Reagle's Work Style

This version:
Joseph Reagle <reagle@w3.org>
Dan Connolly, Ian Jacobs

This is a description of my work style, very much influenced by working at the W3C -- though sometimes I slip up.

  1. Management and process should be tools for the worker, not a hindrance. Management should set goals, clear the path, and provide the resources to get the job done. Process should be collected experience/wisdom instead of arbitrary rules.
  2. I document my expectations, dependencies and requirements, and I try to extract clear comitments from others. I've probably read your email, and I try to frequently refer to your Web pages, but I'm not reading your mind. Make sure your pages say what you mean and get an affirmative response or commitment from me if you want to be sure I understand.
  3. I frequently refer to resources (web pages or email archives) when I wish to discuss specifications, policies, expectations, discussions, and agreements. I prefer specific references and citations over unsubstantiated claims and hand-waving. While this is a habit that takes some time to implement efficiently, it also saves the reader time by requiring precision by the author, saves everyone time by reducing ambiguity, and even saves the author time by reducing redundancy: once something is written, it need not be written again. References and citation by myself should not be interpreted as aggressiveness or defensiveness, but completeness.
  4. I take and give action items; action items have an action, name, and completion date.
  5. A commitment is an agreement by an entity that is accountable. As stated, an action item commitment is associated with a name, not "someone" (never gets done) or "one of them" (not very fair to the other people and decreases the likelihood of the action).
  6. I work to meet my commitments, if I can't I will say so as soon as I know. Not being able to do something is fine, just say so. Then one can re-prioritize, re-negotiate, or re-assign that commitment. Letting something go to completion date and fail is bad; it could've been discussed but now all dependencies are thrown off.
  7. All topics, issues, resources and chains of command should have a single owner: a point of contact and accountability. That is not to say one can't delegate subsequent tasks.
  8. When coming to a group decision, I aim for rough consensus. I try to achieve consensus through discussion (structured by good mediation) and then polling the group for some formulation of the policy that is agreeable. Asking the right question of the group can be difficult, but part of coming to consensus is discovering the right question to ask.
  9. While I believe consensus is important, sometimes it can't be readily achieved. Then, I believe the owner of an issue has the final say, they ultimately get the credit or blame (though everybody who contributes deserves a share of the credit and responsibility). If I can't do it, I will get out of the way. This is not to say I think others will do a bad job. If I disagree with someone else who is more knowledgeable and motivated, I will offer my input and let them succeed on their own terms.
  10. I feel responsible for decisions to which I made a contribution (either I own the issue or was part of reaching consensus). I don't like to do things that I disagree with or don't understand.
  11. If I don't understand what you mean, show me what you mean. If I can't explain my position I will provide a proposal, example,or solution that shows what I mean.
  12. Practice is improved by writing a policy/proposal and then discussing, implementing, and amending it based on discussion and experience. Even if the original policy is lame, by writing it down and normatively referring to it, one encourages improvement since others will then be able to propose improvements. Frequently, practices are not documented by their immediate users since they know what works for them. When they interact with others, this is a good time to write up the best practices so others can understand and suggest improvements.
  13. I endeavor to always be open to constructive criticism and suggestion, but I can get frustrated if things aren't jiving with my work style.
  14. And lastly — and frankly — I try to avoid work. We all have too much to do, but I believe in maxims like, "do one thing and do it well," or "make commitments one can keep, and keep the commitments one makes." Over comittment and burn-out help no one, particularly one's self. Following this work style helps me avoid that, and it can help you too.

While I think many of these points are laudable I don't believe this is the only acceptable work style. However, I've documented my expectations and if we differ I apply these principles meta-recursively: we need to negotiate as to how to best work together! ;-)


Last Edited by reagle@w3.org on  #Date: 1999/05/12 18:09:51#