• Chandramouli (CM)

User Manual - Humans like machines need user manuals

Updated: Aug 2, 2018

Originally Written As - What I learned by writing and reading "My Own User Manual"

A few weeks ago my colleagues and I did the "My User Manual" exercise. My team is global (US/Canada/India), and we all suffer from the classic challenge of globalization, i.e., No face time and understanding of each other. We get down to business right away without really knowing each other. We did the User Manual exercise to help us explain and understand the values and beliefs that shape up our work. There are several benefits from this exercise (I recommend you to try), I have listed my learnings below


The concept is elementary, yet profound. If done right this exercise will serve as a social mirror at the workplace. 

Like machines, can humans have a user manual?

People are more complex than any known machine, yet there are no specific ways to interface, communicate and predict reactions. The purpose of the user manual is the following:

1) Codify an individual's behavior for everyday work situations

2) Explain the logic behind the behavior (positive/negative) 

3) Shorten the learning curve for colleagues and help oneself and others avoid getting into uncomfortable situations

4) Make the team work transparent and fun

There are many versions of the User Manual. I found articles dating back to 2013, The version which had the most impact on me is by David Politis.

Key Questions

Exercise is pretty simple. Write honest and professional answers to the following questions below. Ideal recommended time to write the user manual is 15 minutes. However, I took over 90 minutes as I believe it's important to write the points well and make it readable.

  1. What are some honest, unfiltered things about you?

  2. What drives you nuts?

  3. What are your quirks?

  4. How can people earn an extra gold star from you?

  5. What qualities do you particularly value in people who work with you?

  6. What are some things that people might misunderstand about you that you should clarify?

  7. How do you coach people to do their best work and develop their talents?

  8. What’s the best way to communicate with you?

  9. What’s the best way to convince you to do something?

  10. How do you like to give feedback?

  11. How do you like to get feedback?


YES, the User manual works well. Key things I learned:

From writing the User Manual

1) Time to reflect and summarize my belief system. Gave clarity to think about "who I am" and "what matters most to me"

2) Helped me answer what I like and Dislike - Set a baseline of expectations on my strengths and areas where I need their help

3) Communicate on what to expect and not to expect from - No Surprises to myself and team

From reading user manuals

Things i learnt were a good reminder of basic work values. If anything this exercise underscored the importance of the following points.

  1. Time is a Scare Resource - All my colleague's value time as a resource (Much more than me). They hate being tardy and late.

  2. Earn the Right - Most of them believed that we have to earn the right to create value to customers. This means we have to trust, respect and understand each other. It is important to prepare and keep up the basic hygiene E.g. Call notes, Calendar agendas etc.

  3. Data for Decision Making - Almost all of them talked about needing data to make decisions. In God, we trust, rest of you bring data

  4. Email is #1 Preference - All of them talked about email being the best channel to reach them. Surprisingly text (Including Whatsapp) was the 2nd best option

  5. Feedback - Most of them want to receive feedback in person. Also, the feedback has to be well structured and personalized

  6. Being Proactive wins Gold - All executives and team members love proactive communication. Be it good news or bad, all of them expect timely and precise communication. Whether it's business or sport, being proactive can win gold.

User Manual, Team Communication
Humans need User Manual

20 views0 comments