There are so many tools out there to help you organize, streamline and run your life. I wrote about some of the ones we use here.
But in this post, I want to dive deeper into how we use one of them. In fact, I’d say Basecamp is our primary tool for team communication. It’s become the hub for our team.
I’ve been a fan for years, but after attending a Basecamp “Way We Work” conference in Chicago, I’m doubling down.
Here are seven ways we’re using Basecamp at Church Fuel.
#1 – Task Management
Basecamp is a project and task management tool.
So every project we do as a company gets it’s own project in Basecamp. Then we invite the relevant people to that project. And for each project, we create tasks and assign them to people on the project.
It’s simple, but all projects in Basecamp only involve the relevant people. It keeps the project clear of unnecessary voices and it keeps people’s attention where they are needed most.
Right now, we’ve got a project to set up a brand new premium course. I’m on that project along with our content development team. Our customer service team isn’t involved, so we’re not muddying up their focus by inviting them.
Once you assign tasks and due dates to people, you can run simple reports like “What’s on someone’s plate?” or “What’s overdue?” This makes it easy for me to see what people have going on.
#2 – Headquarters
There are times when our whole team is involved in something, and there are lots of discussions and resources that involve everyone on our team. So we have one project called “Headquarters” and everyone in our organization is invited.
This is where we make company wide announcements, track the company wide calendar, do company-wide chat sessions, and share company wide documents.
#3 – Discussions
Basecamp does much more for our team than managing tasks and deadlines. We use it to have discussions. This takes the place of status update meetings and meetings just to share information.
Each discussion is organized in each project, with only the relevant people on the project involved in the discussion. It’s a simple principle, really, but it’s really powerful: Only the people who need to be involved are involved in a discussion.
The only discussions that are seen by everyone are the discussions in Headquarters. This gives us a place to make announcements. And it’s where we can process big ideas that affect everyone.
One cool thing about Basecamp is the ability to go back and search. Rather than go back through email or text messages, you can search right inside Basecamp.
#4 – Chat
Basecamp has built in team chat features, called Campfire.
We use chat to stay in touch throughout the day. Many people use Slack for this, but we’re able to do everything and more with Basecamp.
Again, chats are confined to people on the project, unless it happens in Headquarters, in which case everyone can participate.
When it comes to chat messages, there’s no expectation for people to reply. It’s just a place to keep in tough throughout the day.
#5 – Ping
Basecamp gives us the opportunity to send direct messages, called Pings to just one person. We don’t need Slack or ay other communication tools…everything is in one place.
Pings are like direct text messages to team members, but because it’s happening in Basecamp, you know it’s work related. This is one way I’m able to separate work and home.
#6 – Automatic Questions
For each project, you can set up automatic questions. These are essentially discussion questions like “How is the project going” or “Are you blocked on anything. You set them up to be sent out daily, weekly or monthly and everyone on the team can respond.
We just started using them company wide Headquarters Basecamp. Here are some of the questions we automatically ask and discuss.
- What are you working on this week? This goes out at the beginning of the week, not for accountability sake but just for communication. This is a big way we know what everyone in the organization is working on.
- What did you do this weekend? We ask this on Monday and it’s a nice way to have some personal conversations about life.
- How can I be praying for you? We ask this weekly and again, it’s a simple way for us to hear about what’s going in on people’s lives.
- What are you reading? This is a monthly question.
Another one of my favorite automatic questions is “how is the project going?” We turn on this question for relevant projects, so just the people on that project get the question. It’s a great way to get status updates on individual projects.
#7 – Home Base for Files
Whether you use Google Docs or Dropbox, Basecamp makes it easy to start or share relevant files that aren’t in Basecamp.
You can link to a Google document, which is what we do in Headquarters. We’ve got a Google sheet called “Content Matrix” that has all our blog, course and free content organized. We link to our bi-weekly staff meeting agenda, which is a Google Doc.
Of course you can get to these files in other ways, but I like having the most important stuff all in one place.
To be fair, Basecamp has some limitations. All products do.
I wish Basecamp was a solution for my own personal tasks – things that aren’t related to Church Fuel and aren’t attached to any project. Yes, I could start a project and not invite anyone, but that feels a little clunky. So for my own personal tasks, I’m still using Things.
Another thing that Basecamp doesn’t do is allow for repeatable tasks. For example, every week, I have an article deadline. I’d love to be able to track this through Basecamp, but it doesn’t allow for repeatable, scheduled tasks.
Finally, there’s a learning curve to Basecamp. Not for the features – it’s really straightforward in that regard. The power doesn’t come from using but from adopting. Whenever you introduce something new, it will be a change to get your team to truly adopt it. And like most tools, Basecamp works best if everyone uses it.
If you’re willing to move to it, sell out, and make it the key communication hub, it will probably replace a lot of older or redundant systems.