An exhausting, but amazing experience that brought a cross-functional group together to form a team to create and test an amazing prototype that set the direction for our next release within a week. 

Senior Business Strategist

The Challenge

Our client is a major mortgage lender who, similar to others in the industry, struggles to aggregate and display data in an intentional and useful way. As part of a hackathon, a team of developers recognized a need, and over a period of nine to 12 months, created a performance insight tool that provided up-to-date personalized metrics on individual team member and user performance. This tool increased efficiency, replacing the time spent manually extracting and analyzing data across disparate platforms, but was developed and delivered without a User Interface and Experience team, product leadership, or end-user feedback. When the enterprise product team learned of the effort and efficiencies the tool could deliver, they jumped in to understand the scope and value of the upcoming beta release and start shaping the next release of the tool. PhoenixTeam was engaged to help discover the end-user’s problems and ideate on solutions for the tool’s second release.

The Solution

Understanding the urgency to define, prepare, and deliver value quickly, PhoenixTeam recommended a modified design sprint that allowed for rapid feedback of the soon-to-be-released beta tool and identification of the highest-priority features for the second release to a larger group of end-users.

PhoenixTeam modified the traditional five-day design sprint to kick off with testing the beta version. This approach allowed the team to learn the most valuable functionality and pinpoint improvement opportunities. PhoenixTeam provided a trainer and expert facilitator to coordinate and lead the five-day session. The facilitator empowered the team to think creatively and kept the team on track to achieve the planned outcomes for each day. The facilitator assisted in trend analysis and provided guidance to streamline future discovery and delivery efforts for the tool. To achieve the desired outcomes of the design sprint, PhoenixTeam organized a cross-functional team with the right skillsets to identify product market fit of the next release.

Here was our gameplan for the next five days:

With a beta already in play, our goal was to obtain immediate end-user feedback to understand whether it met our client’s needs and delivered them value. The team spent the first day reviewing the beta, revisiting personas and journey maps, and aligning on interview roles and questions. On the second day, the facilitator welcomed end-user testers and set the stage—introducing the purpose, objective, and desired outcome of the beta testing activity. The Interviewer introduced the end-users to the tool and asked them to use it as they would on any business day. The rest of the interview team watched and listened to the testers, capturing observations in a feedback log.

In what would traditionally take place throughout the first three days of a design sprint, Day Three of the modified sprint was dedicated to analyzing and understanding tester feedback, brainstorming solutions, and prioritizing the most valuable opportunities. The team synthesized feedback, created artifacts (Crazy Eights, storyboards, etc.), and conducted lightning demos.

Figure 1: Modified Design Sprint for Existing but Untested Prototype. Where the traditional Design Sprint begins with Understanding, Solutioning, and Deciding, when a working prototype exists without an understanding of the problem, the team can prep for interview to learn if the prototype solves the problems or addresses the needs of the end-user.


On Day Four, the team self-organized into prototype creation roles—Interviewer, Maker, Stitcher, Asset Collector, and Writer—empowering them to collaboratively build the prototype, develop new interview questions, and outline specific scenarios testers would complete during testing to prove or disprove the team’s hypotheses. The final day of the design sprint culminated with testing the prototype the team developed based on the first round of interviews and subsequent ideation.

The Outcome

PhoenixTeam understood the client’s challenge and turned it into an opportunity the team could solution quickly and collaboratively. Despite the additional challenges of a unique design timeline and working with an existing beta prior to collecting user feedback, the team realized the value of continuous feedback at every point of the development lifecycle. The cross-functional team worked together to develop a reimagined prototype that would result in a more impactful second release of the tool.

The interview team gathered over 400 pieces of individual feedback from the end-user interviews and identified the following themes:

  1. End-users did not have independent visibility into key performance and business metrics
  2. Users performed work differently, focusing on different metrics at different times
  3. There was a lack of trust on the quality of the data and metrics
  4. End-users had an inconsistent work prioritization processes
  5. Users expressed desire for peer-to-peer performance stack ranking
  6. New users faced training and adoption challenges
  7. Users wanted visibility into “effort” metrics
  8. End-users wished for more intuitive icons
  9. The tool’s expected functionality was not consistent across all users

The team rounded out the five days with a prioritized roadmap and confidence that the next version of the tool achieved product market fit. The week’s efforts resulted in a tool that would bring higher value to end-users, eliminating tedious manual data extraction and analysis, and saving them precious time, money, and resources. The team shifted its mindset from “just build it fast” to a mindset of “build the right thing fast” and embraced the iterative approach of ideate, prototype, and test with a continuous feedback loop. PhoenixTeam utilized Lean-Agile practices to help create solutions as unique as the challenges. In doing so, we continue to adapt industry standards and techniques, resulting in motivated team members geared up to make homeownership an easier dream to achieve through better mortgage technology.

