A company and employees hidden in plain view
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A company and employees hidden in plain view

WOVN MAGAZINE en


What readers who are interested in WOVN can learn: the atmosphere of the product development team at WOVN
What readers who are less interested in WOVN can learn: perhaps the steps to become a servant leader
Reading time: 10 minutes (I had someone with no prior knowledge read it in advance)

My motivation for writing this article


Goal

I want to optimize the overall workflow to deliver value smoothly to the market.


The challenge

Since working from home allows fewer opportunities to contact people outside your team, it is hard to know about the people in other sections. Those who joined WOVN after we shifted to working from home full-time may especially be experiencing this. Teams will become more separated and siloed in the future, meaning that there will be sectionalism. Our passion to "deliver value to the market as a company that transcends teams" could wane, causing problems in handing over tasks across teams.

Reference for the above challenge


Hypothesis

Writing an article about myself and those involved in developing products at WOVN may promote mutual understanding and facilitate the workflow regardless of which team we are on or years of service here.

Verification

  • Leading indicator: the number of times someone in the company said they read the article within one month after it is published.

  • Lagging indicator: the time it takes for a ticket on the internal kanban board to change from “start analysis” to “ready.”


Target audience

  • People working at WOVN

  • People who are interested in working at WOVN

  • People who are not interested in WOVN (they may become interested in WOVN after reading this article)


About myself

Let me start by introducing myself so that you can learn about the people and atmosphere at WOVN. I’m IKUTA Masahito, and I work as a product owner here. I'm going to talk about what I value in my work, and I think you won't be able to find that kind of information by searching for my name or handle (cooldaemon) on the internet. I hope this will suffice as a self-introduction.

  • Being an actor behind the scenes

  • Pursuing the essence

  • Achieving overall optimality

The above are the three things I value, but this time I will focus on the first one, “being an actor behind the scenes.” 


WOVN’s vision and my beliefs

Before explaining about being an actor behind the scenes, I’d like to share WOVN’s vision.

The screenshot here shows our vision. It is one of the pages you see in on our website.

Localize the web and
become a global actor behind the scenes


I always decide whether or not to join a company depending on its vision. In fact, I joined my previous company because I loved their vision: First to Try, First to Fail, First to Recover. I devoted myself to realizing that vision for about eight years. I was so in love with it that I almost left the company in protest when they considered changing it.

Let's get back to WOVN. The next vision I fell in love with was "Become a global actor behind the scenes." The details of our vision is explained in the corporate culture book everyone receives when joining WOVN, and you will be able to find more information on the internet using keywords such as "WOVN" or "actor behind the scenes." I take it as a status where "the end-user uses WOVN without realizing it, and it has already become an essential service for them when they do.” The true end users of the product WOVN.io are the uses who visit client websites where WOVN is being used.

My handle actually comes from Daemon, the mascot of the FreeBSD operating system. I decided to use it about 20 years ago since I wanted to become like a daemon that works secretly as a permanent resident process inside the computer. If I consume resources too much, or if it becomes a zombie process, I'll be forced to stop with the kill-9 command, so I always try to work lightly. That's why I like programming systems and platforms such as Simple, Agile, and Erlang. So, when I saw WOVN's vision, it was inevitable for me to move on.

Being an actor behind the scenes

If a company wants to become an actor behind the scenes, I personally think the people who work there also need to become actors behind the scenes. So, when we consider what an "actor behind the scenes" actually is, I think they should be "masters at making the people involved shine." For example, in our product, WOVN.io, the end user does not benefit from merely localizing the content. Rather, value is created when we localize and direct the original and main content of our customer's website and deliver the outcome to the end user. Therefore, the customer's content is the leading player, and our product is the actor behind the scenes. I want to share my thoughts on applying this idea to people.


How do we make the people involved shine?

  • Prepare

  • Understand the situation

  • Verbalize and/or illustrate

  • Build consensus

I have not studied the elements listed here in depth, so there may be some duplications or omissions, but hopefully it'll be enough to get my message across about actors behinds the scenes. To avoid misunderstandings, I'll explain each of them a little.


