Leadership, Change, & Transformation Reads
This is a list of every link we've ever shared in our newsletter. Links at the top were shared most recently. If you find a broken link, please contact us!
Standardized testing is becoming more common in the C-Suite. In an attempt to reduce bias and find the most promising candidates, more companies are requiring management candidates to undergo tests like the Criteria Cognitive Aptitude Test. While the companies behind these tests claim that they help "weed out" candidates, other companies are still skeptical that a timed test can accurately measure all the skills a leader needs. If you're looking to move up in the ranks, however, testing may become increasingly important.
Patreon has publicly shared its "Engineering Levels," which outlines expectations for its engineers and provides a framework for career development. If your company is reviewing its roles and responsibilities, it's a great reference.
Pro-active leaders often start their week by mapping out an ambitious to-do list. Unfortunately, this only works until the first unexpected request or interruption, which throws the to-do list into disarray and can leave people frustrated that they haven't accomplished what they wanted to. Instead, it's better to engage in contingency planning. Plan out your day as usual, but then evaluate the likelihood and frequency of interruptions. If it looks like a high-interruption day, then be realistic about the amount of tasks you can complete, and think about how you can adapt if interruptions do occur. It seems like a simple variation on planning, yet research indicates that this helps maintain engagement and productivity more than traditional time management.
If you want to understand someone's point of view, we used to think it would help to "walk a mile in their shoes." But a new study shows that's not true—it only helps you remember what you already know about their situation. If you want to know what someone's really thinking, your best bet is to ask them -- and then really take in what they are saying.
Netflix is designing a more transparent relationship between its senior leadership and its board of directors. Instead of dense PowerPoints, directors receive 30-page memos in advance of meetings, and they attend monthly and quarterly senior leadership meetings to stay informed. As a result, there's more prep time involved but shorter meetings, and the conversation is focused on discussion rather than review.
Jeff Bezos still reads all the emails that customers send his public-facing account—he finds it's one of the best ways to address pain points, and provides a necessary check to Amazon's extensive metrics. And while he doesn't respond to all the emails, he will forward them on to the appropriate executives with the simple subject line "?," indicating they should review it further.
Researchers at Gartner have identified four types of manager coaching styles. The most effective is the "Connector Coach," who provides feedback on the area of expertise and directs their team to other experts when help is needed. Surprisingly, the least effective is the "Always-On Coach" who provides constant feedback. Managers who want to develop their team should focus on the quality of their feedback, not the frequency, and help them connect with others in the team and organization who can teach them new skills.
Despite best intentions, Starbucks' anti-bias training probably won't change much: a meta-analysis of implicit bias training "found no evidence that getting people to acknowledge their implicit biases alters behavior. " It may even make bias worse by re-enforcing stereotypes. Instead, companies should focus their efforts on integrating the workforce and promoting more minorities to management. Developing policies around judgment calls in specific situations, as well as targeted programs like college recruiting, are also effective.
"Long hours, a lack of job autonomy through micromanagement, and unstable health insurance" are hurting American workers, causing an estimated 120,000 excess deaths a year. Part of the problem is that while productivity is tracked, employee wellness isn't, making it easy for companies to ignore. And all too often, employees suffer in a toxic work environment because due to ego. We must fundamentally redesign the workplace—not rely on nap pods or yoga sessions—if we want to address the issue.
Changing up seating assignments really does lead to better work. A study of an e-commerce company going through a move found that employees sitting next to new colleagues increased their daily deal revenue by 40%. Surprisingly, it wasn't due to increased collaboration, but rather, exposure to new ideas that increased their creativity. The researchers further postulated that this effect would flatten out over time as people absorbed all the relevant information from their seatmates, and that regular reshuffles would bring further innovation.
Looking for an easy and effective way to keep your team focused on your customer? One Ohio public library created a "human-centered design hallway" with Post-It notes, markers, books, and customer personas on the walls. Everyone is encouraged to contribute their ideas, or just walk through to be inspired by what the team is working on.
Diversity and Inclusion policies benefit the entire organization: a new study from the Mental Health Commission of Canada found that accommodating employees with mental illness led to a "significate return on investment." Notably, many of the recommendations are simply good practices for creating a healthy work environment for all, such as allowing for greater flexibility in when and where work gets done, and developing communication norms that encourage civility.
Every leader knows they must delegate their work, but it's easy to make excuses: it takes longer to supervise others; the results won't meet your standards; the team is already too busy. To get better at delegating, corporate psychologist Patricia Thompson suggests identifying what tasks can be delegated; defining the desired outcome, level of quality, and deadlines upfront; and then following up to make sure they've been completed.
One common trait in high-performing leaders is resilience: they view obstacles and setbacks as opportunities for growth. Unfortunately, as one study reported in HBR found, this resilience often only comes from the individual, with little support coming from the team or organization. To increase your team's resilience, encourage them to build meaningful relationships at work, and be emotionally supportive when they're stressed.
Humility, it turns out, isn't always a virtue: in organizations that are strongly hierarchical, a certain amount of braggadocio can actually help leaders be more effective. A humble leader was seen as weak and left their team feeling less confident in sharing ideas or taking risks. Organizations that were more egalitarian, however, greatly benefitted from a humble leader, and were more likely communicate and be creative.
