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The Asynchronous Mindset & Methodology — Key to Working “Remote First”

January 19, 2023

TRANSFORMING
WORK

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SOPHIE WADE

The Asynchronous Mindset & Methodology — Key to Working “Remote First”

The Asynchronous Mindset & Methodology — Key to Working “Remote First”

Liam Martin, who co-founded and runs Timedoctor and Staff.com, is an avid proponent of remote work and co-organizer of the Running Remote conference. Liam draws on much personal experience learning the asynchronous mindset and optimizing designing processes to enable “deep work” by distributed teams. For the new book he co-authored, Running Remote, Liam researched how remote pioneers built their businesses. He shares high level and granular advice, including useful tools and practices for organizations interested in improving their hybrid models or going fully remote.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

[03:30] Liam left home at fifteen to compete internationally for Canada in ice dance.

[04:39] Liam suffers a career-ending shattered kneecap which forced him to refocus his life at 19.

[07:28] Growing up in international training centers left Liam with no High-School diploma.

[08:45] The discipline required to compete at the highest level of sports can be useful in other fields, such as business.

[09:40] Liam starts teaching as a lecturer at McGill but discovers entrepreneurship is a better fit.

[12:10] 6 For those interested in entrepreneurship but thinking about college after high school, Liam shares his opinion based on his own experience.

[13:29] Liam discusses what he worked out about the mechanics of business.

[14:23] Key learnings as Liam was forced into a remote business early on.

[16:07] The tutoring business hit an issue tracking work which Liam and his new business partner, Rob Rawson, created a new venture to solve.

[17:20] They launch the Running Remote conference in 2018 to support people wanting to build and scale fully remote companies.

[18:16] In 2018, there were only seven companies with over 1000 people that were fully-remote.

[19:07] In his book, Running Remote, Liam explains how remote pioneers have a different methodology to running their businesses.

[20:17] The Future of Work is trending to be mostly hybrid, but distance bias must be overcome.

[21:20] Leaders are choosing to work remotely certain days to mitigate distance bias.

[22:34] Asynchronous management is the key methodology remote pioneers implemented - the ability to be able to communicate without directly interacting with someone synchronously.

[23:47] To deploy a hybrid work model successfully, Tenet 1: Deliberate over-communication.

[25:06] Liam starts interacting with “on-premise” organizations and is very surprised at the lack of documentation for everything.

[27:03] Tenet 2 - Democratized workflows – the ability to have information available to everyone.

[27:37] Relinquishing control of information is difficult, but it enables better decision-making.

[28:54] Tenet 3 – Really detailed metrics – the most difficult part.

[29:23] If process documentation feels overwhelming, Liam advises starting with an asynchronous week.

[30:41] More than 95% of process documents are never accessed. Is this an opportunity for ChatGPT?

[32:23] The number one reason companies failed to become fully (90%) asynchronous.

[33:40] The system needs to become the manager then managers can focus on people.

[34:34] Weekly iterations are ideal, biweekly at the most.

[36:08] Liam’s book “Running Remote” is “Deep Work” (by Cal Newport) for organizations—emphasizing people working independently.

[38:17] Most asynchronous—remote first—organizations Liam spoke with for the book target ~10% of synchronous communication per day.

[39:12] Synchronous communication for fully-remote and hybrid organizations is currently probably around 40-50%, which is too high to be effective.

[40:32] Liam believes that synchronous may allow better communication and development of ideas in the startup phase, but asynchronous management is much more effective to scale a company.

[42:19] 13% of all remote workers are customer support reps. From onboarding to training asynchronous can do it better and faster.

[44:06] Liam’s goal is to reduce meetings and give people back hours of work time.

[45:29] Their rule about being able to walk out if a meeting isn’t valuable—Liam finds it effective.

[46:50] Liam is unclear where we are going post-COVID since 14% of the US economy involves corporate real estate.

[51:28] Liam shares the tools he uses to manage projects, record, document, and collect information.

[55:28] IMMEDIATE ACTION TIP: Optimize for work rather than meetings. Use effective asynchronous enabling tools including a project management system to be able to document information, and others to establish new processes that reduce live interactions.

QUOTES

“Education wasn’t the goal for me, it was entrepreneurship.”

“The mechanics of running a business is just bureaucracy, unfortunately. The reality is that you can actually cheat your way up until the Dunbar number, which is about 150 people.”

“Distance bias posits that as you get closer to a manager or a decision maker, you then have better access to decision making.”

“The CEO of the company has all of this information in their head, and that's usually the person that ends up making these very serious decisions. Inside an autonomous meritocracy, you empower everyone to make their best decisions and be as autonomous as humanly possible, they need as much information as they can consume. Well, when you give everyone else that same amount of information, magically the CEO isn’t a genius anymore.”

“I would define synchronous as a lazy form of communication, which lacks documentation and produces an environment where 10 years down the road, you've got all of these people that are doing things but have no idea what they're doing or what goal they're serving.”

“Inside remote organizations, there is a digital paper trail for everything, because you're forced to actually produce that.”

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