Prepare

For actors behind the scenes, this is maybe the most fundamental thing that needs to be done. This does not mean making a grand and elaborate plan that does not consider uncertainty. It means to prepare and plan with uncertainty in mind. Preparation is the key to success. Here are just a few of the many examples of preparedness: Have you set your goals? Did you find out who the people involved are and their personalities? Is your proposal appealing to them? Does the proposal take risks into account? Do you know enough facts to develop a hypothesis? How will you test your hypothesis? In the end, the actor behind the scenes shows everyone how to operate it, tells them why they need to do it, persuades them to try it, and gathers feedback so that eventually anyone can do their preparations themselves.


Understand the situation

If the course of things is made up of a repeating sequence of preparation, execution, and review phases, then understanding the situation is needed in all stages. Our world is a complex system, and human activities are a part of this system, and we are controlled by it. Therefore, to understand a situation means to gain insights into the system. We need to understand the situation to achieve the desired result, to be able to respond flexibly and successfully and to produce the maximum effect with minimum effort. Techniques such as behavior analysis and systems thinking can be helpful. To achieve the stakeholders' expected results, those behind the scenes must communicate the system's current status to the stakeholders and encourage them to make decisions and take action.

Verbalize and/or illustrate

Verbalizing and illustrating are important when getting a grasp of the situation, but I'll explain them separately since they are crucial for an actor behind the scenes. It is about asking questions to the stakeholders, helping them verbalize strengths and desires that they may not be aware of, and if necessary, act as a middleman and communicate them to a third party to help stakeholders take action on their own. This may be pretty challenging for stakeholders since they are continuously asked about the goals set for you, your team, and your company, the reasons for them, and how they intend to measure them. This actually rings a bell for me. I apologize for being pesky like this, but this is something an actor behind the scenes needs to do. I'm not blaming or rebuking you. I'm just trying to help you verbalize. I merely want to help you communicate with all those people involved. I hope you accept my apologies for being so annoying.


Build consensus

Building consensus is about taking advantage of the diversity of the people involved, setting up a safety guard, and creating a state where everyone is united in pursuit of the goal. If this is done successfully, you are an actor behind the scenes with the highest level of expertise. Put another way, we build consensus even when setting up safety guards and goals, which are essential elements for building consensus. I want to share an African proverb that goes like this:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. “

It is the job of the actors behind the scenes to level the ground and enable those involved to travel far.


So that's my definition of actors behind the scenes. They are masters in inspiring people and organizations to take action and are well-versed in the art of learning. Perhaps you might be reminded of specific roles such as servant leaders, agile coaches, or facilitators from what I have discussed. But, if only a few people with these particular roles are acting behind the scenes, we will never be able to achieve our corporate vision. I strongly believe that if all the employees here at WOVN have the mindset to become an actor behind the scenes, we have a shot at becoming a global actor behind the scenes.


Entering the world of actors behind the scenes

In the hope that actors behind the scenes will increase in the world and within WOVN, I would like to share some introductory books related to this topic. However, just reading a book will not help you in your actual work. To get the very basics of acting behind the scenes down, I recommend that you always run the following cycle.

  1. Imagine your ideal actor behind the scenes.

  2. Create a hypothesis about the gap between your current self and your ideal actor behind the scenes.

  3. Read books to seek the possibility of filling in those gaps.

  4. Try it out in actual work.

  5. Explain your hypothesis to others actively.

  6. Find new gaps from the above 4 and 5, and return to 1, 2, or 3.

We humans can only learn things that we are willing to learn. Also, the most efficient way to learn is to learn by assuming you are teaching it to someone else. Let me suggest some introductory books. I am sorry that only a few of them are available in English.

