Casual.PM Blog

How Understanding The Maker’s Workflow Can Boost The Results Of Your Team

I stayed in the office till late to sort out some things before an important event. I was about to close the office but apparently I was not the last one. Shawn, our developer, was absorbed in his work and didn’t seem like going home anytime soon.

‘Hey dude! Why still in the office?’
‘Ah, just want to finish some stuff while office is empty and quiet.’

Have you ever noticed that the so-called makers (developers, copywriters, video editors, etc.) tend to create conditions for themselves so they’re not interrupted by others for long periods of time? They come to the office when no one is there, lurk in some secluded corner for long hours or occasionally work from home.

The workflow of makers significantly differs from the one of managers, which is caused by the nature of their work. If you analyse how work is organised in your company, you’ll notice that in most cases it is the manager’s schedule that is prioritised. And this forces makers to adjust. However, not everyone is aware that this may cost their company money.

Maybe it’s time to turn the tables?

There’s a great article written by Paul Graham, founder of Y-Combinator, when he pinpointed the difference of maker’s and manager’s schedule:

“There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals…

But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That's barely enough time to get started.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in… It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.”

Two Major Characteristics in The Maker’s Workflow:

  1. The productivity of makers builds up with time. Makers unlike managers cannot operate in hour or half hour blocks, they need bigger slots of time. Sometimes they get into the flow and reach their high productivity point only after 1-2 hours. A scheduled meeting or urgent request can happen right in the middle of a creative breakthrough.
  2. Some makers work with a big amount of information in the process of creation. For instance, developers handle a lot of complex data in their head while developing (think of it as a puzzle). So if you interrupt them even with a small request or question, their flow breaks and they’ll have to gather all the pieces together in their head all over again.

Practical solutions to boost productivity of makers  in your team:

  1. Schedule meetings at the beginning or at the end of the working day. This way their day won’t be broken and makers will have a big chunk of time dedicated to production only. Build your schedule around your makers’ schedule. At the end of the day they are the ones who actually produce and make things.
  2. Think twice before approaching a maker with a question. Is it really urgent? Maybe you can google it? Or think a bit longer and actually solve the problem yourself? In this case you won’t break your maker’s flow.
  3. Schedule a fixed daily ‘consulting hour’. There are cases when you need to consult with makers at least once during the day. Agree on a time slot which suits your maker best. Pick a time and stick to it. Let’s say every day from 5 to 6 pm.
  4. Communicate makers’ schedule to the entire team so no one breaks their flow.
  5. Allow makers to have flexible working hours. If they feel like working at night when no one could possibly disturb them or coming to the office at midday, try to make such an option possible.

If you break the maker’s flow, he looses from 1 to 2 hours of getting into a productive creative mode and will have to do it all over again to catch up. It can be very costly for the company.

Start implementing these simple changes and observe your teammates become happier and more productive day by day. And be ready for a significant boost in the results for your team!

Have you ever had this problem in your team? If you think this topic is relevant share it with your friends.

About the author: Alla Berdnikova is a traveler and blogger who has been working as a project manager in non-governmental organisations and online startups for more than 4 years.