Episode 145 – Work Better Together – Improving Workplace Productivity

Episode #145
Original Air Date: 01.17.2022

34 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: John Furneaux

Are you trying to enhance workplace productivity and efficiency? Are you dealing with underperformance on your team? Listen in as our guest, John Furneaux offers solutions and advice to some of the challenges seen in organizations today. We also take a look at company culture and how to transform remote work and to make it more successful and productive. Listen in as John explains his approach to building a better team culture, including a useful employee guide called the User Manual.

We like to bring you information on tools and software which could be useful to project managers. John is the Co-founder and CEO of a software company called Hive, and he describes the history and the core philosophy behind this company. He talks about the top challenges today for project managers, and how Hive is offering unique solutions. Listen in to hear why he calls Hive the first-ever democratically built project management platform, and how two in three Hive users get a feature that they’ve requested built within the first year of them joining Hive.

Hive is a collaboration oriented company that developed an AI based project management tool used by brands like Uber, Starbucks, WeWork, IBM, and more. John is obsessed with human psychology and more specifically how humans work together, which is why he entered the world of collaboration software over 10 years ago. He holds a Master’s in Mathematics and Law from the University of Cambridge.

Learn More About Our Course: Project Productivity Killers

Learn More About Our Course: Build a Better Team

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"A brilliantly run meeting is a work of art and very, very impressive to those around you. And I would encourage all of us to put 100% into our soft skills and how we manage the projects and the people around us."

- John Furneaux

"Hive is the first-ever democratically built project management platform. ... Everybody in the Hive community votes together on what they want to accomplish in Hive next from a product perspective. And that keeps us uniquely focused on the practical day-to-day needs of our users..."

- John Furneaux

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The podcast by project manager for project managers. We take a look at company culture, transforming remote work to and improving workplace productivity and efficiency.  How to Work Better Together. Hear about a new software company, Hive, which claims to have the first-ever democratically built project management platform.

Table of Contents

03:05 … Hive History
04:07 … Core Hive Philosophy
05:38 … Democratically Built Features
07:17 … Launching Hive
09:22 … Challenges Today for Project Managers
11:01 … Addressing Recurring Meetings
15:17 … Applying Hive
17:21 … Team Size Suited to Hive
19:56 … Hive Innovation
21:57 … Company Culture
24:12 … Transforming a Team to Remote Work
29:18 … New Hive Features
30:01 … Who Influenced John
32:47 … Get in Touch with John
33:17 … Closing

JOHN FURNEAUX: A brilliantly run meeting is a work of art and very, very impressive to those around you.  And I would encourage all of us to put 100% into our soft skills and how we manage the projects and the people around us.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  I’m Wendy Grounds, and joining me in the studio is Bill Yates.  I just want to let you know that you can still claim your free PDUs by listening to this podcast.  We have instructions on our website where it shows you exactly how you can claim your PDUs at PMI.  We still get listeners who struggle with that, and so we just thought we’d make sure we mentioned it.  So we are very excited that it is now Happy Birthday to Manage This, and we’ve been broadcasting for six years.

BILL YATES:  That’s amazing, isn’t it?  Every month we have two podcasts.  We’ve been doing that for six years now.  Incredible authors, speakers, tools, and then people in the trenches doing projects, leading projects in diverse environments.  And it’s been a pleasure to bring this information to the community and just share it and let people pick up on new perspectives and get more advice on just how to be a more effective project manager.

WENDY GROUNDS:  And we’re very grateful to our guests…


WENDY GROUNDS:  …who’ve made it possible.  We really appreciate all that they have brought to our podcast.

BILL YATES:  Mm-hmm.  There’s no compensation.  We don’t pay them.  We just thank them and deeply appreciate the preparation and then their time in recording with us.

WENDY GROUNDS:  And thank you to our listeners.  We value you, and we appreciate your support.

