The Cantilever handbook is a living library that explains how we do things at Cantilever. It is our “Operating System” of Cantilever.
Anything that anyone does within the company should ultimately be documented and codified here. When we change a process, we should change it here, then start changing how we do it in real life. If an alien species of talented designers and developers found our handbook, they should be able to run a great remote agency.
The handbook is public and shared from our website. This is to make it easy for anyone to learn about our company, and promote our value of radical transparency.
- Each team (design, development, etc) has a section of the handbook. This is separate from the internal Notion page they have to share private resources.
- The handbook has general information about our company policies, standards, and behaviors.
- The handbook has a Procedures section which includes linear, one-off task instructions. The difference between a page and a procedure is that a Procedure is something you can follow from start to finish to complete a task, whereas a page is looser background information. Procedures are like recipes. They are for a specific dish over a specific duration, they have a set format, and they are very clear.
Updating The Handbook
In the course of our day-to-day work, we should be updating the handbook regularly. For example, if you have a task to design a logo, and you need to ask someone in the company how many rounds of revision we provide for logo concepts, you should ask and then immediately put the answer into the handbook. This codifies and formalizes their answer, but also provides this knowledge to anyone else in the future who may benefit from it. Updating the handbook in this manner can involve creating a new page, but mostly involves updating existing pages. This also comes up frequently with task assignment. If you are going to write instructions for a colleague to perform a task, instead write a Procedure and add it to the handbook, then link it to the task. You need to spend the time to write out the instructions either way, so do it in the handbook so the knowledge is there for future needs.
Additionally, there are areas of the Handbook we have not yet properly written (especially in design). These should be marked with a [WIP] tag in the title. All Cantilever team members are encouraged to write new parts of the handbook according to their role and expertise.
The first kind of update (day-to-day) should be done automatically without specific approval from anyone. It is a normal part of our workflow. If the work you are doing is billable, then updating the handbook to match the work is also billable. In such a case, writing down answers and documenting process is going to happen and be billable no matter what, so we just consolidate it into the Handbook for future benefit. Therefore this doesn’t take any more time than our normal process, and it is fair to bill for it.
The second kind of update (new work) is not necessarily billable. If you are writing a new entry so that we can confirm our approach to a specific question that we are answering during a project (ex. NPM vs. Yarn), then writing the answer publicly is billable. However, lots of handbook updating is pre-emptive and not tied to a specific project.
The key question in determining whether handbook work is billable is – “Would this need to be decided/written down anyway?” If so, it is fair to bill for the time spent on the decision and codification of the decision.
If you would like to do handbook work that cannot be billed, please ensure that the time is approved. Approval can come from a few sources:
- The Operations department regularly updates the handbook and requests that others do so. They are in charge of our non-billable budgets. If you get a specific request from Operations to update a handbook entry, you can rest assured that Operations has approved the time spent. All such requests should come with a time estimate. If you don’t have a time estimate, ask Ops.
- If you want to make an update that was not previously requested by Ops and is not a day-to-day update, please request approval from the Director of Operations and CC your manager.
For more information on non-billable time, please review:
How to Budget
The Operations department is in charge of our non-billable-hours budgets. When we spend too much time on non-billable work, we suffer financially. When we spend not enough time, our processes atrophy. Ops is in charge of making the decisions to ensure that we are balanced.
Historically, the healthiest billable % for the company has been around 65%. This ensures we have time to have a thriving culture and fun at work while maintaining a healthy profit.
When our billable % is lower than that, Operations should tighten the optional non-billable work we are spending on the handbook. When our billable % is there or above, Operations is free to approve and commission more "nice to have" handbook work.
Pages should generally be 10 minutes of reading maximum.
They should use standard notion formatting and spacing. Please avoid unusual styling or design that does not appear anywhere else in the handbook.
If you receive a specific request from Ops to write or update an entry, treat the Ops requester as your client. Reply back to them with your changes and request approval.
If you are updating something on your own that is of any significance, please perform the update, then write back to all relevant team members in Basecamp requesting a review.
If nobody objects, your changes are ratified. If someone objects, discuss their objection and resolve. If you hit an impasse, please refer the matter to the Director of Operations, who must make the final decision.