PhoenixTeam Can Help!

The Phoenix Way begins and ends with client delivery. We are front-line leaders in the mortgage industry through product, technology, strategy, and additional leadership disciplines. We do what it takes to bring our clients amazing outcomes while simultaneously sharing our lessons and experiences along the way.

Looking for results in your next design sprint? PhoenixTeam takes the lead in:

  • Facilitating Design Sprints
    • We validate assumptions, accelerate learning about users and their environment, and generate viable and valuable solutions to users’ most urgent challenges.
  • Modifying Traditional Design Sprints
    • Our team can help identify the next set of valuable features for existing products or prototypes with limited testing, validation, or user feedback behind them.
  • Designing Organizational Structure
    • We streamline processes to allow for small cross-functional teams to accelerate discovery and delivery of value.
  • Crafting Customized Rapid Prototyping
    • We host workshops to identify, validate, align, and communicate around value and functionality of products and their features.

By: Nicholas Goodman

Trigger Warning: Terrorism, Mention of Suicide

I was five years old when the Trade Center collapsed. When the school caught wind of the news, my kindergarten teacher rushed to turn on the classroom television in time for school faculty to crowd around the broadcast. We saw the second tower fall. I was supposed to be reciting the alphabet, but my grade school curriculum was derailed in order to learn how to process the mass grief of a nation. The events on September 11, 2001, followed by the consequential mending and healing of the United States, planted a sense of protection and responsibility for my country within me.

At 18 years old, I enlisted as a Marine. I began in Operations and was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan. I was sent to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, Anderson Air Force Base Guam, and the Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi. I completed my service in February of 2018. I was thrilled to begin this new chapter of my life outside of the military.

However, I did not account for the shock of returning to a civilian lifestyle. Throughout my time in the Marine Corps, I adopted a high-intensity mindset needed to survive in such stringent environments. The transition from a service member to a citizen was disruptive to my mental health and overall wellbeing. When I left to serve, I had close relationships with my family, friends, a sense of a permanent home and safety that I needed to leave behind in active duty. When I returned after years of nomadic travel in foreign territories, I realized that the friendships and relationships I once had shifted along with how I interact with the world around me. Without the proper support, therapy, and resources, veterans may fall into solitary, dark spaces making them susceptible to mental illness. Bouts of depression may evolve into suicidal thoughts, such that an average of 22 veterans commit suicide on a daily basis, or once every 65 minutes, in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, deployed veterans have a 41% higher suicide risk compared to the general U.S. population and non-deployed veterans have a 61% higher risk.

Veterans’ Day, November 11, 2021, allows the opportunity to discuss a rampant issue within the veteran community. PhoenixTeam’s Veteran Employee Resource Group is sponsoring the 22-Day Push-Up Challenge where team members are encouraged to do 22 push-ups every day for 22 days in remembrance of the service members lost to suicide. Since September 11, 2001, over 30,000 veterans have died by suicide. Substance abuse disorders and untreated mental health conditions have strong correlations to suicide. These afflictions are often triggered by stress from military service, financial, legal, or relationship hardships. With proper care and resources, veteran suicide is preventable. Let’s make the effort to combat it. These efforts include reaching out to veterans in your circle, making a donation to non-profit organizations such as Stop Soldier Suicide, or volunteering with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Call 1-800-273-8255, text 838255, or visit to connect with a Veteran Crisis Line Responder.

By Shawn Burke

The standardization of Copy + Paste (CTRL+C and CTRL+V) was a life-changing feature of early Microsoft Office. Gone were the keyboard layout templates for every processing program. That’s right, kids! Once upon a time, you bought a piece of paper that overlayed your keyboard to know the shortcuts an application had. I can vividly remember my father, the classically trained engineer, talking about how the administrative staff were the real geniuses since they could manipulate all those shortcuts within the programs to make executives look gifted.