BILL YATES:  That’s right.  Keep those ideas coming because that’s what spurs us on.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Our guest today is John Furneaux.  John is the CEO and cofounder of Hive, which is the world’s first democratically built project management platform, used by many teams at places such as Comcast, Toyota, Starbucks, and many more.  A couple of times in the past we’ve brought you tools that are very useful or platforms that project managers can use.  And we just need to let you know we’re not getting any pay for this.  We’re not getting a free use of Hive.  It’s really…


WENDY GROUNDS:  …the product comes across our eyes, and we think, gosh, this would be something interesting to tell you about.  And that’s why we’re here.

BILL YATES:  Exactly.  As our listeners reach out to us with tools that are helpful or things that they want us to explore, just keep sending us those ideas because that’s where this one came from.  One of the things that appealed to me with Hive, too, is their mantra is “The first project management platform built for users, by users.”  And it kind of reminds me of our mantra of Manage This, “The podcast for project managers by project managers.”  So we’re going to talk about tactical aspects of this tool and how it can be used.  Then we’re going to back up and talk broadly about company culture, not just how Hive can influence that, but how John’s been influenced by different company cultures, and some advice that he can share with us.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Hi, John.  Welcome to Manage This.  Thank you for joining us.

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Thank you.  Thanks for having me.

Hive History

WENDY GROUNDS:  Can you give us some of the history of your company Hive, when it started, and how you started it?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Yeah, for sure.  So I myself was a frustrated project manager on some huge programs.  As you can hear I’m originally from the U.K.  Did some stuff with education, really exciting stuff, getting the sort of information network hooked up to all the schools in the U.K.  Felt frustrated, but realized I loved teamwork and helping people accomplish sort of their goals together, and went and joined a company that did just that, prior to Hive, but felt that there was even better solutions available.  And so we started Hive about five years ago now, 2016.  Cofounded it with Eric Typaldos, who is my sort of tech counterpart.  And yet here we are five years later.  It’s been a crazy journey.

BILL YATES:  So Eric, his specialty is more on the tech side. 


BILL YATES:  What is your specialty, or what did you bring to the table as you guys started Hive?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Good question.  I hope that I bring to the table deep, deep, deep frontline experience of what real projects look like on a real day-to-day basis.

Core Hive Philosophy

BILL YATES:  So I love it that you describe yourself as a frustrated project manager, too.  Because to me it’s like many times in life, if I’m trying to recreate something, even if it’s trying to figure out some home repair issue, it’s usually from a point of frustration; right?  And then I get really motivated and passionate about it.

So as we dive into Hive, it’s going to be interesting to hear some of the passion points that you had, things that you found lacking in the marketplace, or with some of the tools that you had used.  But let’s back up.  Kind of big picture, what’s the core philosophy with Hive?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Core philosophy behind Hive is two things that are unusual about Hive.  The first one is that Hive is the first-ever democratically built project management platform.  And that’s a very, very simple concept.  Everybody in the Hive community votes together on what they want to accomplish in Hive next from a product perspective.  And that keeps us uniquely focused on the practical day-to-day needs of our users, rather than a kind of ivory tower of product ideas that may or may not be useful to you when you’re coming to work on a Tuesday morning.

And that really is the driving thing that we care about is, is Hive going to be practically useful to you when you come into work versus us foisting a philosophy of project management onto you that may not work in practice in the complex and stressful environment of real life projects.

Democratically Built Features

BILL YATES:  Democratically built, you vote on the product features.  How does that play out?  So how do you engage your user community to listen to the right voices?  Like I’m thinking of a stakeholder meeting or meetings I’ve had with project teams, and sometimes I’ll listen to the loudest voice in the room and then realize later, oh, wait a minute, that’s not the right person.  They’re just extremely passionate about something, but it’s not important to anybody else.  How do you guys go about vetting that?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Exactly right.  So that’s the beauty of democracy, huh?  One user, one vote.  So they can press that vote button as loudly as they like.  They’ve only got one vote.

BILL YATES:  One time.

JOHN FURNEAUX:  And the other person in the room who perhaps is more timid or whose voice is less frequently heard, they’ve got just as much power as the first person.  And if you think about it from a product management standpoint, it also works beautifully for us to be thoughtful about our larger customers and our smaller customers because we don’t think of our users in terms of being from a large company or a small company, nor do we need to because one user, one vote, by definition, the organizations who have lots and lots of users on Hive do have a larger voice collectively.  But ultimately it’s still one user, one vote; right?