According to some of the latest psychological research, stability and consistency are so important to our brains that we erase how we used to be different. Once you've consumed new information or adopted a different viewpoint, you quite literally forget you ever knew otherwise. Ironically, this means that even though we change all the time, it seems like it rarely happens, leading people to be skeptical of introducing change.
We've often counseled leaders who are struggling with what to do with a "star" team member who is having a corrosive effective on the team at large. Now there's evidence that bad behavior is contagious: in a study of financial advisors, an encounter with a colleague who had committed fraud increased the likelihood that they would commit fraud by 37%.
Give a listen to Adam Grant's recent discussion on "stars" on teams. It turns out that whether you're looking at Wall Street analysts or the NBA, teams that are 60% comprised of stars outperform teams with 80% or more stars.
Teams are working harder ever, but it still seems like there's not enough time in the day. This may be a corollary of Blinn's Law: "As graphics pioneer James Blinn first pointed out, in animation, rendering time remains constant, even as computers get faster. An artist gets accustomed to waiting a certain number of hours for an image to render, so as hardware improves, instead of using it to save time, he employs it to render more complex graphics. This is why rendering time at Pixar has remained essentially constant over the past fifteen years."
Leaders are always looking for better ways to measure results. We love this simple sticker-based tool that measures if people feel they've finished valuable work on a daily basis. Each team assesses the value of their work with yellow or red stickers: the higher or lower the sticker on the flipchart, the greater or lesser the value, respectively.
Women are often not recognized for their leadership abilities, like speaking up, because they don't fit the image of a leader—that is, a man. Paradoxically, the best way to change this perception is to expose people to more women in leadership positions.
Drew Gilpin Faust, the first female president of Harvard University, talks about leading the institution through a decade of change. Things she did to affect change: held hiring committees to wider search parameters, created advising programs that helped low-income students adjust to life at college, made all marketing and school signage more inclusive, and integrated administrative functions (capital planning, IT, and even libraries) to reduce silos between colleges. And like sooooo many organizations, Harvard has adopted a "One Harvard" mantra to drive culutral alignment and collaboration.
Most leaders know their strengths but are oblivious to their weaknesses. And 1/3 of leaders have a fatal flaw, a weakness that severely hampers their ambition or reputation. The most effective way to get self-aware is to find someone who can give it to you straight.
What makes work meaningful? Workers find it for themselves, so it's not something you can spur with inspirational posters or an internal comms plan. What helps: if people outside the company see your work as important, if your job requires emotional work (especially uncomfortable, or even painful thoughts and feelings), if you have a series of high-moments (not just one big one), if you actually reflect on whether your work is meaningful, and if you can see your work as an integral part of your life's journey. You'll definitely make work meaningless, though, if you: ask people to do things against their values, take them for granted, give them busy work, treat them unfairly, disempower them, socially isolate them, or put them at risk. Individuals can derive meaning from their job, from particular tasks in their work, from interactions with others, or from the purpose of the organization and you should focus on that full ecosystem of meaning.
"For many leaders, the allure of best practices is strong and their expectations for results are unrealistic. "
"For as much as many might wish to think of performance management as numeric and thus perfectly quantifiable, it is as much a product of context and social science as the products we design and develop."
"A good prioritization framework can help you consider each factor about a project idea with clear-eyed discipline and combine those factors in a rigorous, consistent way."
"We find that living and working with women for 8 weeks causes men to adopt more egalitarian attitudes."
Watch CEO Bree Groff discuss how understanding loss can help you manage change at MirumOpus 2017.
"Too many startups are looking for their performance panacea — they go through systems like 7Geese, or OKRs, or Impraise like kleenex — each time rolling something out with elaborate rules and deadlines. "
“Marketing a flexible workplace is one thing, but investing the energy, resources, and care to actually build one is another. "
"We're drowning in email. And the many hours we spend on it are generating ever more work for our friends and colleagues. We can reverse this spiral only by mutual agreement. "
"In the past 15 years, I have helped develop new ways of robustly measuring management practices and can now show that a large fraction of productivity differences is due to the adoption of those practices."
"It’s a recipe for building a 'sick system.' It tells you exactly how to create a screwed up environment driven by panic and powered by manipulation."
What I Learned about Management and Culture from Growing Uber’s Asia Business from Zero to Billion
"At the end of my experiment, I felt conflicted about the four-day workweek."
"Change is hard in the same way that it’s hard to finish a marathon. Yes, it requires significant effort. But the fact that it requires effort doesn’t negate the fact that most people who commit to a change initiative will eventually succeed."
"Our analysis reveals that leaders must be ready to transform their companies: At any given point in the 12-year period we studied, 32% of all large companies were experiencing a severe deterioration in total shareholder return."
"Between 2012 and early 2017, 180 Tesla employees applied for compensation for partially or permanently disabling injuries"
"Management fads such as radical transparency often take root because successful companies and individuals think their success is a result of all the decisions they made being correct."
"...In the course of my career as a manager, I’ve seen the biggest displays of human emotion during something that’s otherwise straightforward: desk moves. "
"Companies with diverse executive teams posted bigger profit margins than their rivals, compared with companies with relatively little diversity in their upper echelons."
"We show that under these circumstances moderately sized groups, whose members are selected randomly from a larger crowd, can achieve higher average accuracy across all tasks than either larger groups or individuals."
"If BlackRock wants to act in a socially responsible way... It could demand that CEOs of the underlying firms be compensated based on the difference between the stock returns of their firm and the stock returns of other firms in the industry."
