Distributed by Design: Part one

Part One: The Why

Distributed by design refers to a workforce operating without a physical or centralized office. Exponential growth refers to generated output and not consumed resources like human labor or raw materials.

Selecting a workforce style as either a centralized office or distributed environment is a strategy to help accomplish your business goals.

Here are a few business goals of our company:

  1. Identify meaningful problems
  2. Create value in the marketplace
  3. Make money

We have more goals, but those are a few reasons why Agilion thoughtfully choose to design a distributed workforce even though all our team members live within 45 minutes of each other.

1% inspiration; 99% execution.

The most common objection I hear to operating a distributed first company goes something like this: “Magic happens when people are in the same room.”

To this point, I mostly agree.

I believe in the Mastermind principle. I use it all the time. The idea is that when you get a group a people in the same room with common focus, then new ideas and inspirations will form that otherwise could not have been formed in isolation. A famous quote by
Napoleon Hill says it well:

No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind.

Here’s a caveat.

A spark of an idea, an insight, a new problem identification… each are only the first step in creating something. Once a group of people have an insight, then it takes a lot of work, refinement and execution to transform the idea into a tangible result.

If people are always in the same room together, they risk spending too much time talking or brainstorming. When people see each other every day, then they stop valuing their time as much as they would if it was only once a month. It’s natural to get lazy about conversation and intention when it’s not special.

It’s better to get people together occasionally and intentionally, rather then make it an everyday occurrence.

As a business, it’s a good practice to focus on delivering on a few key ideas rather than continually come up with something new.

Which of the following do you think bears better fruit?

Option one: Plant seeds every day in an extreme environment without giving them water, nourishment or protection from prey.

Option two: Focus on planting a few seeds and watch over them carefully. Give them water, adequate sunlight, defend from prey and monitor as they grow and provide fruit.

You get the idea.

Option two is like a distributed team. 
Creating is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration (or execution).

A distributed team will value in-person time and — because it’s limited — make it special and meaningful. Because this is true: “Magic happens when people are intentional about being in the same room.”


Attract the right people

There is no hiding on a distributed team. 
Self-disciplined work is not for everyone. A distributed team will not tolerate an employee who plays office politics or shows up to shuffle papers (looks busy) between a series of scheduled meetings all week long. Everyone on a distributed team must produce results.

Producing results is the core metric that matters. The ability to produce results, without supervision or direction, is a virtue of what I call a warrior.

Warrior, in this context, refers to an analogy of characteristics you want people on your team to emulate.

  • A warrior does what they believe to be right, regardless of personal consequence. A soldier follows orders unquestioningly.

  • A warrior never stops learning, never stops growing, and is never satisfied. A soldier fits within a box of standards as instructed.

  • A warrior embodies a spirit of purpose, passion and mastery towards creating a shared vision with a team. A soldier executes one of several tactics and waits for the next order.

There is a different multiplier effect between warriors and soldiers.

The output from a team of soldiers is calculated linearly. Output from a team of warriors is calculated exponentially.

Output of nine soldiers: 1o hrs * 9 = 90 output units.

Output of nine warriors: 10 hrs ^9 = 1,000,000,000 output units.

This equation is why I’ll bet on a small team of warriors to outperform a larger organization of soldiers.

As a business owner, the last thing I want is to manage or tell people what to do. I hire people to make things happen. Designing a distributed workforce helps to ensure we only attract team members who produce results, always expand and refine their skills, and exponentially increase the team’s value.

Compete at a global level

Being in a global marketplace encourages big thinking.

Thinking big encourages a mind open to new ideas, other methodologies, an appreciation of diversity and culture, and an awareness of how events are interrelated across the globe. 
There are ~7,320,000,000 people alive on the planet and technology is allowing many of us to communicate, travel, and conduct commerce nearly anywhere in the world.

More people are accessing the internet and leveraging past knowledge. As a result, people are coming together and rapidly creating and innovating at a faster pace.

All companies today compete at a global level whether they want to or not.

I believe a distributed team, when organized properly, becomes more effective in a global economy.

A distributed team, when organized properly, becomes more effective in a global economy.

By designing a distributed team, you will encourage everyone on your team to refine their skills and confidence to communicate effectively with anyone from anywhere.

By designing a distributed team, you will build workflow habits that establish trust and collaboration with new clients or customers beyond borders.

By designing a distributed team, you will leverage tools to innovate, adapt and deliver value to people beyond constraints of four walls.

In Summary

There is a purpose to creating a distributed first workforce.

Providing your staff with an office environment can be a pleasant option, but it is preferable to be viewed as an option. Not a daily requirement.

Good work happens anywhere. So can your company.

Adam BouchardAgilion