So each individual person on Hive has exactly the same shot of getting their feature built as anybody else.  And to give you a feel for how meaningful this is, two in three Hive users get a feature that they’ve requested built within the first year of them joining Hive.  So it’s really, really meaningful.  You’ve got two-thirds chance of getting something you’ve asked for built.

Launching Hive

BILL YATES:  That’s great.  Okay.  I’m going to confess to you, I am a fan of a podcast called “How I Built This.”  It’s an NPR podcast.


BILL YATES:  So as I’m looking at a cofounder of a company, 2016, kind of in the back of my head the entrepreneur side of me is thinking, okay, you guys, you have an idea, you have a problem in the marketplace that you think you have a solution for, and you start to build it.  How long did you guys go pre-revenue? So you and Eric take off, you’re trying to build this thing, and you can tell me if you were still working full-time or, you know, doing this while delivering pizza or whatever.  So you’re getting all this feedback from the community and building and building.  And in 2016, when did you guys have something you could launch?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Bill, it was terrifying, as Eric will testify.  I bought a one-way ticket to New York, a town I had never lived in.  I had very little money in my pocket because I had left my previous job and had no savings.  And Eric and I moved to New York together within a day of each other and arrived to start building.  That was 2016.  And to answer your question about revenue, it was approximately a year before we invited anybody take a paid subscription.

BILL YATES:  Right.  That’s impressive.  So how has the growth gone kind of from that first launch in late 2016, 2017, until current day?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Well, I’m delighted to say that we have more than doubled every single year.  So you can imagine in the early days that’s more modest.  Then more recently that’s become very exciting.  And, you know, just from a pride perspective, we’re proud to have attracted household names, right, you know, people like Google and Netflix and Starbucks and Uber, you know, all Hive customers.  And right down, to be clear, we don’t just sort of service technology-type people.  I’m very proud to support thousands of small businesses across the country.  Always will have a soft spot in my heart is Forcade, a design consultancy from Evanston, Illinois, who was our first-ever paying customer.  And I die with pride to say that they are a paying customer today.

Challenges Today for Project Managers

WENDY GROUNDS:  What do you think are the top challenges today for project managers?  And how is Hive offering them a solution?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  I can give you the number one very, very easily.  Recurring meetings.  This was the reason that I thought I was going to blow my brains out on the programs that I was a part of because here’s the recipe for a recurring meeting.  It goes into the calendar.  And remember, a recurring meeting can never be killed.  Once somebody’s pressed that button, and it’s in the calendar, it will exist from now until the end of time, whether or not it has a purpose.

Second thing about recurring meetings, you can never remove an attendee.  So the second that you’ve got included on the invite, you’re also roped into this weekly meeting until the day you die.  And then the recipe for what actually happens in the meeting is we show up, it starts 12 minutes late because we’re all being polite to each other, and we finally get started.  Then we realize we haven’t done any of the things we said we’d do this time.  And so we agree to meet at the same time next week to repeat the cycle again.

And this is what I experienced, not just in one organization.  I experienced it in multiple organizations.  And I found it tremendously frustrating because if you’re responsible for carrying this ball forwards, it’s my belief that it’s your recurring meetings that are the absolutely key part of whether your ball is going to keep going forward, or whether your ball is going to spin week on week, and you’re having to report up to potentially senior management, hey, we’ve slipped again.  That’s what I believe is the most interesting, exciting challenge right now is how to run fantastic meetings, especially those that are standing meetings and recur once a week, once every two weeks, once a month.

Addressing Recurring Meetings

BILL YATES: So I am totally with you, man.  If there’s a better way to address recurring meetings and a tool for that, that’s awesome.  So tell me, what has Hive done about that?  What’s the approach that you guys have?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  There’s two prongs here; right?  There’s high-quality meeting management, which is obviously a soft skill that anybody who’s done sort of PMP or something like that will have had access to resources.  And there’s fantastic resources online, just like you said, things like agenda setting, correct attendees, correct length, correct environment, that’s all that good stuff.  Completely agreed.  I leave that to the professionals in terms of, you know, human coaching and that sort of stuff.

