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“Chore Wheels” and Good Information Hygiene

Posted on August 15, 2011 at 8:22 am by Eugene Eric Kim

A few weeks ago, I was at a strategy meeting at Rebecca Petzel’s house in San Francisco, where I spotted this beautiful “chore wheel.” Rebecca lives in a big house with several housemates, and in order to make sure the house stays clean, they divvy up and rotate the responsibilities, using this wheel to keep track of who’s doing what each week. It’s a fairly common thing to do with lots of housemates, but I think this wheel is particularly elegant.

Which brings me to Information Hygiene. In the early days of Blue Oxen Associates, my cofounder, Chris Dent, and I spent lots of time thinking about and naming patterns of high-performance collaboration. Chris was particularly good at this exercise, and he identified two that were really important: Personal Information Hygiene and Group Information Hygiene.

The concept is simple. High-performance groups effectively manage their information. People know what they need to know to do their jobs, they know where information is when they need to find it, and they’re always ready to manage and adapt to new information.

This is not a new concept, but I love framing it around “hygiene.” When we live or work in a shared space with others, we understand why it’s important to keep this space clean. We also understand the strategies for keeping it clean, strategies like the chore wheel.

What if you used a chore wheel to help manage your Group Information Hygiene? What would it look like?

Most groups either don’t think explicitly about Group Information Hygiene, hoping that it all just works out. And as with roommates or officemates, sometimes it just does.

Other times, you need more explicit management. In business, this often becomes the responsibility of a project manager. Chore wheels democratize hygiene, making it a shared responsibility and making everyone accountable to each other. A good project management dashboard is analogous to the chore wheel.

What are your strategies for Personal and Group Information Hygiene?

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