Traditional pasting only allows the user to keep the last thing cut or copied. Windows 10 revolutionized the paste shortcut by integrating a catalog of previous cut and copied items. Software engineers use the Copy + Paste function every day. So much so, that many pieces of software have been written to keep a list of the things copied or cut so coders can use them again.

When you have a moment, copy something. Then, a second something. Use the Windows Key + V for a pop-up to show all the things in your clipboard. Choose the one you want to paste.

Larry Tesler is the mind we thank for this function. Tesler worked in Human-Computer Interaction, or how people and technology coexist and perform with each other. These human and computer dynamics vary drastically from using CTRL+V to paste a link in an email to life-or-death situations. My father, an aircraft engineer, said, “If we don’t calculate this right, people die.” The preceding is one of many life lessons etched with indelible ink. Caustic at first glance, what it really says, is what we do can impact the world.

Because of Larry Tesler’s efforts to bridge people and technology through the convenience of the cut, copy, and paste shortcuts, we can work faster and smarter alongside computers. When you do your job well, you might change the world, regardless of anyone knowing who you are. Take pride in what you do. It matters.

By Paul Weakley

A few weeks ago, a handful of technologists at PhoenixTeam came together to discuss the meaning of “burnout.” Burnout means something different to everyone as it is not unique to any job, industry, or workload. True burnout occurs when we lose the excitement and drive for our work and the ‘why’ that pushes us to give the best of ourselves. Burnout can turn ordinary tasks into obstacles that are difficult to overcome. While we feel successful when we are productive, we must remember that true success comes from so much more than what we produce at work.

Our company conversation about burnout never addressed working too much. It was focused on our desire to see positive changes from the effort we put in every day. One team member said that burnout is “when you can no longer see the positive alongside the negative.” Without recognition and positive change, the work we do turns into outputs and not outcomes.

November 3rd marks National Stress Awareness Day, and we encourage everyone their colleagues in these important conversations. Burnout can be pervasive. Without adequate work boundaries, burnout can spread like wildfire if left unchecked. When people say, “I need a vacation,” folks should be alarmed. If you have already reached the point of needing a vacation, then you are trying to pour from an empty cup. Vacations don’t fix burnout. In fact, taking vacations can cause stress when we have to consider the workload we are leaving behind, and the workload waiting for us when we return. If we constantly work with the thought of the next getaway in mind, then burnout is inevitable. To mitigate burnout, we need to rekindle the passion for work life.

Burnout cannot be eradicated, only mitigated. As a company, our culture should be supportive and compassionate. Great organizations encourage team members to take mental health days and share their concerns with confidence that they are heard. So often we hear about team members, our most valued asset, being more concerned with missing out on work than tending to their emotional and mental needs.  Burnout is also not an end-all. Burnout is a teaching tool so that team members can understand what they can and cannot handle and make appropriate boundaries to enable them to be their best selves while doing their best work. So next time you feel burnt out, re-evaluate your surroundings and see how you can implement joy back into your work life. Reach out, ask for help, say you need to move that meeting so that when you log off for the day, you know that everything you did was worth it for yourself, and your team.

The best advice I can give is to find daily routines that bring you joy and peace. For me, it might be taking the kids to school, taking my wife out to lunch, or a walk outside for a conference call. Sometimes it can be as simple as taking two minutes to lay down next to my lazy pup and pet her. The grunts of content from the dog, the smiles and hugs from the kids, the wind in my face listening to the birds are all things that bring me to a place of content. It brings some perspective to my daily challenges so that I can see the good beyond the difficult challenges and struggles during the day. So that when I lay my head down at night I know, without a doubt, I did something that mattered.

By Jaedri Wood

It has been nearly one and a half years since the initial COVID-19 outbreak, which prompted businesses to make radical changes to overcome the challenges of the pandemic. Now, we are faced with a new variant and are once again battling instability and uncertainty in both a professional and personal sense. The first wave of the pandemic proved many things: jobs can be done remotely and remain efficient, company culture is what retains talented team members, and that flexibility is paramount for a business to thrive and not just survive. This past year, companies have showcased their strength in their ability to retain talent while also going through one of the most volatile periods in history. What enabled some companies to retain their talented workforce while others could not? Let’s find out.