The Fall of Travis Kalanick Was a Lot Weirder and Darker Than You Thought
"... It was up to her to diagnose why mentorship usually goes sideways and design something different."
"We are now in the era of do-it-yourself career development."
"In the digital economy, business architecture must also focus on agility — designing rapid reuse of individual business components."
"Studies show that when women have a preference, they would choose to have a male boss instead of a female boss... Where does this aversion to female bosses come from?"
"Regardless of what’s happening in your specific meeting, the principal cause of most conflicts is a struggle for validation."
"According to a Korn Ferry poll of nearly 5,000 professionals, the top reason people are looking for a new job in 2018? They're bored."
"Forget automation. The workplace is already cracking up in profound ways, and Washington is sorely behind on dealing with it."
"How might you introduce friction so that detrimental behaviors are harder to start? And how might you reduce friction so that positive actions feel more like a glide than an uphill trek?"
"37% of managers said they found it hard to give negative feedback to workers about their performance, 20% said they struggled to share their own vulnerability, and another 20% disliked being the messenger for company policies."
"If work dominated your every moment, would life be worth living?"
Our founder Bud Caddell was featured on the podcast OverTime, discussing what it takes for teams and leaders to embrace change and how to make it work.
"You can’t use outcome quality as a perfect signal of decision quality."
"Racially homogeneous groups are less rigorous in their decision-making — and make more mistakes — than diverse ones."
"...Some companies are 'taking more and more of an interest in labor market problem-solving and the development of regional economies,'.. But how much responsibility for job training should these companies take?"
"...Being among the best gets more and more demanding with each passing year. Each generation of champions develops a body of best practices. The next generation must learn them and then build upon them, leaving those who come after them with even more to learn to get up to speed."
"All over the world, organisations encourage kooky activities unrelated to employees’ work."
Glassdoor's "Best Places to Work" list is out... do you agree with the rankings?
"We believe business leaders need a new mental model to better understand the complex interplay between companies, economies, and societies." (paywall)
“If introverts can develop strategies to more accurately forecast their enjoyment of behavior more conducive to emergent leadership, then it is possible that such individuals will be on a level playing field with extroverts in relevant social situations.”
Last but not least, some fun from McSweeney's: "My new job at Amazon, or deep inside the Church of Scientology, is working out great. Dog-friendly offices, great nearby coffee shops, and a continual performance improvement algorithm insure that I’m operating at higher and higher levels of productivity. Data is liberating!"
FirstRound's 6 Must-Reads for First-Time Managers
"But if you work for a company that doesn’t have an official policy [on career development], how can you make the case to your manager (and the necessary higher ups) to support you?"
"...Rather than offering facts, your goal should be to show emotional leadership and try to figure out what are the emotional blocks inhibiting your colleague from seeing reality clearly."
"So even though the last time I wrote about performance reviews it was to share why we don’t do them, it’s not actually that weird (at least at Buffer) to return to the topic only to share that we have been doing them, or at least experimenting with them."
Quartz just published a NOBL article about how AI and automation are coming for your manager's job.
"I was convinced that if I could see my meetings, projects, ideas, and tasks all together, I’d be able to better plan out my days. I’m a bit biased here, but the visual and spatial aspects of Trello’s boards, lists, and cards seemed like the perfect solution to me."
"The question arises as to whether there are natural “sweet spots” at which communities are likely to be more successful (i.e. survive longer without fissioning) because they map better onto natural grouping patterns and their underpinning psychology."
"The notion that technology is killing the labor market is not true."
"A Dozen Business Lessons from Waffle House"
Netflix uses a "Start, Stop, Continue" format to give its employees feedback.
"A new Adobe study, based on the findings from a survey of 750 U.S. creative professionals, reveals the unique barriers for women and people of color in their pursuit of a creative career. "
"We have sold 'lean' as a deceptively simple set of common-sense process mechanics with the idea that if we just implement them, we’ll get incredibly great results. As true as that is, 'just implement them' is a lot harder than most of the 'rapid improvement' models imply."
"The widely accepted view that strategy and execution are separable activities sets companies up for failure in a fast-paced world."
Episode 599 of HBR IdeaCast tells the life stories of 3 everyday individuals who led momentous change.
"But perhaps Tesla’s greatest challenge isn’t within the company. It’s the “Mary and Carlos” threat. Mary Bara is GM’s CEO; Carlos Ghosn is the emperor of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi-Avtovaz conglomerate that recently jumped to the #1 position in the auto industry." LINK
A fun (and macabre!) way to honor the past in an organization.
Our very own Kim Perkins answers the question, "Do you have to be a jerk to be a leader?"
Jeffrey Immelt on how he transformed GE.
"While the rest of the auto industry increasingly uses robots in manufacturing, Toyota has taken a contrarian stance by accentuating human craftsmanship."
"In my six years at Airbnb, I watched it scale over 100X on every metric: listings, users, revenue, employees, and, yes, sometimes complexity."
"Part of safety in an environment like that is being able to admit mistakes and being open to learning... That helped contribute to an 84 percent decline in Shell's accident rate companywide."
"In a society where market rules rule, the only way for an employee to know her value is to look for another job and, if she finds one, usually to quit."
In 1983, female computer scientists saw women leaving the field in droves. Here's what they had to say about it.
If you really want to adopt a new way of working as an organization, scan the bullets at the end of this article to see how wide and deep those changes must go.
