Letter to the Team (2018)
It was great doing one-on-one reviews with everyone. Overall, I think we did fantastic work last year and are shaping up to be a great team, there are a few places where we all need to tighten up.
We were outstanding as an organization in terms of product and output. Almost everyone has worked on a large variety of projects and delivered a lot of things. Even our quality has been improving steadily. Some of you have started taking leadership on support and forum, which is also excellent. So we can all be proud of our efforts in the year!
Let us look at issues we need to improve on.
We all agree that we need to step up here, me included. Let us take the example of daily work summaries. This is a great way to share what you are working on, or add a funny comment, or just reflect on your work day. You never know, someone might have worked on something you have already worked, and have important insights, or you may find out someone you can collaborate on a project with. Don’t you find it inspiring to read what everyone is working on?
A good team needs good communication. Specially those who mostly work remotely. When you think of communication, think of it as sharing and teaching. Communication is not idle chatter (even though that is fine), but detailed thoughts or summaries of what you are working, or where you need help, or communicating with an end user. All of this requires putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, framing words in language that will be understandable by all and finally executing a coherent piece.
Since we are an open source project, the community looks up to all of us, and wants to understand what we are working on. If the understand better, they will also be able to give us critical and timely feedback and also contribute more. Learning from the inspiring success and contributions of Basecamp, we should remember
“If you can’t out spend your competition, out teach your competition”
Maybe the non-communication may be a symptom to a deeper problem, dis-engagement. That is something we can also fix by doing more one-on-one communication. This is also an opportunity for new leaders to take charge. Talk to your team mates and find out what is stopping them from being wholly engaged? Is there something we need to do better?
If you are looking for self-improvement, here are some pointers to get started.
- Start sharing what you do a lot more.
- Ask people in your team if they have any problems. Encourage them to speak up, either on chat or in-person.
- Keep a time of the day aside to answer questions on the forum or GitHub.
- Update the Daily Work Summary regularly.
The second area we need to tighten up is making sure our projects get completed on time. That means taking responsibility of the milestones that we set for ourselves. We have had a lot of conversations over this and we are making great progress.
The key to on-time delivery is great planning. Whenever you are building something, make sure you have meditated enough on the problem and anticipated where you might need help.
Planning also means keeping time aside for testing and other feedback. Early communication about problems becomes critical too. We need to do this more as a company and all of us should spend more time in discussing our monthly plan.
To fix both these problems, we are going to try out variable pay for the first time in the company.
Every month we will set milestones as usual. There will be only one milestone for everyone each month and we will be grouped into teams of three. There will be three bonuses for you.
- Performance Bonus: Meeting your milestone every month will earn you a bonus of 5%.
- Exceptional Performance Bonus: If contribute over and above your milestone you will earn a 5% bonus for exceptional performance. This could be helping out with conference planning, or taking up an unplanned project.
- Communication Bonus: If you show good performance on forum, documentation, blogs, videos will also have a 5% bonus. Both quantity and quality will be considered for this.
We are not sure how we will evaluate this, but we can start with grades and take it forward based on feedback and experience. If you need more help and understanding of these, then lets have more discussions.
Goals and Investments
So look forward to making this another great year and creating great products and technology that will be the best in the world. I don’t think we have ever defined goals for the company. Here is something I propose should be our goals:
1. Build outstanding products.
2. Help people to use our products.
3. Share our knowledge with the world.
We are already good at #1 and #2, and our new incentive system fits in well with these goals.
We are also at an important inflection point in our journey. ERPNext is a product we have built over a decade, and we have always been a marginal player in the market. After tons of feedback and improvements, ERPNext is a massively improved and useful product. Slowly, it is becoming a mainstream option for companies looking for a modern ERP system.
As technological platforms undergo rapid change, companies across the world will look to adopt these innovations in their systems. ERPNext is perfectly poised to be the partner and platform of choice for companies worldwide. Open source and sharing is making it easy for innovative companies to come to this conclusion. In terms of the market, we can slowly see the stars align. It is up to rise up to the challenge. To paraphrase a quote from World War II Veteran, Admiral William Hasley,
“There are no great people, only great challenges, that ordinary people are forced by circumstances to meet”
Even though all of us have no delusions about greatness, we have been given this opportunity. And if we don’t raise our standards even higher, we will miss this forever.
Let us give it our best.