Where can a tool fit in?  A tool can fit in to keep the information from those things; right?  So where is our agenda going to go?  And how do we make it easy to share it out?  When we’re in the meeting live, how do we take notes?  And how do we ensure that those notes are accurate and don’t need to be done afterwards?

A third part is where we’ve taken next steps in the meeting.  How do we ensure they’ve gone to the right person and we agree what they are?  And then post-meeting, how do we keep track of whether everyone’s done everything they said they were going to do, especially in the recurring case before we meet next time.  So we break up in that into actually three sections: pre-meeting, during meeting, post-meeting.  Pre-meeting, agenda, right staff, everyone knows why they’re coming, everyone can prep.  In meeting we take great notes, we take clear next steps, everyone agrees.  Post-meeting, everyone gets the next steps they need, and we can check that everybody’s done them.  Does that make sense?

BILL YATES:  Absolutely.  And I’m just laughing at, just in my notes that I’m making, you describe yourself as a frustrated project manager, and then I hear the passion that you’re giving about pre-notes, pre-meeting, during meeting, and post-meeting.  Yes.  Absolutely.  You know, I love to share the story of Neal Whitten, who’s a prolific project management author, and somebody that contributes with us and has written more than a dozen e-learning courses for us.  And he had a pet peeve when he was with IBM.  He showed up for a meeting, and he realized after five minutes that there either was not a clear agenda, or he didn’t feel like there was a need for him to be there.  He would leave.


BILL YATES:  And so those who invited him to the meeting realized, okay, if I’m bringing him in, there needs to be an agenda, and I need to tell him what his role is.

JOHN FURNEAUX:  100%.  Absolutely 100%.  And the wonderful thing about modern tools like Hive is that they can help with each part of that journey, a simple and easy way to create an easy agenda, easy to send it out, easier than an email.  You arrive at a meeting, and you have that agenda live.  And there’s cute tricks these days.

So for example you can have that live in Zoom, so like literally in your Zoom window.  Your notes are right there so everyone can see them.  And then post-meeting, of course, because it’s attached to a project management tool, you’ve got all the tools you expect.  So all the next steps you took in the meeting, you can assign them to a person.  You can say what the due date is.  And you can set up reminders.  Or, you know, a check-in point halfway before the next meeting to say, “Actually, Bob, you said you’d do this by Tuesday.  It’s Monday night.  Can we make sure we’ve done that by 10 a.m.?  Otherwise we can’t progress tomorrow.”

And that for me, obviously, one of the strange things about our startup is that we make software that we use ourselves.  You know, if you make nuclear power plant software, right, with the best will in the world, you don’t run a nuclear power plant.  So you have to listen to nuclear power plant people to understand if you’re doing a good job.  We have the luxury at Hive that we use Hive all day long.  I have Hive open probably 10 hours a day.  And I would say it’s the meetings aspect that’s been the biggest game changer for us.  Our meetings are first-class because every single one is run on this technology.  We’re super, super clear.

And perhaps the harder part is that it also reveals underperformance, very gently and very clearly; right?  That can be a very difficult part of a project manager’s job.  How do you deal with underperformance?  Well, one of the best ways is just gentle social pressure.  If it’s very obvious to everybody around the table the person who’s not pulling their weight, that’s a pretty powerful force and can sidestep the need for uncomfortable conversations and tension.

Applying Hive

 BILL YATES:  I should have asked this earlier on.  Just to give people an idea, is Hive like Microsoft Project?  Is it like LiquidPlanner?  You know, so give us a sense for that, yeah.

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Super familiar.  So I like to think of Hive as a chameleon.  We learned early on that people work in very different ways.  And that’s absolutely fine.  We’re all human beings.  We’re all different.  A quick sort of anecdote about real life at Hive.  When we’re showing Hive to a new team that might want to buy Hive, right, we do this little thing where – so Hive has different layouts.  So Kanban, which is like, you know, Trello or an agile board, I know everyone here is probably very familiar with these.  A Gantt chart, of course.  Microsoft Projects style.  Table View.  Almost like a Microsoft Excel style.  And so it was a variety of these views.