More company handbooks on Github like this one, please?
We are checklist obsessives. This product management one is niiiiice. Imagine if your team encoded your process into one of these? (hint: do it!)
So many leaders ask us "how do I build trust?" This interactive guide uses game theory to explain how and why we trust each other.
"We think there’s real reason to believe that we are on the verge of a new productivity boom."
"IBM, Aetna Inc., Bank of America Corp., Best Buy Co., Honeywell International Inc. and Reddit Inc. are among employers that have ended or reduced remote-work arrangements recently as managers demand more collaboration, closer contact with customers—and more control over the workday." (paywall)
"We found that in certain circumstances, managers were actually more responsive to suggestions from opposite-gender subordinates." (paywall)
The essential elements of giving good feedback.
"Asking in person is the significantly more effective approach; you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast."
Want to brush up on your design thinking? Need a refresher on how to understand your customer? Add these to your bookshelf.
"We face not monotony in our jobs but the temptations of endless variet." (paywall)
How to encourage psychological safety on your team, from one of the people behind Google's famous Project Aristotle.
"At Toyota, there exists a way to solve problems that generates knowledge and helps people doing the work learn how to learn. Company managers use a tool called the A3... as a key tactic in sharing a deeper method of thinking that lies at the heart of Toyota’s sustained success. " (paywall)
"On Aubrey Blanche’s first day as Atlassian’s Global Head of Diversity Inclusion, the company was hiring roughly 10% women into its technical workforce. Over the last year, 18% of their technical hires were women."
"Let’s hope the internet and artificial intelligence can lead a new tech revolution, but so far it is looking like a long, tough slog."
"If your culture expects people to work long hours or hang out off-hours, the strain on the people who are different, in whatever way, is increased, and your ability to retain a diverse work force is reduced."
"In this exclusive interview, Stanley, Nir and Baier deconstruct how they are building a more transparent and trustworthy compensation culture."
"What actually happens once you eliminate the employee evaluation is a bigger farce than the evaluation itself."
A case for Summer Fridays: "...Because it’s easier to come by fun in the summer, people are actually better at getting things done."
"...If you have ambitions that involve building great companies and improving customers’ and workers’ lives, the stock-based metric will fail you in the long run."
Google officials said it was "too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to hand over salary records that the government requested in the discrimination cas."
"To reduce dissonance, we have to modify the self-concept or accept the evidence. Guess which route people prefer?”
"There’s no precise formula for when and how to share challenges with your employees, given how varied each situation can be. But I’d recommend the following guidelines..."
40 ways to invest in more resilient teams.
"Exceptionally inclusive managers do a few things differently."
Non-competes have gotten out of hand here in the US. "The growth of noncompete agreements is part of a broad shift in which companies assert ownership over work experience as well as work."
Women at work are drowning in advice and starving for opportunities. Lara Hogan urges us all to provide women (and non-binary people) sponsorship, not just mentorship.
Building 87 is where Microsoft invents its way back into relevance with cross-functional teams and heaps of imagination. Also, like Batman, they have an Applied Sciences Lab.
Christina Wodtke wrote up a couple Medium articles on some of the most fundamental ideas behind team design and she nailed it out of the park. Well done!
IBM admits just how hard it is to radically change a company while also supporting remote work. This week they offered its marketers (and others) a choice: come back to the office or find a new job.
"They discovered that in certain situations, more innovation led to poorer performance. Their conclusion: sometimes, less innovation is better."
How Seth Godin kicked his meeting habit.
"Not only is unfairness the biggest reason for tech workers to quit jobs, it can also cost tech companies close to $16 billion per year to find replacements."
"It occurred to me that in sports—and perhaps in other fields where teamwork matters, from business, politics and the military to science and the arts—we’ve been choosing the wrong people to lead us."
"The precariat is everywhere. Companies such as Nissan have begun manning factories with temps; even the U.S. Postal Service has turned to them. Academic jobs are increasingly filled with relatively cheap, short-term teaching appointments."
“One of our core advantages as investors at the Motley Fool is that we look very, very closely at companies' cultures. And I think that, for the most part, Wall Street does not.”
"I needed a way to effectively play each role I have — engineer, engineering manager, engineering leadership team and senior management team — when there are sometimes only minutes to switch my mindset and get on the right wavelength... I created a playlist for every role, and then some. "
"[The founders of Instagram] realized they had themselves become a bottleneck to getting things done. So three months ago, they began scheduling meetings to do nothing but make decisions."
FirstRound's article on how HotelTonight turned profitable in seven months goes beyond the financial aspects to how they managed change within the team.
In an effort to reduce the gap between men's and women's wages, some states and cities are banning companies from asking "what's your current salary?" during interviews.
"We can try to convince ourselves that we are free, but as long as we must submit to the increasing authority of our employers and the labor market, we are not."
It turns out that how you manage might matter less than how consistently you apply whatever management practices you have. (Paywall)
Get an inside look into Google's TGIF Meetings.
"...Existing gender diversity had a big impact on how workers felt about pursuing more senior roles."
The debate continues on whether the six-hour workday is better or worse for companies and employees.
How to deal with burnout—whether it's your employees' or your own.
"...The problem with interviews is worse than irrelevance: They can be harmful, undercutting the impact of other, more valuable information about interviewees."
