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Manuals Not Included

We’ve all heard of and have read (at least browsed) handbooks published by GitLab and Atlassian that reveal the internal processes, tools and culture. Unfortunately, manuals aren’t included when you mint a brand new startup and borrowing a ready-made one from Atlassian and GitLab probably won’t work for you.

Decisions are made based on your circumstances, the group of people and your own business context, which guides you down your own path. This “culture” documented in a handbook is unique to you and I advise you to acknowledge it, and keep refining it.

Developing a handbook before you form a team means you’re trying to define the culture upfront. Culture comes later as an outcome of your (and your teams’) choices. So this is why we only just got around to launching our handbook.

The process of forcing ourselves to bare all (good and bad) publicly to you, forces us to look in the mirror and ask “can we do better?” As opposed to telling everyone how “awesome” we are on LinkedIn, with the obligatory cat picture, saying that “we support WFH” (everyone does, get over it). If you’re considering a career change, new challenge or are seeking your tribe then give us a look. We value craft over politics and self-promotion.

The handbook idea was not a new one for us. We’ve been considering it even before mx51 existed (incubation started in 2016). Being transparent about what we do internally has always been important to us. We write endless design docs, confluence pages, presentations, brown bag sessions and Slack messages to internally evangelise what teams do, to educate people and hold ourselves accountable. That mess has since been cleaned up and we’ve consolidated a lot (not all) of these nuggets into this handbook. There’s still a lot to add, it’s just that shipping products and features to our customers is also a priority.

I highly recommend scheduling some time with your team to try and document your ways of working. You’ll either be pleasantly surprised or it will give you a clear list of areas you need to improve as a tech team.

Any questions or feedback? Please reach out to me.

P.S. Thanks to the mx51 team for pulling this together. Especially Pat, Ray, Tas, Mike, Seb and Martin.