At freiheit.com, the day begins with a fresh latte macchiato and an efficient team meeting. A short exchange of who’s working on what, progress, challenges, and news that everyone in the team should know.
Now all the team members can dedicate themselves to their passion: programming
We start at 9 a.m. sharp. No later, but often earlier. Discipline and reliability are not practiced just for their own sake. It’s simply more efficient when we all have the same rhythm. Our goal is to avoid bureaucracy wherever possible. What can’t be avoided is automated. That means that the team members can dedicate themselves to their passion: programming.
Working in small teams of three to five is very intense. New staff members usually have their first customer contact right on their first day on the job. Each team member has the same responsibility and everyone’s word carries equal weight. The best idea wins. Ideas need “doers”. And “doing” is what earns everyone’s respect.
There are large chalkboards on the walls throughout the offices and small meeting spaces for impromptu discussions of new ideas. We have large, well-lit open-plan offices because we believe that communication works better that way than if everyone sat alone in their own offices.
The workspaces are ergonomic, simple and beautiful. The floor is a light-colored linoleum. There are plants and garden furniture on each of the many patios. We used to even have a cook come in three times a week, but now that we’re right in the middle of Hamburg’s St. Pauli district, we no longer need that. We either cook spontaneously in small groups in our own kitchen or we go to one of the many restaurants near our office.
Since each floor is one, big office where everyone is together, new staff members are quickly integrated into the community.
Customers call. Portable telephone sets make it possible to use the phone from anywhere in the office. Even on the patios. Customers come to meetings. We meet in one of the conference rooms, which are named after artificial intelligences such as Deep Thought, HAL 9000, or Bishop, on the rooftop terrace or in 6 Forward, on the sixth floor with a panorama view of Hamburg.
Effectivity and efficiency are “king”. We use evolutionary development in all our software projects
That means we release only production-ready versions of the software in very short cycles. The software is deployed at the end of each release and the customer can try it out right away. No prototypes, just production-ready releases. We plan our software to work right from the start. Waiting until the end of the project to look for and eliminate errors inevitably leads to delays.
We are always on the lookout for ways to automate processes: Exactly one day after the release, the customer receives an updated version of our project documentation. On the same day, the team coaches provide the developers with the current figures. In checking the project, the following questions are discussed: “How many features were planned? How many were delivered? How many work days were planned? How many did we need? What problems have come up and what might be still to come?”
Each one of our programmers has the same goal: Release dates are never postponed. Releases, updated project documentation and project checking are a single unit.
The updated project documentation also serves as a current plan/actual comparison: Which features are finished? How many days were needed? What was planned? Where are we now? Ideally, we present the current data to the customer in person.
The day draws to a close. Everyone clears their desk completely before they leave. We believe in the “broken window” theory. Companies can slowly degenerate, too. It begins with a paper clip left lying about and ends with big stacks of paper where important information may be buried. Our job is complicated and time-consuming enough. We don’t have time to waste searching for information. That just keeps us from our programming.
Never ask anything of someone else that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself
There are no second-class employees who have to do unpleasant work for others. There are no priviliges - not even for the owners: If you lead others, you must lead from the front and be the first to “fearlessly jump into battle”. It is this mentality, along with mutual respect, that fuses us together. And the most important thing: Everyone still enjoys his or her work.