And we do this little proof point.  We say, after we show each of the views, we look at the people present, and we say, “Which one of those did you like?”  Go around the room and say, “Which one’s your favorite?”  And everyone’s always surprised that you go around the room, and everybody’s different.  Like each of the completely different views will have somebody who really loves it.  And you see people look at each other and be like, ah, I would never have figured you for a Gantt chart person.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, right.

JOHN FURNEAUX:  I would have thought you were sort of Kanban all the way.  And one of the nicest things about a tool like Hive is you don’t have to pick.  So, like, Bill, you could be working on the same project as Wendy.  She’s running it as a Gantt chart because she’s old-school project manager.  You are running it as Kanban because that’s your preferred style.  This is the same live data.  As you move your cast to completed, her Gantt chart is updating, and vice versa.  And that’s another really powerful thing.  It’s not forcing people to all be the same.  We’re all human.  We’re all different.  We all have preferences; you know?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, that’s a powerful integration.  And you’re absolutely right, it can surprise me sometimes just with different methods and techniques and certainly how you view those tasks that have been assigned to you or your subteam, how they’re different preferences.  That’s a big plus.

Team Size Suited to Hive

WENDY GROUNDS:  What size teams are best suited to Hive?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  So here I’ve got a strange philosophy that I brought from prior to Hive.  I don’t believe that there are big teams.  I don’t think they exist because, in my real work life, I’ve never worked on a team that had more than about 12 people.  If I’m in a room of 40 people, someone at the front is telling us all something.  That’s not a team, that’s an audience.  You know what I mean?  I have only really worked with up to let’s say 12 people.  And that’s how we think of a team in Hive, right, people who actually are genuinely working together on something.

Now, a big program, like if we’re Lockheed Martin, and we’re building an F-16, there may be 20,000, 200,000 people working on that plane.  But we’re going to be working on the cockpit seats, or we’re going to be working on instrumentation on that or whatever else.  And we need to make sure that our team’s effort rolls up neatly to the wider organization.  So our philosophy at Hive is that kind of, like, “Act local, think global” model; right?  So Hive is designed for your team to work together well, and then to do all the work for you to roll that up to the bigger organization.

Let me give you a specific example.  Let’s imagine that we’re doing a big, some sort of big implementation; right?  It’s an 18-month SAP rollout.  And we are the learning and development stream.  We’ve got to do the training classes, and we’ve got to do them in three countries.  But that’s part of a wider thing where we can’t really do the training until some of the technical pieces are done; right?  The network’s working.  The firewalls are open.  They can access it on the network, dot dot dot.

One of the beautiful things about a tool like Hive is that our L&D Gantt chart for our roadmap can be viewed in exactly the same big, big, big chart of the macro-level project so that, for example, me and you, Wendy, we’re doing the L&D.  And our chart and plan is being moved correctly by the whole wider organization.

So to answer your question specifically around sizes of teams, customer-wise, our smallest Hive users are solo.  They use Hive to organize their day, to organize maybe their small business or their home life.  And our largest organizations have on the order of about 30 to 35,000 people, that kind of number, in one customer.  So you really can see that that idea, that ultimately it’s about these pods and then building the pods together, it is correct.  And that allows you to serve 35,000 people with the same tool set because you think of them as being a thousand groups of 35.  And then you make sure their work rolls up together.

Hive Innovation

WENDY GROUNDS:  John, in your opinion, what is the most innovative part of Hive?  What are you most proud of?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Oh, that’s a great question.  There’s two things that I think are really exceptional.  The first one is the meetings experience because it’s the only one that exists in the world.  So if you think about some of the famous project management tools you know, they don’t have an in-meetings experience, and we think we got it right.  You know, blank canvas, the ability to take quick notes, private notes, and yet the ability to embed all your work in that – your agenda, your next steps, live next steps that update in real-time, all that good stuff.  So I’m very proud of the meeting experience.  And anybody who wants to try it, it’s completely free.  Head to notes.hive.com, completely free experience, and you can try it for your meetings.

