Welcome to the world of Enspiral. We are an international collective of people pooling resources and ideas together to help build a better world. A social innovations incubator and resource for changemakers.

Bettermeans rocks our world

I was lucky to stumble across Bettermeans a few months ago and it was like walking into what our dream company intranet would look like with a couple of years development. Very exciting for us, but I think this software will profoundly change the way people work together.

Here are two things Bettermeans does really, really well – there are many other things but these are two stand outs.

Democratic collaboration

Building a large scale, flat, decentralized organisation focused on high performance is hard work (trust me!) and the big challenge is staying fast and efficient. The whole reason hierarchies exist and have become the dominant organisational structure is because they can make decisions rapidly. Bettermeans is designed so that large groups of people can make decisions very quickly without needing a hierarchy.

Transparency and voting are the key mechanisms that enable rapid collaboration, when information is visible to everyone and transparency the norm it is very fast to chime in on a discussion or be part of a decision that concerns you.

This is a big deal and why I think the internet will forever change the way businesses are run. There is a big difference between a hierarchical organisation retrofitting itself with wikis and polls and an organisation that developed with collaboration and individual freedom as part of it’s DNA.

Output based performance tracking

Measuring people’s performance is also very hard and the techniques you use to tell the difference between one programmer or another is very different to that for designers or sales people or accountants. The reason traditional companies have to invest so much in management is because they are not able to track people’s performance accurately or quickly enough. How well did you do at your job this week compared to last week? What about your colleagues?

Most organisations are limited to tracking inputs – how much time was spent on this piece of work, did this person look to be working hard etc. This is why managers around the world are concerned with when and how long people work, when they are actually unimportant. People should be paid for how well they perform, not how busy they look.

Bettermeans solves this in a quite interesting way. Each ticket of work in the system is assigned a value for complexity – anyone interested can vote on the item and the final value is the average of votes. Periodically all the work items are grouped into a retrospective and people review and vote on how much each person contributed to the collection of tickets. This is also averaged and you end up with a value (credits) of each persons contribution which will work across fields.

While I think this is only a partial solution to performance tracking (and also remuneration) it is an excellent start and a glimpse into the future of what wide scale output based performance tracking could look like for us – this makes me excited!

If you have accurate performance data available in close to real time for everyone in your organisation then people can self organise far more effectively and you do not need managers telling people what to do. This also is a very big deal and has far reaching impacts on people’s behaviour.

This is only the beginning

Bettermeans is an Open Enterprise – this means you can join the team and help make Bettermeans better. This is not a volunteer gig, you earn credits which can be cashed out or used to share in the profits of the venture. This too is a very big deal, but that’s a post for another day.

I am actively encouraging everyone in Enspiral to contribute to the Bettermeans. It is written in rails and while programmers are definitely needed there is room for people with many different skills.

So jump in and see what it’s like to work in a truly open and collaborative environment, you won’t look back.

Comments

  1. Pete says:

    Curious to hear your thoughts on how this might work outside of software development Josh.

  2. joshua says:

    There are actually quite a lot of projects using bettermeans for non software projects – you can see a list of some of them on the public project listing https://secure.bettermeans.com/projects

    The system definitely comes from a software development background but the great thing about an open venture is that people can contribute and change the system to suit their needs more.

    I know the bettermeans crew are keen for the system to work for many types of organisation and aren’t specifically catering to software development.

Speak Your Mind

*