph.

The IT team installed an enterprise social platform. Initially it was popular with a number of internal blogs being published. Interesting dialogs happened but great ideas in posts and comments were never acted on (or if they were, the results never connected back to the posts or comments).

The enterprise social platform made it easier to share information, but it didn’t help people do their day to day jobs; it didn’t help them orchestrate action within the organization.

Email Fixer-Uppers

Donald works for a creative agency. At any one time he’s working on six different projects, some in early concept stage others in execution phase. The IT team recently installed an enhanced email system that filters emails automatically and helps him organize the emails in smart folders. Donald likes the system even though it really slows down his computer. The big problem though is he’s alone. Everyone else he works with, tinkered with the system but didn’t change their email practices and just drifted back to email as usual. They didn’t think differently, so they didn’t act differently.

To paraphrase Ted Nelson – fixing email is like trying to graft arms and legs onto a hamburger.


With the right product you can save money, time and stop some of those business opportunities from slipping through the cracks.

  • Make sure you have a business problem to solve
  • If you’re evaluating a specific product match it with a category above and be aware of the possible pitfalls
  • Make sure the product you select is something that you and your colleagues will want to use
  • Pick a product that will grow to meet the needs of your organization

Try Goshido (free trial)

Why we built Goshido

Posted on 07. Apr, 2011 by ger in New Ways to Work, Product

Goshido is a labour of love that was born of frustration – a frustration that many people share.

Juggling Projects in Intel

I was a software architect working on a large project in Intel and our new chip was just spluttering into life. Engineers in Ireland, USA (Massachusetts & Arizona) and India were working day and night to keep the project moving. I arrived into the office one morning, picked up a tea in the canteen and headed for my desk. As my laptop woke, I sipped some tea. As Outlook synced new emails from the server, I checked the share price on Yahoo Finance, +15c. I wondered how the testing had gone in Phoenix over the weekend.

My mood imploded. 253 unread emails in my inbox. Groan.

Inbox Zero

At the time, I was trying Merlin Mann’s excellent inbox zero technique, so I set to work triaging my emails.

Inbox zero suggests you skim each email and decide if it’s an action, information or noise. If it’s actionable and easy to do – do it. If it’s actionable and takes a bit longer, mark it for later processing. If it’s not actionable, delete it or archive it.

Sometimes it can be hard to categorize an email. Some emails drag on and on with the action is hidden in the third last paragraph. To be honest, I wandered off track, spent at least 20 minutes writing a reply to an email about another project before I remembered inbox zero. 2 hours, 8 minutes later I was at inbox zero and I had 16 emails marked as actionable. The good news: the testing had gone well in Phoenix. The bad news: my brain was fried by all of the context switches as I lurched from one email to the next. I needed another cup of tea.

A Universal Problem

This tale of woe is repeated in offices and workplaces around the world every day. Email is really just a symptom of the problem. Most people are juggling many chunks of work at the same time, don’t communicate about them effectively, get distracted by the urgent stuff, and veer away from the important. Tension escalates. Groups try to remedy this by spending time in meetings or writing status reports or crafting even more emails.

Over the years I’ve worked in big companies and tiny companies and the problem affects both in different ways. While big companies might have many people on a project, small companies tend to have many small informal projects.

What about tool X?

Over the years I’d tried many many tools: web-based collaboration, enterprise social, wikis, project management, and bug-trackers. The web-collaboration tools worked well for projects of moderate size (and small numbers of them). The wikis and enterprise social tools worked well for sharing information, not so good for coordinating action. The project management and bug trackers worked well for engineers but saw low adoption in cross-disciplinary teams.

For one reason or another, the teams I worked with, abandoned the new tool and drifted back to emails and shared documents/spreadsheets.

Techniques that work

Despite these tools issues, I’ve tried interesting techniques like Scrum (a form of agile project management), GTD (a brilliant personal productivity technique by David Allen), and mindfulness. However the tools for these techniques are either specific to a domain (like software development), for individuals (not teams), or non-existent. Some of the projects I worked on achieved significant successes with Scrum, using nothing more than a truck-load of post-its and a sense of humor.

So that’s why we’ve built Goshido – a cloud platform that can help you (and the people you work with):

  • Focus on doing the things that matter
  • Communicate with clarity about actions
  • Complete massive projects (or 100s of informal ones)

Next steps

So if you feel overwhelmed by all the work coming at you, and you’ve tried lots of other tools and found them wanting, try something different:
Try Goshido (free trial)

We hope you find Goshido as useful as we do, and if you do, be sure to let us know.