103. Empowering newcomers: insights for effective DAO onboarding
Thoughts from joining akiyaDAO
I got involved this week with a project known as akiyaDAO, a “community-driven project to renovate abandoned houses in Japan into creative residencies and interactive habitats.”
It’s been really cool to get involved and a reminder that you can just, like, do things.
The world doesn’t happen to us; it is shaped by us.
The first thing I’ve been helping out with has been reviewing the onboarding experience for newcomers. It’s interesting applying the insights from helping my previous company transition to remote work during the pandemic and figuring out what translates over to a decentralized collective. Here are three insights that I think would be helpful for any budding organization.
1. Paint the big picture
When thinking about the onboarding experience, place yourself in the shoes of a newcomer who has no context to the work. How quickly can they get a sense of the mission? Furthermore, how will they understand how close or far the org is from success?
Things that can be helpful for providing that context:
Rough visual representation of overall progress, e.g. roadmap, Gantt chart, etc
An archive of meeting notes to skim through. This provides context to what the most recent priorities are and allows newcomers to get a sense of
Org chart of contributors. If I get dropped into a Discord server with hundred of people, how do I know who to go to with questions about X?
2. Teach the tools
One thing that you take for granted once you’re working within an organization is knowing how to use the internal tools and platforms. People come from many different backgrounds, so you shouldn’t assume that platforms like Slack and Notion come naturally. Even if they understand the platform themselves, the custom structure that each organization applies with their tools will be different and can require some getting used to.
Some specific advice that I have for Notion:
Organization structure can be emergent. Start with loose pages and then reorganize and consolidate into teamspaces and databases. Databases can be filtered, and you can page through them easily, rather than having to go down and then up a level.
Keep the hierarchy fairly shallow, 3 levels max. Super-nested pages are hard to find.
Try out the new wiki feature. This allow people to own different verticals. Setting expiration dates on information will give newcomers context for what information they can trust.
3. Create good “first tasks”
As someone coming in with no context to the priorities and complexity of an ongoing project, it’s daunting to look at a crowded task board and try to guess at what to work on first.
Something I’ve seen in software engineering departments is the manager picking an easy bug for a new developer to squash as their first task. This general principle can be applied to any team.
The idea is that you want a new employee to start off their first day/week with an easy win. This helps them get acquainted with org processes, team members they can ask for help, and gives them a feeling of accomplishment to start off their new job on the right foot.
Despite the fact that knowledge work is such a prominent type of work, I haven’t seen much literature on the meta-science around operations. Maybe it’s because there are so many other priorities for a founding team to juggle, but Conway’s law tells us that how you set up your organization fundamentally dictates how you can work.
Additionally, onboarding will be an interesting area for AI to augment. Rather than searching for specific keywords or scrolling through old threads, a newcomer could query a chatbot that trawls the organization’s entire historical archive for answers (and provides sources for how it found that information).
Hope you learned something helpful for your own org! What advice would you give for a newcomer?
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