"...Tool adoption was not the real problem to solve. The real problem to solve was getting teams to discover and adopt the modern practices that the tools enabled."
"For the second year in a row, Google's parent company Alphabet will oppose a shareholder plan that would commit the business to evaluate and disclose whether it has a pay gap between female and male employees."
Agree or disagree? "In the age of networked enterprise, strong cultures may turn from assets to liabilities."
"[Factory vs. Studio is] a live simulation in the classroom that helps students understand the importance of start conditions when they’re managing a team."
80% of people think they're better-than-average leaders.
"After a salary audit and adjustment in 2015, Salesforce has found that it needs to constantly monitor compensation, or inequality will keep creeping back in."
"Today’s young managers may be thinking, 'Show me the money!' But there are other ways to keep them engaged." (Paywall)
And you thought trust falls were bad.
"If some of history’s greatest figures didn’t put in immensely long hours, maybe the key to unlocking the secret of their creativity lies in understanding not just how they labored but how they rested."
How a "Skills Inventory" can help you better allocate work and encourage employees' career development.
"Petitions only work if employers are willing to entertain them, but for many employees, they’re the only way to be heard."
Vox has ongoing coverage of how the Uber scandals are playing out.
"While these might strike visitors as silly, the movements and shouts are a Japanese-innovated industrial safety method known as pointing-and-calling; a system that reduces workplace errors by up to 85 percent."
"Executives may therefore need to become smarter about when to open up and when to withhold information."
"Smarter machines can — and should — be keys to unlocking greater returns from human capital." (Paywall)
Shots fired: "Instead of winning a war for talent, organizations appear to be waging a war on talent, repelling and alienating employees more successfully than harnessing their skills."
"...No matter how good it feels in the moment, complaining about your work problems may leave you feeling worse in the long run."
“The Revolt of the Caring Classes”: a four-minute video in which anthropologist David Graeber discusses how we’re re-evaluating the meaning of work.
“These companies... start with about the same mix of star players, but they are able to produce dramatically more output.”
XKCD’s take on employee onboarding.
"The existing research on motivation tells a clear story: There are both psychological and performance benefits to connecting employees to the beneficiaries of their work."
"How on earth did such a debauched zest become the highest calling for a whole generation of entrepreneurs?
We humbly suggest that unilaterally deciding to share everyone's salaries is not the best way to build trust within your organization.
"When a leader takes that fundamental position of customers first, and they actually mean it, they're simultaneously taking the position that problems are first, not politics."
"When technology automates some portion of a job, employment in that occupation often increases."
"No matter how you try and dress it, a cubicle still manages to feel cold, sterile and isolating. It wasn't supposed to be this way." (video)
In case this hasn't popped up on your feed yet, this is a depressing look at the sexist culture at Uber.
Gallup's State of the American Workplace is up (requires your information to download).
"Organizations often don’t consider that the management practices and methods they are about to introduce come with underlying values and assumptions about how things should get done."
Delegation doesn't end when you tell someone else to do it.
"Sid’s biggest tip for success in scaling a distributed company: write everything down."
Four ways to get better at giving feedback.
What can you remove to make something better? Ask Johnny Ramone.
"Research that we’re 15% less productive, we have immense trouble concentrating and we’re twice as likely to get sick in open working spaces, has contributed to a growing backlash against open offices."
And here's a professional way to give feedback to that annoying colleague next to you in your open office.
"Complexity is like addiction… It comes on slowly, forming weak bonds that you can barely feel. But as it continues, the bonds strengthen quietly until they calcify and become hard to break."
The early results of gender-blind parental leave are in: "Since Etsy’s new parental leave policy took effect, 48 employees have taken leave: 50% identify as men, and 50% as women."
At Warby Parker, teams pick what they want to work on. Far from creating chaos, it's actually created an efficient market.
"People used to their work being constantly monitored tend to now expect it: as my contact put it, 'They don’t think it’s that bad. It seems normal.'"
Use amplification to get more credit for your work.
How leaders at Google, BuzzFeed, Xerox, Nike, and more make decisions.
"Organizations are built on the work of people who don’t get paid very much, don’t receive sufficient respect and are understandably wary of the promises they’ve been hearing for years. Calling these folks the bottom of the org chart doesn’t help."
Want to learn more about Toyota's best practices and revisit a classic text on management? Check out "Re-Translating Lean from Its Origin."
"When we work alongside others (either as the director of combined labour or as a member of a team), our collective powers are extended way beyond anything that one fragile being could ever accomplish."
A Field Guide to Dudes Who Ruin Meetings.
"The old-school review systems may have been rigid, but their replacements are confusing, often asking too much of employees. In an attempt to differentiate, online performance review platforms have added so many bells and whistles that people don't want to use them."
"But there’s also something a little, well, eye-rollingly predictable about Silicon Valley elites latching onto a philosophy that teaches them how to accept the things they cannot change."
A classic post on "What is an Agile Leader," but a good refresher as we enter the new year.
"An exercise in deliberate institutional memory " — learn how the UK's Government Digital Service started a digital transformation within the government, and how others can inspire change within their own organization.
"Because organization (org) structures appear to be easily distilled down to simple graphs, it is frequently the case that when a company is doing well a given org structure serves as a model for others to follow; and when things are not going well there’s a chorus to change to some obvious alternative."
"Their call to action is to achieve full gender parity in all businesses across all levels of corporate leadership by 2030, with a near-term goal of women holding at least 30% of senior roles."
