Lifebushido New Hire Ethnography

Lifebushido New Hire Ethnography

This was written by Caroline Collins, the first Lifebushido anthropologist.
Version: 8/21/12 by Steve

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  • Please add your feedback, kudos, comments on Caroline's essay below. Add yourself as name, Ishido level/role, date hired, comments with your comments added to bottom of this list.
  • Steve Kantor, President, 1/1/2006: I always wanted to hire an anthropologist. Caroline has already provided some deep insights. I really want to hire Deanna Troi, or someone like her, but she is likely not only not available but not even real. See As you all know, Lifebushido has a certain culture, which is sorta strange since we have not met each other and in most cases, we do not even know what each other looks like. Plus, Tannu and I have worked together with awesome results for over 5 years and we have never even spoken to each other. So how do you work for a company where you have never spoken to your boss in 5 years. Works for me. Works for Tannu. I encourage all of you to create and add to the Lifebushido culture with more vigor. At this stage of 100 Ishidos, I personally still drive a lot of the culture but my hope is that you drive it forward from here. The key concept is Lifebushido Triangle and how those Triangles help each other achieve their Perfect Job and Life Goals. And then connect to each other. We all know the first 1-2 months as a New Hire and Newshido is challenging. We need to make it even more culturally rich, and reduce the hassle factors. Ah, the wiki….down the rabbit hole…

Caroline Collin's Lifebushido New Hire Ethnography

An anthropological essay by a New Hire just because Anything is Possible when you work with Lifebushido.

Welcome to Lifebushido – Job Offer Finally

The subject of the email that arrived in my Inbox on June 3rd displayed a sense of humor, acknowledging what every one of us who had jumped through all of the application and New Recruit hoops was probably thinking. Lifebushido incorporates an interesting juxtaposition of meticulous professionalism combined with a rather laid-back attitude. Somehow it seems to work. The time it takes to become a New Hire has been one primary area of contention, but those of us who stayed the distance believed the job to be worth the wait, judging from the highly enthusiastic replies that began to pour in.

I was hired as part of a group of 22 people, the June cohort. In keeping with the Lifebushido community spirit, the job offer contained all of our names and contact emails and invited us to cc everyone in our replies. We were given three days to consider our response, but all of us, save one, accepted the position by day two. Acceptance letters came hot and heavy. Private correspondence from Steve was mixed into this lengthy Gmail thread and almost missed. The first thing I needed to do was set-up better email labels and filters. My Inbox would never be the same. In addition to our little group emails, we had to join a Training email list - a combination of information and inspiration which arrived daily through the first stage of the process, and there was also a newsletter. And this was just the first week. Information overload quickly set in as I frantically organized and reorganized my mailbox.

The quick response from my cohorts was not too surprising – no one would stick with such a long involved hiring process unless they really wanted the job. That, I suppose, is one of the pluses of the system. You know you are getting people who really want to be there and have a high enthusiasm for the company. On the minus side, however, some good people do drop out simply because they cannot afford to wait so long for a paying job. Even with the attainment of New Hire status the wait was not completely over. There were still more hurdles to clear.

Wiki-Madness – Tasks and Teams

The New Hire process was consistent with the Lifebushido culture of uniqueness, designed to both educate and assist in determining one’s best fit within the community. The Organization and Standard Tasks gave some practice in regular necessary activities, such as Wiki editing and logging Goal Actions (Lifebushido’s answer to invoicing,) while also giving us a taste of some of the actual work. A few of the tasks requested our thoughts and suggestions, well-illustrating one quality that sets Lifebushido apart – the real interest in feedback from staff, with an eye to constant self-improvement. Most companies expect you to just be grateful you have a job. In fact, with some companies I’ve worked for in the past, making suggestions could actually work against your long-term employment goal. Several of the tasks came with billable hours, allowing for a small starting income flow. A couple took me longer than the allotted time, since they were something I’d not done before, and I was not alone in this, according to the feedback I received. However, most of the tasks were pretty straightforward, so it was no problem for me to get them done in the suggested time frame of Days 1-10.The “Team Specific” and “Optional” tasks came next, for Days 10-30. I didn’t need to do any of these beyond learning about the teams themselves, although a few would come up again once I started actually applying to teams.

Accomplishing all of these tasks, and applying for teams, meant that one must brave the labyrinth that is the Lifebushido Wiki. Ah, the Wiki! From what I’ve seen, the single biggest complaint, both posted publicly and in private correspondence, is problems with the Wiki. There is actually more than one Wiki, but they are all interconnected through the web of never-ending links, and one can weave a wide winding wobbly path through them like a guest at a wild party in search of a restroom - not that I am familiar with that sort of thing.