Talented team members are the backbone of a strong company and are the key to business recovery and stability. Throughout 2020 and 2021, organizations have had to rethink how they attract talent and, more importantly, how to retain it. As the traditional workplace has changed, so have the expectations team members have for their employer(s). Citrix, a renowned multinational software company, conducted a study named the Talent Accelerator—a year-long research project examining how technology affects global work patterns. The Talent Accelerator study combines research from over 2,000 knowledge workers and 500 HR directors in large corporations and mid-market businesses with at least 500 employees based in the United States. The findings of the study show how expectations and priorities for personnel have shifted in the past year.

When searching for a new position, 88% of workers said that they will search for a company that offers full flexibility in their hours and location. Working from home is no longer a band-aid solution for the pandemic. It is now a resurging demand for prospective job seekers. Along with working from home, team members are pursuing jobs at companies that prioritize outcomes over outputs. People want to work for a company that has a positive impact and prioritizes the quality of their work over the quantity. Team members are more invested in delivering positive change than solely improving the company’s bottom line.

Another study done by Mercer, an international professional services firm, surveyed four key areas of importance regarding team member expectations: focus on futures, reskilling workers, utilizing science and data, and energizing the workplace. These expectations are primarily qualitative in nature and focus on the culture of a workplace. After all, it is not the office that makes a company, but the people within it. Focusing on the futures of team members is an approach to deliver more equity on an organizational level. When any company invests in the knowledge and skills of their employees, it signals that they are worthy of investment and makes staying with the company more appealing. To retain talent in the workforce, continuous learning is paramount. If the past year and a half has taught us anything, it is that change is inevitable, and people are the core of a company’s prosperity. However, investments in any form need data and analytics to measure success.

Before the pandemic, the traditional workday of 9-5 in an office was the standard. Since the pandemic enabled a work-from-home workforce to flourish, data-driven outcomes have become imperative. People need measurable methods to document their successes to see progress within the company. Team members are no longer able to chat with their leaders at the water cooler and ask for feedback in a drive-by conversation. These drastic changes in the workforce have team members everywhere revaluating their positions and often opting for a better opportunity with more flexibility and purpose. This wave of career change is coined as the “Great Resignation.” To retain talented employees, it is critical that they are aware of the expectations, goals, and desired outcomes of the company so that they can pursue them independently and efficiently the first time. In a virtual environment, real-time feedback and knowledge sharing can make or break a workforce. To retain and continue to bring in talented people, companies and leaders need to invest the time to clearly communicate their desired results and expectations so team members can go forward confidently in their work. Now is the time for great organizations to set themselves apart and invest in their people to secure a better future.

What makes a great consultant? The first traits that likely come to mind are: expertise, strong communication, and being a team player. While all those traits are important, a primary pillar of best consulting practices, is empathy. However, empathy is nowhere to be found on the most popular lists of what makes a good consultant—so how does empathy turn a good consultant into a great one? Let’s dive in.

The job of a consultant is to provide expert opinions and analysis on a project, as well as provide strategies and solutions to mitigate potential issues. To provide valuable solutions, consultants must first understand what is being asked of them. Once they gain an understanding of the project, then empathy becomes a paramount characteristic in being a great consultant. When consultants want to understand something, they are asking about the ‘what’ of the project. When consultants empathize with clients, they discover the ‘why’ behind the project. Although empathy should exist in all workplaces, it is especially imperative for consultants because they must interpret the feelings of the customers as well as what is driving their clients. After all, if you do not understand the driving forces behind the needs of the customer and decisions of the client, how can you effectively showcase the value of their product or service? Actively practicing empathy in the consulting realm (and the general workplace) is not solely for team member morale. Empathy has positive, measurable effects in business as a whole.

Empathy does not only boost motivation and efficiency. A 2018 study by Businessolver also found that 87% of CEOs agree that empathy can boost an organization’s financial performance. Unfortunately, the same study reports that 90% of respondents feel that empathy is undervalued in business. Traditionally, it makes sense for companies to seek out the best talent, but the soft skills continue to reign supreme. For example, Project Aristotle, a study released by Google in 2017, found that the most unique ideas came from the B-Teams whose skills revolved around: equality, generosity, curiosity and empathy. Although the B-Teams did not have the most skilled team members on paper, their character propelled them to the top of the list in this study.

Empathy turns function into action. Consultants who only focus on the function of a product and do not dive deeper into the history and passion behind the product will not deliver substantial value. When consultants take the time and effort to discover how and why a product or service came to be, they can effectively work alongside the client to provide value, instead of just working for a client. At PhoenixTeam, we work with our clients, not simply for them. We are dedicated in our search for empathy-driven value, and to bring back joy to technology development.

