June 1st, 2015
by Henry Poydar
Hi there, I’m Henry Poydar, founder and CEO of 8012 Labs, the small software company that owns and operates Status Hero. I live and work in Brooklyn, New York. I’ve been writing software and leading both co-located and remote software teams for over twenty years.
Awash in Noise
A few years ago, I was a co-founder and the CTO of an angel-backed web application startup. We had some good traction, and a mid-size, publicly-traded software company acquired us.
As part of the acquisition, my team and I were responsible for managing our application’s integration into the buyer’s aging platform. We were trusted with swapping out a crucial piece of ten-year-old infrastructure without any disruption to the business. Just like the cliché, we were rebuilding the train engine while it was barreling down the tracks.
Now, only 5% of the messages I received deserved my attention, but I had no idea which 5%. I was constantly triaging it all.
We quickly had over 50 people working on the project from all disciplines: engineering, ops, product, marketing, execs, and more — all spread out over several time zones.
The company had made other acquisitions over the years and their project management stack and communication channels were not standardized. I quickly found myself drowning in notifications. Meeting requests and pings of all sorts were coming in at all hours, across many channels.
This was quite a different experience from a small startup where most communication was relevant to me and my work. Now, only 5% of the messages I received deserved my attention, but I had no idea which 5%. I was constantly triaging it all.
Searching for Signal with Snippets
A few current and former Googlers turned me on to their solution for piercing through the madness: a process called “snippets.”
It’s remarkably simple: each week, team members respond to an automated email that asks for accomplishments from the previous week and intentions for the upcoming one.
I implemented this system for our project with the acquiring company and saw immediate results. These emails from direct reports became my source of truth for what was happening. I referred to it frequently for aligning the team and communicating progress to stakeholders.
But it still had drawbacks. Most notably, all the data had to flow through me.
Who’s Doing What, and Why
When I left that company and founded 8012 Labs, I realized a snippets-like system of check-ins could work for any team and project. That’s how Status Hero was born. We did, of course, make some crucial improvements over bare snippets along the way.
Improvement #1: Your Team, Your Communication Channels
Status Hero works with any communication channel, not just email. It collects check-ins via Slack, Microsoft Teams, Webex Teams, and text messaging. It also distributes reports to your teams through those applications. A design goal of Status Hero is to adapt to the processes and tools you already have.
Improvement #2: Hundreds of Integrations
No team uses just one communication tool or system. That’s why we made sure Status Hero aggregates project management data from popular apps like Jira, GitHub, and Trello. With these integrations, your team can understand the details behind check-ins without manually collecting them.
It’s a powerful way to get a bird’s eye view of your team’s work. Today we support dozens of integrations outright and hundreds more via Zapier and our own API.
Improvement #3: Transparency, Trust, and Intentions
Most importantly, we designed Status Hero to maximize transparency. In my experience, high-performing digital teams do their best work when two criteria are met. First, the team is aligned behind the vision for a successful outcome. Second, everyone understands each other’s intentions (and the thinking behind them).
It’s not just about the “who” and the “what,” but the “why” as well.
When team members get good at setting expectations for themselves and trust each other’s intentions, accurate planning and estimates are unlocked for the whole team.
In Status Hero, everyone sees each other’s accomplishments, intentions, blockers, and project management activity within their team by default.
When individual intentions are clear to everyone on the team, trust is built, duplicative work is avoided, and team members start helping each other without manager intervention.
Additionally, when people are able to set expectations for themselves and trust their teammates’ intentions, the whole team gets more accurate planning and project estimates as a result (not to mention that everyone is generally calmer and happier).
Improvement #4: Simple and Insightful Reporting
We have focused on finding the best ways to filter and analyze check-ins and project management data. The result is clear, helpful reports, whether it’s a daily dashboard or report templates for use in retros, 1:1s, and planning sessions.
We designed these reports to be consumed by everyone in your org – team members, managers, and stakeholders.
Optimized to Minimize Disruption
Interruptions are poison for deep work and creative endeavors like software development, product strategy, writing, and design
I’ve learned a few other things over the years (mostly the hard way) about how teams work and incorporated them into our product.
Interruptions are poison for deep work and creative endeavors like software development, product strategy, writing, and design. Getting in “the zone” for this work is hard and takes time. Even a quick question or shoulder tap often means grinding deep work to a halt and having to get into the zone all over again.
Status Hero is an asynchronous tool designed to collect accomplishments, intentions, and blockers — with as little disruption and friction as possible.
Starting with smart defaults, individuals have fine-grained control over their notification settings, methods, time zone, and absences. It provides team alignment without the hassle of rearranging deep work around a status meeting.
But Not Necessarily a Stand-up Meeting Replacement
Sure, many teams use Status Hero instead of holding the traditional stand-up meeting. Stand-ups are hard to schedule, particularly with remote teams spread across time zones. And, although they are meant to be brief, the time is often spent collecting the details Status Hero aggregates out of the box.
Other teams still hold stand-ups, and doing so more productively and less frequently. Why? Because Status Hero has already captured and recorded the details of their work, the team can use the time to focus on meaningful interactions and dialogue rather than data collection.
Meeting fatigue is real, especially in today’s remote work environments.Most everyone appreciates it when meeting time is considered precious and used wisely.### Mood Matters Too
One of the benefits of synchronous meetings is that mood and emotional state are often conveyed through body language and tone. Sure, we’re conditioned to bottle this up in business settings, but good managers know each person’s emotional state will affect the whole team, both positively and negatively.
In Status Hero, we created an optional way for team members to indicate mood with emojis. It’s an approachable way of signaling an emotional state in an asynchronous environment without explicitly broadcasting something you’d rather keep private. This feature is a big hit with our customers.
At 8012 Labs, we use Status Hero daily to manage our all-remote team’s workload. All support requests are answered by people who rely on Status Hero and know it inside and out. We don’t even have a dedicated “support” person - we believe that’s just part of everyone’s job.
We love critical feedback and are dedicated to continually improving Status Hero. After all, we are customers too. Please send us your thoughts.
P.S., In case you haven’t seen it, we have a popular email newsletter for team leads and managers. Every couple of weeks, I curate articles and tips designed to help you right away. Get on the mailing list.