No one can ever accuse Lifebushido of not providing direction. Directions are served up generously, often in triplicate, throughout the Wiki. Finding them all might be another matter, but they are there. The initial New Hire email contained two wiki links – one to Steve’s personal welcome message and one to the New Hire wiki, which, in turn, gave us more links. There was a link to the Lifebushido Vision page, which reminded us what the company is about, and what it does. There was a link to the New Hire Guide, which repeated much of the New Hire wiki and then went on to give more detailed information in one long scrolling format, most of which was an exact copy of other pages. I didn’t spend much time with that one. I preferred the shorter and neater individual task wikis. Every step of the New Hire process had its own wiki page. I found this the most helpful bit, and tried to keep myself on a straight and narrow path by keeping the “first stop” New Hire page up in one browser tab, and, later, the “second stop” New Hire Tasks wiki up in another. I just kept returning to these as my familiar touchstones. Following too many links from other pages could get a newbie lost in short order. As one of my co-June Hires colorfully put it, navigating the Wiki is “kind of like Alice falling down the rabbit hole - do I eat the cookie? Or drink the bottle??” Yet another New Hire wiki page, this one titled “New Hire Info,” was sent out in the first Training email. This page was, again, mostly repeated information but with some extras and, of course, more links, thrown in. There are always more links.

The New Hire process itself is highly, and mercifully, organized, broken down into steps and days. Great pains have obviously been taken to provide New Hires with assistance every step of the way, and that is much appreciated. Any missing or unclear information can be easily clarified with one email. The corresponding wiki pages are also organized, although not as well, and most of the complaints I received about “poor directions” can be traced directly to the Wiki. There also seems to be a lot of needless repetition, as well as a few contradictions. For example, while trying to download a clean copy of the Checklist to send out with my New Hire packet, I somehow took a wrong wiki turn and wound up with a Checklist similar but not exactly the same as the one I had been following. One critical difference was the number of required Daily Emails – my original Checklist had said to send 7, which I did, while this new version said to send 10. Fortunately, our tireless New Hire Team Leader was always readily available, waving the lantern to guide me out of whatever wiki quagmire I might have wandered into. I also managed to find my original Checklist by retracing my steps from my breadcrumb trail of saved links. These sort of blatant contradiction problems are few, but the general consensus among my New Hire cohorts was that the Wiki could use better organization, or “tweaking,” with a capital T.

Part of the problem might lie in the egalitarian nature of Lifebushido. Anyone eligible to join the Wiki – any brand new employee – can pitch in and edit. Lifebushido employees are a dedicated lot and many are willing to take on the challenge. Pages seemed to change regularly. This situation can be either a great monument to teamwork, or a fast track to chaos. One person complained that they had spent time editing only to have someone else come along and re-edit, changing everything they had done. We are, after all, a team of individuals encouraged to express and utilize our unique talents. Some have wonderful grammar and organization skills, while others have a refreshing artistic bent – each is valuable and wonderful, but, perhaps, on pages one relies upon to do one’s job correctly, some over-riding direction is needed. The Work Team pages do seem to be more streamlined and organized overall, and this may be largely the result of having fewer editors in attendance. Perhaps the creation of a “Wiki Team,” solely responsible for keeping the general wiki paths clear, might better serve the common good.

In addition to the regular New Hire tasks, Steve assigned me a little extra work, in keeping with my particular background. He called it “anthropology fun.” I had this assignment of reviewing the New Hire process, and also the opportunity to meet with a local client in person. This *was* fun for me, as the tasks incorporated things I just naturally enjoy doing. This opportunity to go beyond the standard to utilize one’s personal interests and skill sets is yet another example of why many of us were happy to jump through all those hoops. How often does one find a company that seems to genuinely care that their employees are having fun?

My brief beginning foray into client relations brought me to my first team. The Client Services Team Leader called and invited me to apply. I liked her instantly, I liked the other Team Leader I spoke with later, and I absolutely loved their well-organized training wiki. I was quickly sold. Their application process was very straightforward and things suddenly began to move much more quickly than they had thus far. I was now in information overload of another kind, but there seemed to be plenty of direction available, and there was a light at the end of the New Hire tunnel. In fact, the path seemed clear to Newshido status, except for one little thing.

