We’ve been successfully using the project management system Basecamp with the LOINC team for a few years now.

What I admire about Basecamp the company is how insightful their leaders are about what it takes to run a lean, innovative, and successful organization. And how openly they share what they’re learning along the way. (The books Rework and Remote: Office Not Required are superb).

The latest post from CEO Jason Fried, The tool we built to keep everyone in the loop at Basecamp, is a great example. In this article, Jason describes their approach to accomplish a clear, but difficult to attain goal:

For us the goal was simple: On a regular, ongoing basis, help everyone at the company learn things they didn’t know, discover stuff they might not have known was going on, and develop a better appreciation for their fellow co-workers and the work everyone does every day.

Getting the balance right is an art

At a recent Regenstrief Center for Biomedical Informatics (CBMI) strategic planning session, many people talked about challenges with internal communication. This wasn’t a surprise. We’ve really struggled with communication over the years. We vacillate between exchanges on the “everyone” list serve that are distracting and large gaps of silence about important issues and accomplishments. We’ve made some great strides forward on this with regular updates from the Director (when Dr. Schleyer wrote them they were dubbed Tidings from Titus), Town Hall meetings, etc. But few would argue that we couldn’t do better.

Finding the optimal balance that avoids overload but keeps everyone feeling connected is an art.

Blues Brothers Megaphone

photo via Stig Nygaard

I really like the approach Basecamp is using and think we should borrow some of these ideas within CBMI. On the LOINC team we’ve been using a weekly check-in process modified from what Fizzle.co does. I found it hugely helpful. Here’s the quick summary.

LOINC Team Check-in/out Process

At the start of a week, we all make a post in a Basecamp project to answer four questions:

  1. What are you planning to work on this week?
  2. Are you off any days this week?
  3. Do you need help with anything?
  4. What are you most looking forward to this week?

Then, at the end of the week, we checkout by answering four more questions:

  1. What did you work on this week?
  2. Are you off any days next week?
  3. On my mind for next week:
  4. What are you most grateful for?

Taking that up a notch

The approach Jason Fried describes takes that up another level. I really like the idea of including “todos” where anyone can request an update about something they feel in the dark about. And no doubt, keeping all of this “heartbeat” communication tidy, in one place (e.g. a Basecamp project), is a huge advantage.

The main thing I’d tweak from their approach is that daily “What did you work on today?” updates feels too frequent. Our weekly “check out” seems just right.

I’m looking forward to riffing on these ideas with my colleagues and finding that sweet spot of communication for our Center.

Disclosure of Material Connection

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