3 min read

Ten Bullets

A workshop filled with materials and workspaces lit by sunlight coming in through the window
Photo by Devin Berko / Unsplash

I recently came across the Ten Bullets of Tom Sachs' workshop. The ten bullets are the rules of the workshop, everyone knows them and everyone abides by them while working there. Their ten bullets are:

  • Creativity is the enemy: work to code - The ten bullets are the code. Anything new introduced to the workshop must build on top of the code.
  • Sacred space - Respect the studios space and the people who are working in it. The work everyone is doing is their top priority while they are doing it.
  • Be on time - Ensure you're arriving on time but also maintain the mentality of "on-the-clock". People should be focused on the work and ensure they're prepared to do just that. That includes getting enough sleep and remaining healthy.
  • Thoroughness counts - Don't cut corners, the job is done when all tasks relating to the job are done. If you notice the workshop is low on something, notifying the workshop manager of that is part of the job. Clean up after yourself, reset workstations, etc.
  • "I understand" - When given instruction it's important to reply with "I understand" to indicate as such. If you have questions or need more help you can say "I don't understand" but this ensures efficient and correct communication.
  • Sent does not mean received - Always confirm someone has received something that you've sent them. This could be a physical thing or some kind of communication but just because you sent it doesn't mean it was received by the other person.
  • Keep a list - Everyone should maintain a list to ensure all tasks are done properly to full completion. This goes along with being thorough further up.
  • Always be knolling - Arrange objects in parallel or with 90 degree angles to help keep  the space organised. Everything has somewhere it belongs and while not there knolling helps keep some order.
  • Sacrifice to leatherface - If a mistake is made or a rule is broken a small monetary fine is due to a box with a model of leatherface on it. This is to make sure people take responsibility and own mistakes. The money is later used for fun and parties. Each time a mistake is repeated by someone the fine doubles.
  • Persistence - “Nothing in the world can take place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Ray Kroc, Founder of Mc’Donalds.

It's well worth watching the video to understand each point in depth. My above explanation is both short and crude.

These ten bullets piqued my interest because of how simple they are. Each rule can easily apply to anything and everything you do in the workshop. They just become an agreed way of doing things. There's no need for a bespoke rule of "this area is for quiet working" because of the global rule that you should be respectful of the space and those doing work. Likewise there's no need for a complex workflow to be put together because you have those around "I understand" and "Sent does not mean received". In that world, even adhoc out of the normal requests or issues can be dealt with easily.

I work remotely in a software job, so some of these rules would be less useful to my physical space but I could see them applying to a virtual space as well. If slack is your workshop, how do you go about treating that as a sacred space?

When you think about it, many software companies culture and processes are a very informal version of their own bullets. However because they're never documented or explained we rely on intution to figure them out and to navigate the boundaries. I wonder whether software companies, especially startups, would benefit from defining their ten bullets early on?

It's something I'll be thinking about for the next few days I think.