In Pursuit of a Perfect Triangle

I have a triangle issue. It’s not that I don’t like them or don’t appreciate the concept, it’s rather that triangles keep eluding me. This bad luck streak started early on, when my New Recruit triangle simply imploded, and seemed to follow me on to the New Hire stage and become a running theme. Steve wanted me become a triangle member as part of this report, but it simply was not as easy as it sounds. My email to the Triangle Team Leader requesting to be assigned received no reply. As it turns out, the position was in the process of changing hands. After a week of dead silence I went to the triangle page to see if any of my cohorts were looking for company. I found a leader there, but, after that bit of success, the process kept sputtering. My leader was running into the same email roadblock I’d experienced, and her requests for clarification of the requirements were getting her nowhere. Finally, after at least another week, she reported that there was a new Triangle Team Leader on board, we’d been matched with our third side (so hard to have a triangle with only two people,) and we were ready to begin. Sort of. By this time all of us were highly occupied with our teams. In addition to my Client Services training, I had also been accepted on to the Key Assistant team. They had their own detailed training process that I was anxious to start. The teams, of course, offer the paying work. Triangle tasks would just have to be fitted in as best we could.

So, unfortunately, my first direct observation of the triangle experience confirmed the common complaint of the Ishidos I’d interviewed for my New Recruit project – it was simply another demand on their precious time. I do think that this is unfortunate because (1) Steve places a lot of importance on triangles so I was hoping to discover so much more and (2) I can see that the triangle system could have many possibilities. These possibilities go beyond the good idea of giving New Recruits and Hires companionship and a source of instant feedback. There is a potential for incorporating this sort of social workgroup into many areas of the company. It may not be a good fit for some positions, like Key Assistant, which require one-on-one client work, but it could certainly enhance others. Triangles could specialize, pooling complementary expertise. Tasks could be shared, allowing individual members to feel less overwhelmed. Also, I very much enjoy the aspect of getting to know and work with people from other countries. This certainly enriches the culture of the company as a whole, as well as one’s personal experience. There is probably a lot more to it that I am missing but yet have hopes of experiencing, since our triangle is currently still muddling through, and possibilities abound.

I am not the only one to experience triangle frustration. In addition to the time constraints, more than one New Hire voiced dissatisfaction with the amount of direction and guidance they received. This may be a Wiki thing again, or due mainly to the team leader changeover. Also, as one New Hire pointed out, the existence of both New Recruit and New Hire triangle processes and directions can lead to a lot of confusion.

Joining a triangle is not mandatory for everyone. However, given the emphasis placed on this system, it seems there should be more of an effort made to assist and encourage newcomers. There could also be strategies implemented to try and make membership more desirable - perhaps the opportunity to increase one’s work hours by applying for triangle-only paid projects. Another New Hire suggested using the triangle route as a fast track to a Leadership position. I feel that we have just begun to scratch the surface with this system.

Final Thoughts

Though all the various aspects of the New Hire process can leave one feeling like you are juggling far too many balls in the air, all of these activities together do not amount to much of a paycheck. In fact, for many New Hires, it could be another full month before they can really get to work. A “fast track” option has been suggested by one of my contemporaries, with additional tasks, depending on one’s interests. Some newcomers may already have a good idea of what they want to do, so perhaps a greater standard task pool, which allows for choice, might be quite helpful. Also, there really are two application processes – one for Lifebushido in general, and another for teams in order to actually get any work. It would be great to find a way to merge these processes together. Any way of shortening the time from application to the earning of real money would assist in the goal of retaining good applicants who simply need to get to work. Lifebushido really is a great company to work for, and it is a shame that some have to miss this opportunity simply because they do not have the luxury of time for all the various tasks and steps and Wiki navigation, plus another income source to tide them through. Happily, it seems that this company continues to adapt and rise to the challenges. I was pleased to note, while reading through the various New Hire project pages, that I am fortunate to be among a group of people who have many good suggestions. It appears to be a great time to have been hired and I look forward to playing an active role in the continued evolution of Lifebushido.
John Hardy- newshido( Blogging team,training for WLR) Date hired December 3, 2011
Bravo Caroline. I added comments to the original wiki you had for this. I agree with you about the wikis. I couldn't do several of the new hire tasks because I was not able to sign in to edit them. It started with the main LB wiki, that is a required task as part of new hire process. Steve ended emailing me telling me exactly how to sign in. My user name was not in the correct format. My triangle leader as well as new hire team leader were of tremendous help of me as well as two of the big tasks were not coming exactly as they should ( they were the creative task and the review application process). I had to have the instructions for completing them sent to me a couple of times and then I picked it up without difficulty. The biggest challenge I faced during this process was the fact that we had less then 30 days to do our triangle tasks and the due date was less then a week after Thanksgiving. We hung in there and were all hired as a group ( Only myself and my triangle leader are still working for the company).

  • lifebushido_new_hire_ethnography.txt
  • Last modified: 2018/08/17 06:31
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