Second thing that I’m very proud of is the power of our integrations.  So I know that for me, you know, as a business owner myself, I just need my systems to talk to each other; right?  So we use things like Salesforce as well as Hive, as well as HubSpot.  And there’s just nothing worse than getting an answer back that says, oh, we can’t really do that because this is in Salesforce, and this is in HubSpot, and this is in Hive.  So we have a tremendously powerful integrations engine that I think it’s like upwards of maybe a thousand apps now.  So basically anything you can think of that you would use in your own business you can connect directly to Hive.

As a sort of real-life use case of what people do, imagine I’ve got Salesforce, where I’ve got sort of opportunities closing.  That automatically creates a project in Hive and automatically creates a folder for us to work in in Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.  The project’s happening.  Then when a project’s done it automatically tells, for example QuickBooks, here’s a list of all the work we did, ready for invoicing, and it goes out.  And all of that stuff being completely automated the whole way through.  And in the old days, that was either the job of a very stressed project manager, or even having to hire staff just to get those nuts and bolts done.  So that’s probably the two hardest challenges that we’ve accomplished.

Company Culture

WENDY GROUNDS:  So we want to move on and talk to you a little bit about company culture.  What are some of the challenges that you’re seeing in organizations today with regards to company culture?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Yeah, I mean, there’s obviously an elephant in the room, right, which is the changes in the world due to the pandemic.  We know that the fully remote companies have existed, you know, long before the pandemic, and many organizations are trying fully remote work for the very first time.  For us at Hive, has that been easy?  No.  Not at all.  You can imagine it especially as a younger organization, our ability to see each other in the morning, share stories, go grab a sandwich, have sort of cross-functional seeding of ideas, are part of the lifeblood of why a young company can move in such an agile way, and move so quickly.

Having said that, you deal the hand that you are given.  That’s where we’re at.  And I think that we can all agree that at least flexible work is absolutely here to stay.  And I certainly celebrate that.  Challenges that we find, we find it’s harder to generate cross-team innovation.  Those watercooler conversations, we found that it’s more common now that somebody won’t realize that something was possible.  It was just accomplished by a different team in the organization.  And we think carefully about how to reduce that.  It’s about things like Intel knowledge bases, really good kind of like sharing sessions, to get that information to disseminate, even without human contact.

And then, frankly, on the face-to-face side we’re just traditional.  We believe in it.  So we’ve instituted as many face-to-face experiences as we can.  So for those folks who are in New York metro, which is where Hive is based, that means at least once a week coming together for face-to-face time, either in the office or in a sort of like fun space, right, you know, your conference space or a corporate space.

And then we are – the company doesn’t know this yet, but we’re going to go somewhere warm in January en masse.  So for the first time in five years we’ll be doing the fantasy thing and going and getting some winter sun together.  And I’ve got to be honest, culture’s tremendously difficult.  No one’s going to budge me from the idea that spending time with your fellow human is a wonderful thing, and you just have to find ways to allow us to see each other when we can.

Transforming a Team to Remote Work

BILL YATES:  John, we’re facing some of the same challenges that  you are, and I really appreciate being able to talk this through with you.  What are some of the things that you guys have done as a team to transform the remote work and make it most successful, most productive, without burning people out?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Yeah, for sure.  So there’s obviously the basics; right?  Video on, those kind of things that just – we call it “up the bandwidth,” “up the bandwidth” meaning whatever medium you’re using, consider whether you should go up one.  So if you’re on text, consider going up to voice.  If you’re on voice, consider going up to video.  And if you’re on video, consider going up to in-person.  So always look at the next one up and see if it’s available.  If it’s available, switch to it.  And that maximizes the chances of effective communication.  We’ve all been there.  Or the worst of all, email.  One of those awful email threads that lasts for like four weeks, and all the people cc’d are thinking, can you two just speak for one minute?  You’ll resolve the whole thing in one minute.