"Once a startup leader gets up on a chair to address the staff and someone yells out, 'We can’t hear you,' it’s time to start rethinking how you’re communicating."
An interesting peek into change management: The CEO of Zenefits tweeted all the changes the organization has made in the past ten months, and his reasons for stepping down now.
Agree or disagree? Apple may have finally gotten too big for its unusual corporate structure.
How healthy is your design team? This list will get you started by asking the right questions.
What would you do if you didn’t have to work to receive an income?
"If Richemont’s removal of a (very important) management layer pays dividends, it will be noteworthy—it’s not full holacracy (letting employees make all of their own decisions), but it’s an interesting experiment in corporate governance."
We love the Atlassian Team Playbook, with "guides for tracking your team's health, and plays that build your Get $#!τ Done™ muscle."
“Ideas breed ideas...The classic technique is by putting things together that don’t go together.”
Our friends at Breather have put together a piece about the best workspaces for different kinds of work.
"The authors argue that companies can bridge this gap between strategic intent and actual implementation by following three steps: figure out what will move the needles, choose a bottleneck, and craft the rules."
"The Spotify model can help you to understand how things are done at Spotify, but you shouldn’t copy it in your own organization."
"I was able to process all of this over a period of weeks. I had become comfortable with the problem and comfortable with the path forward. However, I was now expecting the whole team to process all of that in a one-hour meeting."
It's not easy to disagree with your boss, but sometimes it's necessary. Here's how to do it, politely.
"When I joined Handy, it was much more about the business opportunity and how are we going to accomplish the business goals, and a lot less about, ‘Wait a second, how is the org going to run? How are the people going to feel? How are we going to motivate them to get to this vision?’"
"...No amount of likability or shared traits can make up for that kind of trust and respect. By overemphasizing culture fit, founders guarantee their company’s demise."
"At the start of every board meeting, the first topic of discussion is about where the fire exits are, how to access the stairs, and where we will meet up afterward. Why would we bother starting every meeting that way? Because United’s culture is built on safety. And the best way to cultivate and reinforce that culture is to lead with behaviors and take actions that promote the importance of safety." Leaders can't control culture, but no one has greater influence over it.
"When Voss analyzed the transcripts of his most unlikely hostage negotiation victories, he discovered that the turning point frequently occurred right after his team took the time to listen to the captor’s argument, summarized that argument back to the captor, and then got the captor to say, 'That’s right.'" Leadership is a negotiation.
"It was deeply ironic, she thought, that in a data-driven industry that prides itself on running experiments, performing A/B testing, and measuring outcomes, there was no official, easily accessible data about the number of women actually working in the field." Industries only begin to change when someone has the courage to demand it.
"I remember one really bad All Hands towards the end of 2013. There was just no consistency — one presentation was really tactical; another was strategic. The narrative wasn’t cohesive. Team members didn’t know what to expect, they weren’t always sure how the meeting topics fit together or why they were relevant to their work, so they tuned out." Give your company meetings a theme to create cohesion out of rapid growth.
"No matter how minor or obviously necessary the change, it was always labeled the dreaded “reorg.” Morale took a hit. Team dynamics suffered." At NOBL, we find the term 'self organizing' to be misleading, so we prefer "self editing" and here's a great case study from Newscred.
"The team — for lack of a better way to put it — is a group of individuals who operate within the bounds their interpersonal conflicts allow for. Limit those conflicts, and you become high performing." A good back to basics approach on teaming.
"So now we have a slightly different answer to the question about the unemployed being better off in work. Yes they are, as long as they are in good-quality jobs. If they are in bad jobs, there is a perversely strong chance that they will be worse off — especially in terms of their mental health." The fight for full employment might actually be bad for mental health.
“These female executives often serve as role models for other women in the company. They push for better diversity practices and help men overcome hidden biases.”
Our Founder Bud Caddell was interviewed about what every organization gets wrong about collaboration.
“The 165-slide presentation includes tips on defining your company’s culture to attract the right employees, how to organize interviews, and where to find compensation data to set salaries.”
"More women are leaning in — and we'll all go farther when the workplace stops pushing back."
"Organisations hire smart people, but then positively encourage them not to use their intelligence."
"If someone wants to see him, they are told to call and set up the meeting when they can see him tomorrow. So if you want to meet with him next Friday, you call next Thursday and say 'Can I see Mr. Buffet tomorrow?'"
“...the thought that keeps occurring to me as I go from board meeting to board meeting is the key to success when you are past the startup/product market fit stage comes down to two things, team and strategy.”
"The goal is to create a situation that is better suited to autistic people’s styles of communicating and thinking... It represents a novel, and potentially fraught, expansion of the idea of diversity."
"Female staffers adopted a meeting strategy they called 'amplification': When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own."
"When someone does a mistake and they’re harshly reprimanded for it, the next time it happens they’ll prefer to work hard to maintain that a secret."
Quartz is running a series called "Perfect Company" exploring how organizations are building better corporate cultures.
How Google Ventures uses design sprints to get more done.
"It’s no coincidence that the “dynamic” workplace has arisen at a time when professional work has become increasingly insecure."
"In fact, the majority of labs and innovation centers flounder because of one, critical, missing ingredient."
"In her research, she has found that putting on an emotional mask at work—conforming to a certain image that doesn’t necessarily correspond to how you feel or who you are—drains you of energy that can only be replenished if you then have an opportunity to be yourself."
