What if each day at work had a theme?

Themes For Each Day At Work

Basic idea is here in Fast Company, and here’s the grid that Jack Dorsey (famous for Twitter, currently of Square, and once written about on this blog) came up with for himself:

Monday: Focus on management and running the company
Tuesday: Focus on product
Wednesday: Focus on marketing and communications and growth
Thursday: Focus on developers and partnerships
Friday: Focus on the company and the culture and recruiting
Saturday: Take day off to hike
Sunday: Focus on reflections, feedback, strategy, and getting ready for the rest of the week

There are a million and seven ideas for how workplaces can be more effective and/or more organized — the real goal is to be more effective at making money, FYI — and this is somewhat similar to ideas like “How about a major and a minor at work?” and/or “How about a chef’s approach to work?”

Some quick thoughts:

1. This is a cool idea on face. Where it might fall apart is competing priorities. On that Fast Company link, Dorsey admits that. Interruptions occur all the time — but if it’s Tuesday, the focus must be product. The good thing about this idea is that it gives some clarity and organization to how days should flow — and marketing people know their day is Wednesday, whereas developers know their day is Thursday, so they’re not clamoring the top dog on the other days. The problem is, it’s an imperfect system. The product day can seem longer and more engaged, and then developers get pissed. People and human behavior do factor into all this stuff.

2. To do this successfully, you need to kind of be saying that all areas/ideas/concepts are the same on face. That’s not true. Everything should have roughly the same heft in some ways, but oftentimes marketing is more important (maybe during a roll-out) and oftentimes product is more important (during the early parts of a development sprint). If you have a couple of weeks in a row where you don’t completely follow the schedule you need to follow, people will start to take it less seriously. It involves a lot of consistency that most managers don’t have the time/ability for.

3. Again, a cool idea — but if you click on that link around the word Square in the first line, you’ll see a longer-form Fast Company article about how Square isn’t necessarily doing all that well as a company. You can have a great and innovative management structure, but if you ain’t making cheddar, people won’t care. Zappos has a cool structure, but if Zappos ever became irrelevant, people would listen to Tony Hsieh a lot less. Jack Welch is “Jack Welch” to people because GE was making buckets of money at the time.

4. It can probably feel a little shitty to the other divisions that they only have one day, because silos do exist and people will always believe that their area (“Marketing!”) is more relevant than some other area (“Product!”). It can lead to grousing around, “Well, the top brass only focuses on us on Tuesdays, and that’s bullshit, because we’re driving the ship around here!” (People are miserable to deal with sometimes.) (I think this is loosely similar to the point I made in No. 1 above, which means maybe I’m rambling about nothing.)

5. I do overall agree that people need to come into work and focus on the goals of that day — that’s the mise-en-place idea. I know you get interrupted and different things become priorities, but still. People need to remember that your workday is basically two pockets: the morning, then the afternoon. Each is about 4-5 hours. You probably have a bunch of meetings, but you do have the time to get things done. You just need to think to yourself — What do I do that adds value, and how can I add value today? It’s really simple, but people get bogged down in running around to meetings and doing things that aren’t really adding value, and that becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. That’s what people need to avoid. It doesn’t matter if you use this approach or some other approach, but try to get your people to consistently add value.

Ted Bauer