By Jaedri Wood

As of January 2021, the number of women in C-suite leadership positions for Fortune 500 companies reached an all-time high. The good news is that more women are being promoted to leadership positions. The bad news is that only 30 out of 500 CEOs within Fortune 500 companies are women—making the 2021 all-time high only 6.0%. To provide some perspective, last year there were 33 female CEOs, which was up from 24 from 2018 and 20 years ago there were only two female-led companies. While it is important to acknowledge how far women in leadership positions have come, we should also note that we are still very distant from the finish line of female equity in business—especially in the mortgage industry.

This year, there is more female C-suite representation than ever before, but gender representation does not equal gender equity. Representation means that there needs to be one woman in leadership, whereas gender equity means more than one woman (ideally, a number equal to men) per board. So why is the mortgage industry C-suite difficult for women to attain? It is no surprise that the banking industry has been historically male dominated and male-run. At the end of 2020, Jane Fraser made history when she was named the CEO of Citigroup—becoming the first woman in history to lead one of Wall Street’s big six banks. Her predecessor, Michael Corbat, held the title of CEO for eight years. People in leadership positions tend to stay there for long periods of time (10 years on average); which limits the opportunities for others to secure a position in C-suite leadership even though women are continually pursuing these high-level positions.

Research from Business Insider in March of 2021 found that women consistently ask for promotions and raises more than their male counterparts but do not get the same results as men. Harvard Business Review also found that women ask for raises just as much as men, but men receive a raise 20% of the time, while women get the raise only 15% of the time. The unfortunate truth is that women have either had no seat at the table, or a single seat at the table for decades. McKinsey & Company reported in September of 2020 that senior-level women are nearly twice as likely to be “Onlys”—the only or one of the only women in the room at work. When there is only one woman on a leadership team, she is more likely to experience microaggressions, such as needing to provide extra proof of her competence and abilities. The road to the C-suite for any woman is long and arduous. The gender pay gap exists, and much of the general business culture does not embrace senior-level female success. The good news is that although the professional gender gap is large, it is narrowing. Closing the gap starts with companies recognizing the gender disparity in their workplace and questioning who is sitting at the leadership table and why. Asking these questions is what spurred the creation of Phoenix as a women-owned small business.

At PhoenixTeam, 4 of our 6 partners are women and many of our senior-level team members are women. We believe not only in gender representation, but gender equity. Numerous studies conclude that workplaces with more women team members have larger successes in profitability and company culture, compared to those that do not. Beyond the statistics, we believe and encourage the success of all our team members, regardless of gender. As a women-owned small business in the mortgage consulting industry, we know the struggles that those before us have faced, and we have no difficulty empowering all team members to achieve their professional goals and guarantee equity for all.

By: Jaedri Wood

In his best-selling book “Epic of America” (1931), James Truslow Adams first coined the term “American Dream” to mean: “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” In the 90 years since the term was coined, the relationship between the (North) American Dream and homeownership has drastically shifted. Currently, home ownership is a reality for the few, and remains just a dream for many. In an attempt to make homeownership more accessible, and make life richer and fuller for everyone, the federal government has focused policy efforts on affordable housing, accessible mortgages, and regulatory lending, to name a few. In the past year, there has been yet another shift in home ownership ideals and realities due to the COVID-19 pandemic—reinventing how North American’s view home ownership and how it fits into their “dream” once more.

For many, home ownership comes with a sense of pride and achievement. The motivation to make a house a home is part of the reason why home ownership rates have remained steady for the past two decades.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation’s homeownership rate fell from 66.2 percent in 2000 to 64.2 percent in 2017, but has overall varied very little since 1960. In fact, despite the economic hardships the pandemic has brought, the homeownership rate increased substantially in the second quarter of 2020—hitting almost 68 percent; the highest level observed since the third quarter of 2008. For context, in the first half of 2020, it took just a few months for the homeownership rate to rise by about 3 percentage points. Before, it took eight years for the rate to increase 4 percentage points to its highest point in 2005. Why has there been a rising interest in home ownership over the past year? Simple: the pandemic, remote work, and extremely low interest rates crafted the perfect recipe for more renters and first-time homebuyers to enter the housing market.

