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These are the values we aspire to, though we sometimes fall short.

Purpose first

We put our shared purpose ahead of our reputation, our ego, and our systems.

  • Goals are tools: We use goals or targets to focus our attention and motivate us. But we change them if they’re no longer pointing in the right direction.
  • Minimalist procedures: Processes help us catch errors and ensure consistency. But we cut them back if it’s not worth the additional complexity and time.
  • Individual responsibility, collective backup: We assign responsible people for each task, and empower them to act. But “it’s not my job” isn’t a reason for missing a goal. We look out for things that might be slipping between the cracks, and give Watch Team Backup to our teammates.
  • Not a popularity contest: The highest-impact strategy isn’t always the one that will make the community happiest — when we have to pick, we choose expected impact over satisfaction
  • Purpose over personal gain: We approach compensation, roles, titles, and perks by collaboratively thinking about what is best for our shared purpose, while paying attention to the benefits of fairness, employee satisfaction, and stability.
  • Act with integrity: Putting the mission first doesn’t mean being naive consequentialists. We avoid breaking laws, violating strong social norms, or causing harm in other ways.

Collective growth

We openly reflect on how to improve, and support each other to make those improvements.

  • We reflect on projects, celebrate success, and fix problems.
    • Retrospectives fuel growth: We end each major project (e.g. EAG, building a new CRM) by writing a (brief) retrospective on what we want to do differently next time.
    • Celebration drives progress: We take time to notice, appreciate, and study projects that go well, so that we can apply their lessons to our other work.
  • We jump at opportunities to learn on the job, and to help others learn.
    • Growth mindset: When we encounter new areas, we believe that we can figure them out, with the help of research, coaching, and hard work.
    • On-the-job improvement: We think that most learning comes from doing (plus a little coaching). We take on projects that stretch us, and make time to reflect.
    • Coaching others: If we have an unusual and relevant skill, we teach it; if we don’t, we try to debug and ask the right questions.
  • We help each other to grow by pointing out opportunities for improvement.
    • We actively request feedback, so that we don’t miss opportunities to grow. We reflect on feedback charitably, follow up, and thank the person for investing in our growth.
    • We give feedback, including to peers and managers. Our goals:
      • Be caring and constructive: The goal is to help each other grow.
      • Be direct and humble: Share your impression, but remember that it’s just your impression, not the objective truth.
      • Share low-confidence thoughts, but be clear about your confidence level.
    • Meta: If we think someone could have given feedback more effectively, we give them that feedback!
  • Managers help people play to their strengths.
    • Trust and empowerment: Managers start by assuming that staff have something significant to contribute, and help them to find and lean into their skills.
    • Play to our strengths: We aim for all staff to focus on the things they’re best at and enjoy most (adjusting for comparative advantage). If someone is consistently struggling with an area, they should hand off this area to someone else and focus on their strengths.
    • Sync up: We aim to be constantly synced up about overall performance and goals. We do this with frequent discussion of small issues, more than with infrequent top-down reviews.

Perpetual beta

We start with specific goals, test our biggest uncertainties, and iterate.

  • Set specific, focused goals: We know we’ll never be certain of which plans are optimal, but we still set specific goals to clarify our thinking and focus our work.
  • Focus testing on our biggest cruxes: the beliefs which, if they changed, would have a big effect on what we do.
  • Empirical tests are the gold standard.
  • Collaborative truth-seeking is the silver standard.
    • We freely challenge hypotheses (even if they’re coming from an authority figure).
    • The goal is to discover the truth together, not to be right.
  • We make True MVPs rather than non-minimal products or non-viable products. A true MVP:
    • Provides tangible value to a real person, without having unnecessary features.
    • Doesn’t create future commitments or damage our reputation.
    • Tells us when to give up or how to improve.
  • If it’s worth investing more in a project, we make small, regular improvements to it.

Alliance mentality

We support each other, cooperate with partners, and collaborate effectively.

  • Broad alliance: Making the world a better place is a big project. We’re allies with anyone who is helping others: grateful for their work and supportive when we have shared goals.
  • Understand your users: We regularly talk with community members, and invite feedback (including anonymous feedback).
  • Servant leadership: We aim to help and support as effectively as we can, rather than controlling the people we work with.
  • Remember we’re all human: We need sleep, time away from work, social support, and psychological safety. If work is conflicting with those needs, we make adjustments. We encourage people to take leave, take time away from email, and set up ergonomic workspaces, because we think those things make us more successful in the long run.
  • …but we’re not all the same: Some of us struggle with our mental health; some of us face or have faced discrimination; some of us experience trauma, grief, and health issues. While we can't fix each other's problems, we seek to understand each other’s circumstances and adapt policies so they work well for many different people.
  • Consult and act: We use the BIRD framework (similar to Bain’s RAPID) to clarify decision-making roles, so that we can both consult and act decisively.
  • Drop balls by choice, not folly: We carefully consider which tasks we’re going to take on. We follow through with what we agree to do. We communicate clearly (including with external partners) about what we’re not doing.
  • Reward each other for reflecting on mistakes; don’t punish each other for making mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes; we strive to learn from them. It’s fine to make mistakes, but not to hide them.
  • Watch Team Backup: If we think someone else might have missed something, we point it out to them kindly. When someone else does this for us, we don’t take it personally, or take it to imply that we hadn’t thought about the issue before.