JOHN FURNEAUX:  Rather than these awful, stilted, like replies, you know, and we’re all sat here watching this car crash of a conversation.  So I think up the bandwidth has been key for us.  And honestly, just celebrating success.  So once every Friday we call a Happy Hive.  We all come together.  And the format is share one way in which somebody else at Hive helped you this week.  And that’s just the format, and nobody has to go, if they don’t have anything that’s available to them.  But that just means that as a shared organization we’re reminded of how helpful those around us have been to us at least once a week.  And those things I think are valuable.

One last one I’ll say, and this is – I’m trying to get to the specific thing.  So Happy Hive is very effective for us as a format that anybody could choose to introduce in that team, right, we just do a quick celebration of how someone’s helped us that week.  And then the last one I got from a gentleman called David Politis at a wonderful company called BetterCloud, which is the User Manuals.  The User Manuals are when anybody joins Hive, we give them a set of questions to understand how to operate them.  And the answers are so interesting.

So the questions are things like “How do you like to receive feedback?”  “If somebody’s got a question for you, what’s the best way to ask?”  Like “What’s your hobbies outside of work?”  Like just things about like how you work; right?  And the answers you get do not match what your intuition would tell you.  So you meet somebody who might be from a role that’s traditionally more introverted; right?  So traditionally engineering would be seen as a more introverted role on average.

And that person says, “I can’t stand it when somebody’s writing to me.  I would rather you just come over to my desk, and you ask me the question live.  That’s just how I like to be communicated with.”  And you’re texting me from a very traditionally extroverted profession like sales, and they’ll say, “Nothing drives me more crazy that having my stream-of-consciousness interrupted by a random person showing up.  If you want to speak to me, please, please, please book time in my calendar.  I will take the time to think about it.  I’ll prep.  Then when we come together it’ll be a good use of time.”

And what you realize is that creating a harmonious work environment, to your point around our culture, Bill, it’s partly around people actually enjoying the styles of those who work around them.  And with these User Manuals, we learn from before the day you join Hive, broadly speaking, like what makes you happy.

Oh, last one I remember is your excellent one.  “What’s the way to earn a gold star with you?” is one of the questions.  I remember reading once, one of our engineers, it was “Buy me a piece of fruit.”  So one day where we had given him the most awful engineering story to do, and he was coming towards the end, and I thought his energy might be flagging, we brought him a whole, literally a basket of like kiwis and bananas and apples and grapes.  And we give it to him, and he says, “How did you know I like fruit?” because he’d forgotten it was in his User Manual.

BILL YATES:  That’s such a great idea.  I love it.

WENDY GROUNDS:  I love that.

BILL YATES:  And companies will do things like everybody takes an assessment, and then you share your ideas, or maybe you go through StrengthsFinder or MBTI.  There are so many different ones out there.  But I love this.  This is simple.  The name “User Manual,” that’s just great.  You know, you don’t have to make it this formal structured thing.  You guys can kind of evolve the questions that you ask in the User Manual.  So I made a connection with you even before we had a conversation because I saw a previous interview you’d had, and you cited “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely.


BILL YATES:  I’m a big fan of that book.  I love it.

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Oh, I love that book.

BILL YATES:  So, yeah, with a User Manual, then you can have people learn about this new team member and make connections even before they’ve connected a face with it.


BILL YATES:  That’s great.

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Exactly.  It’s just so illuminating.  And it also shows some basic respect; right?  You’re coming into our organization.  That doesn’t mean that you need to adopt our ways.  It’s a meeting in the middle; right?  Like a marriage or that kind of relationship; right?  We’re going to learn about you.  You’re going to learn about us.  And we’ll both make accommodations, make sure that it’s a fantastic relationship.

BILL YATES:  This is super.  I’m making a note of this just for how we onboard here at Velociteach.  This is great advice.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.  It’s a great onboarding tool.  It just helps the person who’s starting to feel really welcome.