City folks are trading their cramped apartments for more space as remote work and distance-learning for students have become commonplace. People are also spending less on discretionary purchases, such as dining out, because of state and national restrictions over the past year. Reduced spending means more take-home earnings that can go towards a down payment, or home improvements. However, the sudden shift towards home ownership is not beneficial for everyone. The boom of the housing industry and lower interest rates are a privilege that few have. As Alanna McCargo, the Vice President of the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center states: “It’s the two worlds right now. There’s a whole lot of people that this pandemic is annoying or just a nuisance and then just a huge part of the population in this whole other place of distress and despair.” While mortgage applications in 2021 are up 33% compared to one year ago, 9% (approximately 4.75 million U.S. households) are in forbearance. More affluent folks will likely take advantage of the current market, while low-income earners will rely more on governmental assistance to stay afloat. This duality comes from the success of a brutal sellers’ market.

If you are currently searching for a home, you know your options are limited. As people continue to opt for more space, land prices go up and houses continue to gain more value. This means that homes are selling for much more than the list price. As Redfin reports: for the week ending March 7th, the sale-to-list price ratio rose to 100.1%, the first time that ratio has gotten so high in Redfin’s data collection dating back to 2016. Frankly, there are too few homes and too many people who want them, which is driving homes prices up even more. In the four-week period that ended March 7th, the average asking price for newly listed homes was $349,975 — a record high. What does this mean for the dream of home ownership? Mortgage and real estate companies should take this opportunity to focus on the disenfranchised communities in the current market. As Adams noted, the dream of home ownership is to make life richer for all, not richer for the few. Although this is a prime market for sellers, it is a brutal one for buyers. The economic repercussions of the pandemic are long lasting and have negative effects for many. When houses go for more than their asking price, we need to keep in mind the less-affluent communities that are being priced out of owning a home. In effect, being priced out of achieving their potential dream. While there is no short-term solution for the housing shortage, we can adapt our narrative to represent more accurately what is going on. This is a great market for some, but a harsh one for others. So, next time you hear how good the housing market is, ask yourself: good for who?

The Covid 19 pandemic redefined the benefits and perks organizations offer to employees. One of the areas impacted most is employee wellness in the workplace, and what companies can do to help keep employees staying healthy, happy and, quite frankly, more mentally aware and balanced.

Mental health is the hottest agenda topic as the world navigates through these global changes and learns how this new level ofstress and anxiety impacts team members. Feedback on opportunities to enhance existing benefits, programs and social outlets is flowing more freely now than ever before. Easy access to mental health support is a frequent request and what we have learned is that team members may not even know that their benefits actually include things like virtual tele-med appointments, prescriptions plans and access to mental health resources.

It is estimated that 70% of full-time employees in the US worked remotely during the pandemic. They experienced a form of exhaustion, anxiety and stress like never before and were completely unprepared for navigating through it.  Now, as companies reopen offices to team members, let us not lose sight of our responsibility to nurture and promote the resources available to support quality mental health.

PhoenixTeam is a 100% remote company since forming in 2015. While we may not have been impacted by as many challenges as other companies during the remote transition, we did adjust to the change where necessary. Here are a few tips we offer to our team members to help them acknowledge and process through stress:

  • Be honest about your productivity and set realistic expectations. Keep the communication lines open with your leadership team and know this is a judgment-free zone. This can help reduce the feelings of being overwhelmed and decrease stress.
  • Make a dedicated workspace at home to create healthy boundaries between work life and home life. Choose a space that is filled with natural light, as it increases productivity and lifts your mood.
  • Set boundaries. It is just as important to ‘arrive’ at work and ‘leave’ work every day, even when you are working from home. When you leave your home office, leave it and do not look back. Unplugging from your job provides mental relaxation and helps you recharge to be your most productive when you ‘arrive’ at work the following day.
  • Meditating and moving your body are both good for your mind. Sit down, close your eyes, and think about your breath as you inhale and exhale. Cardio exercise gets your blood pumping and prompts your brain to release mood-lifting endorphins. PhoenixTeam encourages movement and exercise with a quarterly step challenge offered to employees. We create teams and team members download an app that keeps track of their movement. The team with the most steps gets bragging rights of “The Most Active Team.” This is a fun and creative way to keep employees active.  Dedicate as little as 15 minutes a day for this to give your mind a midday break.
  • Emotional support during this time can be crucial to mental health. Lean on friends, family and colleagues for emotional support. Reach out to talk about feelings and everyday life occurrences. At our PhoenixTeam daily virtual coffee breaks, team members are empowered to talk, unload feelings or just seek advice from co-team members. Step outside and take a deep breath of fresh air! Keep active with hobbies and activities that make you happy and relaxed.
  • Above all else, be kind to yourself! Taking care of you should be your first priority because productivity is not the only measure of success, happiness is just as important.

