Chris Lowis by Chris Lowis

Week 437

All the public holidays seem to come at once in the UK - this Monday was another one and with Chris R taking a break with his family in the North of France, James and I spent most of the rest of the week in and around the TOG offices at Kings Cross.

At Go Free Range we want to make sure everyone has control over the decisions that are made and can fully participate in the decision making process1. One of the things that helps is making sure that information is shared equally among the team. For example, we each have full access to our company bank accounts and book keeping software so we can see when and how money is spent, what the current bank balances are and so on.

When it comes to explaining expenses, invoicing clients, filing VAT returns or running our payroll we randomly choose one person to be responsible for making sure it gets done. Harmonia deals with the task allocation, and a page in our internal wiki explains how to complete the task.

A page from our business wiki

When we take time off, as Chris did this week, we mark ourselves as “un-assignable” in Harmonia so that we can have an uninterrupted break. The challenge when we return is making sure that we haven’t missed out on anything important that we might need to make decisions. We’ve found a few ways of dealing with that:

  • Break tasks into small pieces that can be completed frequently2. That way it’s likely that I’ll soon be assigned the same task myself if I’ve been on leave. It’s then easy to see what happened last time.
  • Leave short notes when completing a task (we use Trello for this). Most of the time these notes don’t need to be read, but if I am looking for some context it’s easy to catch up on what I’ve missed by reading those notes.
  • Make tasks reproducible. By building up our shared wiki of instructions we have all contributed to the shared understanding of how something is done and it’s less important to see the details each time a task is completed.
  • Defer thornier issues for discussion. If something comes up and it can wait for a while we add it to a short “discussion” list in Trello. Later we can make a decision when we’re all together.


On Wednesday we held our monthly social event. We enjoyed a great selection of food and jugs of Belgian beer at The Dovetail in Clerkenwell. We also caught up for lunch with our friends Dan and Chris.


On Tuesday James and I went to Aviation House to catch up with Paul about our progress on the Manuals Publisher project. We’re starting to reach the end of this phase of the work so we gave Paul an overview of the progress so far and discussed the timings for the next phase with him.

The Manuals Publisher app currently stores data locally and pushes it to the Publishing API. With recent changes to how data moves between the applications at GDS, storing data locally now isn’t necessary. To wrap up the work on this phase of the project we’ve decided to spend a couple of days spiking a potential way of migrating the application to read data from the publishing API rather than the local data store. Depending on the timings for the next phase of the project and the outcomes of this spike, we may decide to do this migration ourselves or help hand it over to an internal team. We’re planning to do this while also gathering some information and researching our approach for the next phase of the project.

Have a great weekend!

  1. Principle 2 of the 7 Co-operative Principles list fans! 

  2. A few years ago we wrote about the kind of tasks we use Harmonia for. The list is always changing but that posts still reflects the range of tasks we have. 

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