“Supporting our working families isn’t just the ethical thing to do (which, frankly, should be reason enough for responsible leaders); it will also balance out financially.”
“New research suggests that maintaining strict distinctions between work roles and home roles might actually be what is causing our feelings of stress to set in.”
“If you’re going to go from a laggard to a leader, try to get to something you can actually achieve and sustain that looks like real change.”
"What I’ll share today are some of the factory processes we’ve developed over the years to keep ourselves in the sweet spot between high-risk/idealistic (where most research lives), and safe-bet/pragmatic (where most big companies live)."
Eric Quint, Chief Design Officer at 3M, details the subtle art of being a designer inside of a legacy organization and how to teach colleagues about the importance of design.
A new podcast from Bloomberg on "job frustrations, dilemmas, habits, and everything that happens in the office."
Bruce Tulgan, author “It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss,” and John Baldoni, author of “Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up,” have identified six things you must do to build a good relationship with your manager.
Giving your team the authority to make a call independently will help your team act faster and give you more time to focus on the high-priority decisions that do require your attention.
"The face-to-face conversations we have with colleagues in hallways, meeting rooms, and even elevators can still represent huge—and often untapped—opportunities to advance our careers."
Does your company need an innovation outpost? The six questions to consider before investing.
"Peterson’s 10-point code is intended to guide leaders as they seek to raise the level of trust within in their organizations."
"I realized I’d received much more management training in the last five years than I did in the first 20 years — when I really needed it — combined."
“I'm convinced that the meetings that take place inside Star Trek episodes and movies are superlative models of how you should run meetings at the office.”
“I need to manage myself—my happiness, my job satisfaction—the same way I would manage it for any of my reports, and take the time to identify problems, and put the tools in place to solve them.”
While no one likes dealing with conflict, these five exercises can help improve your team’s conflict management skills.
"Here’s an age-old management conundrum: who should be rewarded for high performance, and how? The answer is deliciously complex."
Twitter's VP of Product breaks down a process for finding out what your customer really wants.
RebelMouse CEO Paul Barry has pinpointed four triggers that signal a critical need for new product sprint, as well as the roles required to make those sprints successful.
"If you want to make sure everyone can be there, the best time to meet is Tuesday afternoon, according to a study from YouCanBookMe... The firm crunched data from more than 2 million responses to 530,000 invitations and concluded that 2:30pm Tuesday is the time most people are free."
"If you answered ‘Yes’, your boss might just be a secret saboteur, drafted by the CIA, acting purposefully to undermine your nation’s productivity and morale."
Behold, the five charts that reveal the Future of Work.
As more and more companies embrace offsite workers, culture becomes a harder thing to maintain. Customer support company Help Scout has outlined six ways you can intentionally create a successful work culture when working with a virtual team.
Any producer or project manager worth their salt will tell you that the first 5% of any project is the most important. How you bring the team together, define roles, and outline the work will determine how well you work together in the future. Here's how UX content strategist Jerry Cao of UXPin kicks off his projects.
"The following 10 principles can help unlock the potential strategic leadership in your enterprise... You may have already adopted some of these tenets, and think that’s enough."
Starbucks invited 9,600 store managers to their Leadership Lab: a $35 million, 400,000 square foot experience with 21 projector screens and 5,000 coffee plants, dedicated to mobilizing employees to become brand evangelists.
Jeff Bezos explains the difference between Type 1 and 2 decisions, and how distinguishing between the two will help prevent Amazon from becoming risk-averse.
Here are five ways to find out if a company really cares about work-life balance.
Here are four myths that bosses believe about employee engagement. #1? That there’s no proof that happy employees will work hard.
This handy infographic summarizes how the future of work is changing, complete with stats on demographics.
"It’s likely that companies pursuing Millennial-specific employee engagement strategies are wasting time, focus, and money. They would be far better served to focus on factors that lead all employees to join, stay, and perform at their best."
"Here are 10 warning signs. If you have an employee demonstrating seven or more of these characteristics, you've got a majorly unhappy player on your hands."
"While not exactly '50,000 ways it cannot be done,' [this] is a compilation of startup post-mortems that describe the factors that drove a startup’s demise."
"Continuing with obsolete management practices is a pretty quick way to get yourself disrupted."
A bad reputation costs a company at least $10K more per hire.
"A strategic narrative is a special kind of story. It says who you are as a company. Where you’ve been, where you are, and where you are going... It explains why you exist and what makes you unique."
"The problem is not that overworked professionals are all miserable. The problem is that they are not."
"When we polled 377 business leaders, 94% of those in companies with revenue of more than $5 billion told us that internal dysfunction—not lack of opportunity or unmatchable competitor capabilities—was now the main barrier to their continued profitable growth."
"Of the millennials surveyed, 48 percent of women said they are 'being overlooked for potential leadership positions,' while men outweighed women in saying they were leaders in their departments by a 21 percent to 16 percent margin."
Find how just how much it's costing your company whenever you and your teammates sit through another meeting.
"Medium announced it will no longer use the 'self-management' system trumpeted by the likes of Zappos and other companies as the antidote to traditional hierarchy."
"We want candidates to know that the enthusiasm they felt during the interview process didn’t only exist to get them to join the team and fill a seat. We’re seriously stoked to be working with them and can’t wait for them to start. That’s why candidates get [a personalized gif] in their emails after they decide to join Lever."