Life is constant learning and improving ourselves. Life is constant change. In every aspect tomorrow will be different than today, two minutes from now will be different. We cannot predict what will come next and we cannot always shape our reactions to those changes. We can take steps to learn how to repair our mental state, to recognize things before they cause problems, and be our best selves.

When you hear the term “LEAN Principles” you likely think of Henry Ford and Edward Demming—two of the most well-known figures in LEAN history. LEAN has been around since the 1450’s but it wasn’t until the early to mid-1900’s when Ford, then Toyota, began putting the concepts into large-scale practice. The LEAN principles of minimizing waste while maximizing value have changed very little since their inception, yet companies and individuals still struggle to implement LEAN management. So, why are the LEAN principles simple in concept but difficult in practice? The struggle lies in the ability to identify waste in the first place.

Part of becoming LEAN requires minimizing eight types of waste: defects, overproduction, waiting, unused talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and excessive processing. With eight different types of waste, one would think that identifying them should be relatively easy. Unfortunately, much of the waste within a workplace goes unnoticed because a task will likely get done regardless of whether waste is present or not. Now that many companies have adopted remote work, identifying waste is more important than ever.

The distractions that come with working from home quickly add waste to our daily workloads. Remote team members suffer from a high volume of personal distractions, full meeting schedules prevent work from being completed efficiently, and leaders lose visibility and transparency with how team members complete their work and deliver value. This is not to say that LEAN principles and working from home are incompatible, but it does require a more diligent mind to identify waste on a personal and professional level. While we cannot fully rid ourselves of all the distractions that come with working from home, we can (and should) implement manageable LEAN practices into our workday to stay efficient and productive.

The first suggestion when applying LEAN to our work is to adopt an Agile mindset: this means we shift our work process to continuously deliver value in small increments, instead of solely at the end. When we utilize Agile practices, we do not spend immense amounts of time and energy to create an end-product that is suboptimal. Instead, the product is built in smaller increments that are continuously improved upon based on feedback from a peer, leader and/or other stakeholders in the project. By doing this, we eliminate the wastes of time, unused talent, waiting, and excessive production—giving us a much LEAN-er result.

Another option that works well for remote workplaces is using a LEAN/Lightning decision jam. In this exercise, remote team members use software (such as Miro) to silently identify problems, present them to the group, vote on the most pressing ones, select which ones to solve, vote on the most feasible/popular solutions, and create actionable items to resolve the issues. This is done silently to avoid people talking over one another, and to ensure that everyone has a say in the problems, opportunities and solutions. This type of decision making takes about one hour and produces quality solutions through group collaboration the entire time. Utilizing Miro to quickly get all problems and solutions on the virtual table is a fantastic way to involve employees in the problem/solution process. At Phoenix, we use LEAN Decision Jams in multiple aspects of our work and train others on how to apply this practice as well.

The final suggested LEAN practice is utilizing process tracking software (such as Jira) to make project-based work visible and easier to manage work-in-progress (WIP) limits using a Kanban board. The Kanban board not only makes waste more apparent, it demonstrates the flow of value from start to finish. The board shows when one team member has too much on their plate, when a task is behind schedule, and where tasks may be blocked due to things outside the team’s control. A Kanban board is a simple yet effective tool in tracking progress while also identifying waste and bottlenecks in value delivery.

Ultimately, LEAN is simple, but requires consistent practice to achieve value without excessive waste. Implementing the above routines can help minimize waste which impacts team members’ ability to confidently complete and deliver on tasks. Leaders play an important role in encouraging and assisting with implementing a LEAN work-from-home mindset as well. When team members see their leaders adopting and utilizing LEAN principles, they are much more likely to adopt those principles into their own work. There are endless methods on how to apply LEAN to our personal and professional lives, so, let us get on the LEAN train together and leave the waste behind and chug on towards better value delivery.