  • “Agile Estimating and Planning” by Mike Cohn

  • “Engineering Organization Theory” by Hiroki Daichi

  • "Performance Management: Mondai Kaiketsu no tame no Kodo Bunsekigaku (Behavior Analysis to Solve Problems)" by Satoru Shimamune

  • “Systems Thinking Nyumon (Introduction to Systems Thinking)” by Michinari Nishimura

  • “Naze ano Hito no Kaiketsusaku wa Itsumo Umaku Ikunoka? (Why does that person's solution always work?)” by Junko Edahiro and Riichiro Oda

  • “The Path of Least Resistance for Managers: Designing Organizations to Succeed” by Robert Fritz

  • “The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

  • “It's Not Luck” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

  • “Issue kara Hajimeyo (Issue Driven)” by Kazuto Ataka

  • “On Dialogue” by David Bohm


To those who have found out that they are not much interested in WOVN


After reading up to now, if you have found that you are not much interested in WOVN, you may finish reading my article here. I think it will save you time.


WOVN’s actors behind the scenes

Now that I have fully shared my definition and passion for the actors behind the scenes, I would like to introduce some people who work here at WOVN. For me, WOVN is my fifth company in my career (and I have been with each of them for at least five years), and I may be seeing things in a limited area. However, I think WOVN is unique in that many colleagues will help you when you need it. I want to introduce the people who took care of me when I joined.


D, Jerome, Tim, Brett, and L


When I joined WOVN, I was completely lost and I wasn't good at English either. D and Jerome, who were in the same team, and Tim, Brett, and L, who were in other teams, helped me as a mentor and would review my code so that I could do my job and wouldn't get lost. The first thing I liked about WOVN was that people would review code across teams. Brett's code review was especially helpful. Even if I wanted to improve the existing code, I didn't know how far I was allowed to go in fixing it when I joined, so I took a wait-and-see approach and was passive in making corrections. However, Brett's powerful feedback gave me a boost, giving me the boldness to make fixes. Tim and L kindly spoke to me shortly after joining, and Tim invited me to have lunch together. I will never forget their kindness. If there was anything I didn't know about WOVN, I'd go to Tim, and I think that was because of his friendly nature. Jerome also recommended some Jira tasks for me while working remotely. He was considerate and made sure I had something to work on.

I'd also like to confess something. Before joining WOVN, our previous Chief Product Officer advised me that I should "learn everything related to product development, be it WOVN's corporate culture or system architecture, from D." I confess that I did observe D intensively. He was quick in choosing and responding to his own tasks, but at the same time was supportive of his team members, and I was one of the lucky ones in that regard. If I were asked who my mentor was during my time as a developer, I would definitely say it was D.


Countless other actors behind the scenes

I wanted to talk about what I feel every day about my fellow product owners, scrum masters, section heads, and team leaders, but it would become too much of a story if I start talking about things other than my early days at WOVN. I'd like to have a separate opportunity to thank them for helping me with my work here. If not for them, I wouldn't have been able to work at WOVN. People in other departments than the Product Division team and my superiors have also provided a lot of support, which I would like to talk about some other time. I want you to know that many people at WOVN are willing to help no matter what team you're on. 


My thoughts are stretched to the limit

I am always willing to relinquish my position or responsibilities to others. I want the people and organizations I work with to grow and become independent, and since I myself feel very immature, I always want to improve myself in new positions. I believe this is the right mindset for us as actors behind the scenes. However, as someone who creates behind-the-scenes products, I don't want our customers and end users to leave WOVN, so I should not mix and confuse people and products when I talk about them. I have no answer to what I have been talking about, but I'd like to end my story now. Thank you for reading my ramblings. I hope my article has sparked your interest in the people who work here at WOVN.


 When we look into the actors behind the scenes,

They are looking into us as well


Acknowledgments

As we near the end of the year, I think I got a bit too excited and created this piece with too much enthusiasm and buzz. I want to express my special thanks to the CEO's office, which has allowed me to write, and the translators who have translated my article!


# Writer Profile
Name : IKUTA Masahito
Division : Product Division
Time at WOVN : 22 months



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WOVN MAGAZINE en
A magazine brimming with the very "WOVN-ness" that aspires to "Localize the Internet." Care for a taste of WOVN culture?