How to write a user manual

How to write a user manual

JP Morgan honcho Jamie Dimon broke the dam this week with a memo stating that “all US-based employees will be in the office on a consistent rotational schedule.” It turns out that for Dimon, managing 250,000+ employees a la hybrid ain’t going to happen. And if you’re not totally ready to get back to your daily commute, Dimon warns “the idea of coming back on a regular basis is a change you’ll need to manage.”

As the US economy reemerges at a startling (and somewhat disorienting) rate, it turns out that the death of New York City, business travel, and the 9-to-5 office job has been gravely overstated. On one hand, many are celebrating life beyond Zoom and the resetting of boundaries between their work and personal lives. But for others, it feels like a missed opportunity to re-think from the ground up how we work as individuals and teams.

Any time a group of people get together, there are a bunch of unspoken norms at play. If a billionaire takes a bunch of college students out for beer and pizza, it’s assumed that moneybags will be footing the bill. When you get in an elevator, it’s assumed everyone faces the door. And when you have unlimited PTO, it’s assumed that you won’t take 252 days off each year.

These unspoken norms are hard enough to uncover in life. (Might the billionaire be upset that folks always assume they’re paying?) At the office, they’re even harder to uncover because they’re set by coterie of workers with tenure, influence, and power. And what happens to these norms when the office goes remote? Fuggedaboutit.

Why your team needs User Manuals

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate,” wrote the philosopher Carl Jung. And if you manage a team or run a company, until you make the unspoken norms spoken, they’ll wreck havoc on your organization.

Thankfully there’s 45 minute exercise that can elevate and expose these norms while boosting your team’s productivity, collaboration, and overall job satisfaction. I borrowed this approach from Abby Falik and ask all my team members create their User Manuals that cover:

  • My work style 
  • What I value
  • What I don’t have patience for
  • How best to communicate with me
  • My typical schedule
  • How to help me
  • What people misunderstand about me

To help you construct your own User Manual, I’ve shared my own manual below.

My work style

What I value

What I don’t have patience for

How to best communicate with me

My typical schedule

How to help me

What people misunderstand about me

Whether you’re fully remote or managing a team at a Fortune 500 company, everyone wins when you put these norms out in the open. You’ll deepen trust, eliminate unnecessary conflict and – most importantly – spend less time worrying about things outside of your control.

Join us as on May 6th for a free live webinar on The Reopening Playbook: How to be a great leader as everything about work changes.

Khe Hy
[email protected]

Khe Hy is the creator of RadReads.