New Hive Features

WENDY GROUNDS:   John, do you have any new Hive features in the pipeline currently?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Yes, absolutely.  But the good news is, because we’re the world’s first democratic software platform, you can see exactly what they are.  So you head to the Hive Forum, which is at feedback.hive.com.  You can see a list that we worked down to deliver everything that our teams have asked for.  And there’s some really, really fun stuff on there.  And people have some interesting ideas.  For them to get it, Bill, all they need to do is convince others around them.  And if people agree, it gets done.  We like to think of ourselves as the sort of toolkit.  You know, they’re the boss; we’re the toolkit.  We’ll get the stuff done.  But it’s up to them how we proceed.

Who Influenced John?

BILL YATES:  So who influenced you, John?  Somebody has to be back in your past, influencing you, to give you the boldness and the moxie to sell everything, buy a one-way ticket, and leave your country and come to another country and start this venture.

JOHN FURNEAUX:  That’s a great question.  I couldn’t not mention my father, of course.  I’m very proud to sort of be his son.  And I learned a huge amount from him.  He’s a teacher.  And I guess from that you pick up the desire to help others succeed at what they’re doing, rather than obsessing about what you’re doing.  And certainly something that we say to everybody on the first day at Hive is it’s not about us.  It’s not about us.  We make software.  No one cares about the software. 

The teams care about their mission; right?  They care about that they make great architectural plans.  Or they put on plays in their community.  Or they raise money for a needy cause.  That’s what they care about.  We are simply there to try and help them do that.  You know what I mean?  Our job is to help them accomplish their goals as fast as they can.

So I think that mindset of a life well spent is in service of others.  I’m very proud to come from a family that believes that.  And then in terms of what has enabled us to be successful, a gentleman called Matthew Whitford from Capgemini many years ago, he asked me to get him a presentation printed off for an important presentation the next day.  I was maybe, I don’t know, 19 years old, 20 years old, my first job.  And I went down to the printing room, and when I printed it off it was too big.  It sort of was unwieldy, right, when he presented it.

And there was a nice man in the printing room, and I said, “I don’t know how I’m meant to do this.  You don’t have any way to bind this; do you?”  And the guy is like, “Yeah, but the binders you have to – you’re charged them.”  And I was like, “I have no idea how you charge anything.  Would you do me a massive favor and just bind this thing for me?”  And the guy’s like, “Yeah, fine, okay.”  Binds this thing for me.  I take it back to Matthew Whitford, and he’s so impressed at having just that small attention to detail, that I’d realized that he might want that, that he carried me through the next three years of my career.  You know, I was under his wing kind of thing.

And did I learn from that experience? Is sweat the details, do the small things well.  Like hard work does reward in life.  You know what I mean?  So when it comes back to our project management life, bother to make the agenda.  Bother to get just the right attendees.  Bother to check in on the next steps because those little things, you never know which one of them will be your Matthew Whitford moment that carries your career for the next three years.  A brilliantly run meeting is a work of art and very, very impressive to those around you.  And I would encourage all of us to put 100% into our soft skills and how we manage the projects and the people around us.

BILL YATES:  That’s so true.  It’s amazing.  You never know when you’re going to make an impression. You never know.


Get in Touch with John

WENDY GROUNDS:  If our listeners want to reach out to you, if they want to find out more about Hive, or if they have some questions, what’s the best way that they can get in touch with you?

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Oh, sure.  They can email me at john@hive.com, the old founder’s email address, J-O-H-N at Hive, H-I-V-E, dot com.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Thank you so much.  We’ve enjoyed hearing about what you’re doing and how it’s helping project managers.

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Thank you.  Thank you, Bill.  Thank you, Wendy.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, thank you.  This is exciting, and we appreciate being able to have a conversation with you about it.  Well done, sir.

JOHN FURNEAUX:  Thank you very much.


WENDY GROUNDS:  That’s it for us here on Manage This.  Thank you for joining us.  You can visit us at Velociteach.com, where you can subscribe to this podcast and see a complete transcript of the show.  To claim those Professional Development Units which you just earned by listening to this podcast, go to Velociteach.com, choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page, click the button that says Claim PDUs, and follow through the steps.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

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