"Zenefits may be among the first of several cautionary tales to highlight a sobering lesson: For a start-up, growing too quickly can produce just as spectacular a failure as growing too slowly."
"It's her responsibility to 'develop Millennial champions within their careers [at Bacardi] while leveraging them as a 'live think tank' of target consumers.' De Swardt has created the Bacardi Rising Stars program where emerging Millennial leaders will be equipped with the knowledge, expertise, and experiences to prepare them to be future leaders."
"The effective organizational system isn’t just a mechanistic one of capital investment. It’s a human system that relies heavily on unique human capabilities."
"We examine data from prediction markets run by Google, Ford Motor Company, and an anonymous basic materials conglomerate (Firm X). Despite theoretically adverse conditions, we find these markets are relatively efficient, and improve upon the forecasts of experts at all three firms by as much as a 25% reduction in mean-squared error. "
“One of the biggest barriers to understanding others is excessive egocentrism.”
"The reality is that few organizations have figured out how to innovate, adapt, and create amazing things without burning their people out."
“So while I believe transparency around pay is essential, sharing salaries in a spreadsheet isn’t going to solve issues around pay equity.”
"The future will resent us in exact proportion to our failure to have attempted to meaningfully address those systemic problems that we will be known to have been quite aware of."
Microsoft Research: 8 Ways a Team's Structure Influences its Software Development
"It would be easy to just cash in if our philosophy changes. With a co-op, that’s impossible."
"Even the kids in Lord of the Flies took half a dozen chapters before they started jabbing each other with spears. At Zappos the problems started almost immediately."
"And that’s all we need with Silicon Valley: a watchful eye and an intelligent wariness of any self-satisfied bullshit."
Facebook hired just 7 black people in 2013
"Abusive as all this sounds, I would argue that most of the bad behavior of these men is fear-based, impulsive and reactive rather than consciously hurtful. It grows not out of a sense of superiority but rather of insecurity."
"The dysfunction in the organization becomes the dysfunction in the product, and that gets passed on to the customers."
"Historically women over the age of 55 would not have been an area of focus (for HR managers), but as the research suggests, this pool of talent might hold the key to transformation and in some cases, business survival"
"Leaders who lead organizational change, at any level, are implicitly dealing with the act of changing themselves."
"I think what you've described as a shift towards a culture of sustainability is actually part of a much more profound shift—one toward meaningful work."
"The number of female CEOs of America’s most influential companies is stuck at a 5 percent, as it was the year before."
"Although diversity in many industries has increased in recent decades, progress in the corporate realm has been slower than expected."
"This problem is not us versus the machines, but between us, as humans, and how we value one another."
"Staggs encouraged a policy that’s internally referred to as 'constructive discomfort,' which was meant to guard against cultural complacency by fostering collaboration."
"The survey of 7,200 adults found that about half had left a job at some point 'to get away from their manager.'"
Stop saying 'diversity' and just call it what it is: normalizing.
"By accepting this narrative of progress uncritically, imagining that technological change equals historic human betterment, many in Silicon Valley excuse themselves from moral reflection. Put simply, the progress narrative short-circuits moral reflection on the consequences of new technologies."
"From entities with persistent ownership beholden to their nation states, corporations have transitioned into organizations with investors with no commitment to any particular nation or generation other than the present. The result is that the interests of the corporation have progressively diverged from those of the societies within which they operate."
"It is time to quit viewing motherhood as incompatible with employment."
"The real gender wage gap is for moms"
"the biggest challenge in Digital Transformation is not in the initial refocusing on a new organising principle, it's in resisting the steady drift back to the old one."
"Here, you can have our intellectual property because at the end of the day this will be better for the planet. If you guys adopt it you can scale more, because you’re way bigger than us."
"Women leaders are viewed as being less competent than men, they’re evaluated in performance reviews on personality traits while men are evaluated on accomplishments, and they’re interrupted more often during team meetings."
"I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com. Literally billions of dollars of failures. You might remember Pets.com or Kosmo.com. It was like getting a root canal with no anesthesia. None of those things are fun. But they also don’t matter."
"Mayer spent as much time deliberating Yahoo’s parking policies as she did strategizing over the sale of its Alibaba stock."
"The company also has an "empathy team" which is charged with helping its engineers and designers understand what it's actually like to be a user, or a business paying for advertising."
"Certainly, some gender bias in the workplace still takes the form of blatant misogyny. But a large portion of it does not. It’s subtle. It’s subconscious. And many people who perpetrate it, if only made aware of what they are doing, would want to change."
“Harassment is the background radiation of my life"
"Look into the companies you admire and you'll notice candor sits at the core of the culture of these great organizations."
"If we’re hiring ever-curious, entrepreneurial team members, the next logical question is how do we incentivize and retain them?"
"Makerbot, for instance, is one of the most recognizable names in 3D printing, but its employees are apparently quite miserable."
"The path ahead for leaders is to create human operating systems that allow humanity to be expressed."
"MSF is able to move so swiftly, in large part, because of its decentralized structure, which is more akin to a guerrilla network than a top-down corporation."
"Hastings prides himself on making as few decisions as possible, and he lets his team dream up new products and new initiatives."
"I frequently work with executives in the C-suite and also in Human Resources and I can’t figure out why the state of employee engagement or the lack thereof isn’t creating a heightened sense of urgency."
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