Why you should write a manifesto and how to make this a team effort.

We brainstormed our way through it

We have recently launched our Manifesto on our website. The decision of writing it and the whole process we went through to get there was pretty cool and we wanted to tell you all about it. It made sense to be a team effort, so we brainstormed our way through it on a sunny and hot summer Saturday in Setúbal, Portugal, home of our designers.

The decision of writing a Manifesto

One could say that it all started with the decision of hiring a business manager/developer/girl - that's me. During my first few months working in Marzee Labs, I realised that the founders have built the company based on their values and beliefs as web developers and individuals.

It was clear to me that the whole team has a very interesting perspective on why they are doing web development and the way they want to do business. Marzee Labs has something special going on that needs to be shared.

I wondered what could be done in order to put together what makes us unique. It was actually an effort of getting it out of our minds and hearts, understand how we want to share it with others by presenting our beliefs and vision in a manifesto, and show how cool we are in the process.

What is a Manifesto?

The manifesto should document the company's beliefs, intentions and core values. Some say that a manifesto goes beyond the way of doing business and it gets personal, it is a way of telling people what drives you. A real inspirational manifesto documents what motivates you to work for the impact in the world.

Why should we have one?

A manifesto will give the team a common ground no matter the project they are working on. It will help the company to reconnect with its story and its whys. It will be a guideline for decision-making and it can also be the basis for content to customers, partners.

Going through the process of writing a manifesto is looking inside and putting out in the world what you think about the business you are in and what really matters to you. It's questioning what makes you wake up every day to go to work. It’s going deeper and understanding what is the impact you want to make in other people lives and in your own life.

How we got there?

From the beginning, I knew that this had to be a team effort. But (there is always a but) our team works remotely, we are always occupied developing and giving our best in the projects we are involved in, so I waited for the right opportunity. It came before I expected.

We usually meet in person twice a year to work together, share meals, drinks, stories, laughs, interact and get to know each other better - in my case, it also meant to watch, together with the Belgian boss, my Brazil lose to Belgium in the World Cup.

We had one of those meetups in July and I thought - That's it! We are going to write our manifesto together, but I actually didn't quite know yet how to do it and especially how to have the team engaged. I went through a bunch of articles about writing manifestos and how to get there. In the end, the steps I found useful were:

  • Rant - get angry with people that work in the same field;
  • Think about our whys - our motivations;
  • Think about our customers - our offer.

In order to have the whole team involved and excited about it - and also because I am a big fan of design thinking - I decided to prepare a brainstorming session and invited the team to "Use the force. Think." as Obi-Wan Kenobi once said to Anakin Skywalker.

Post-its and pencils in hand, we started with an inspiration phase. It is an important step to give to the group some ideas, get the team's mind going and most importantly to catch their attention (not an easy task). We went through some manifestos from companies we enjoy and other inspiring ones not just from the web development business.

With our minds inspired and with the group intrigued, it was time to start the brainstorming phase. I presented them with some rules in order to make sure the exercise would have the result expected. The rules are:

  • Do not judge ideas or say they are impossible;
  • Say your idea out loud, so others can build on it;
  • Each idea should go to a separate post-it;
  • Give as many ideas as possible.

We basically followed the path of writing a manifesto I mentioned above. My job as facilitator was to ask questions to provoke them on each step.

Let's rant: What disturbs you? What does everyone get wrong? What frustrates you? What could be better?

Why are we doing this: What brings you to work every day? Why did you choose to do what you do? What makes you happy or smile in a project and/or in a workday?

Thinking about the customers: What matters to them? How does our approach make things better for them? How do they see us? What makes us different from others?

It was really cool how the team engaged and opened their minds and souls. And the most amazing part was that they had strong common values that were all along driving forces on the way they work. I was really happy with the post-its, with the way they opened up to this exercise.

After brainstorming, it was time to re-organise all the post-its. At first, they were organised by phase - rant, whys and customers. And since I also wanted to be a part of this (not just the facilitator) while the team went out to eat something, I reorganised the post-its, ideas and thoughts. I could have asked them to reorganise the ideas, but I felt it was important to have/give an external point of view in this process.

When they came back, we still had a final brainstorming task. We tried to connect post-its/ ideas/ thoughts from different blocks into phrases. To be very honest this last part was not very successful, since they were already tired and I lost their attention. However, we came up with nice pieces of text.

We had a lot of work to do - a manifesto to write - but I felt I had all the needed information to do it and I did a trick when we got back to the office. I locked myself in the meeting room and using their post-its I put together the Marzee Labs Manifesto text.

We did one last round of comments and suggestions among the team, and we were ready to spread it out (so proud). Before we launched it in our website, there was a final touch from our outstanding designers and developers who put their creative minds and hearts in everything they do.

And that was how we wrote our Manifesto. For us, the whole experience around this effort was really special, since we had the chance to talk about beliefs, to share why we are working on Marzee Labs, to make sure what are the forces that drives us and most importantly to connect with each other.