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Reflections on 100 Episodes of the Humanizing Work Show

Finish banner This week, we’re releasing episode 100 of the Humanizing Work Show. We did the first 10 episodes in two seasons back in 2019 when we were at Agile For All, and then we mostly stopped for a couple of years. In March of 2022, we committed to shipping something useful every week, and other than our break for Christmas and New Year’s, where we close the whole company for a week, we’ve released an episode every week for 90 weeks in a row. Here are a few things we’ve learned that are probably relevant for your work, too…

Systems of Work Are Superior to Projects

When the Humanizing Work Show was organized into seasons, each season was a project. We planned it out. We scheduled the time to shoot. We traveled to the same location. We spent weeks editing. Then we released it all and sat back exhausted, ready to turn our attention to other things. To make a another season, we had to stir up the energy to do it all over again. And after two seasons over the course of that first year, we weren’t sure it was worth the effort, and season 3 never happened.

When we relaunched the show in 2022, we decided to take more inspiration from the Agile teams we work with, and we focused on creating a system to produce something sustainably, week after week. We created a Kanban board to take us from episode idea to release. We brainstormed and refined checklists for each part of the process. We built systems to harvest episode topics from workshops, coaching sessions, conversations, and online trends. Ten weeks later, we’d released another ten episodes. A year later, we’d released 50 more.

Of course, they weren’t as fancy as the first ten that were shot in-person with a professional film crew. But it didn’t really matter. For our mission of getting valuable free content to our community, the weekly shows were way more effective. And for sustainability, the new systems approach was far superior to the old project approach. We know how to plan, shoot, edit, and release an episode week after week in a way we never could have in 2019.

We’ve seen the same thing happen for software, marketing, and innovation teams at our clients who move from projects to systems for their work.

Habits Beat Good Intentions

Systems like Kanban boards and checklists were essential, but perhaps the most important system to cultivate for sustained productivity was in our own minds. It takes a lot of energy to answer the question, “Should we do a show this week?” in the affirmative. There are always good reasons ***not*** to produce a show. So, we needed to build a habit.

To do that, we answered the, “Should we do a show this week?” question just once for the first 12 weeks. We committed to do a quarter of weekly shows and then reevaluate. Then, we put time on the calendar to release a show every Monday afternoon for 12 weeks in a row. Knowing that commitment was already out there changed the question to, “What show should we do this week?” And a quarter later, it was already a habit. Skipping a week never really comes up in our conversations. It’s just what we do now.

This, by the way, is one reason we really like Scrum for product development. The regular cadence of planning and shipping is a nice scaffolding to build good habits. You keep showing up, delivering value and making small improvements, and after not all that long, you have a high-performing team. (Granted, there’s no guarantee of building good habits within Scrum, but we don’t know of any approach that guarantees effective, sustainable complex work. See episode 95 for some of our reflections on this common criticism of Scrum.)

Curse of Knowledge is Real

Curse of Knowledge is the cognitive bias that causes us to forget that we learned something—it just becomes obvious to us, and we naturally assume it’s obvious to everyone else. Producing a show (and a newsletter on a different topic) every week frequently finds me saying, “Haven’t people already heard us say this? Should we mention it again?” And then, inevitably, that thing that felt too obvious or too repetitive to say will be the thing someone emails us about to tell us it was exactly what they needed to hear.

Leaders in organizations run into the same thing. Purpose, vision, values, strategy, customer profiles can all seem too obvious to share. But they’re probably more familiar to you than they are to your colleagues, so it’s worth sharing them one more time.

Quantity Begets Quality

Finally, while we know our show isn’t the same quality as one produced by a team of full-time professionals, it’s way better than it was when we started. More importantly, it was way better after a year of weekly episodes than it was after a year with two five-episode seasons shot in two projects.

I love how artist and author Austin Kleon talks about this dynamic: Quantity leads to quality (the origin of a parable)

We certainly see this pattern on teams that build a habit of getting to “done” on small increments of value day after day. Their overall ability to get high quality work done quickly and reliably gets better and better over time.

If you haven’t subscribed to the show yet on YouTube or your favorite podcast app, why not do that now? We’re planning to continue shipping an episode every week, and we’d love to have you on the journey with us. Click to subscribe now.

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