6 min read

Dead Reckoning, On Management #24

Thank you for subscribing, and engaging with ideas I'm interested in!

For this year-end, something a bit different.

  • Part 1, links to all of the 2017 newsletters.
  • Part 2, my thoughts on the year's biggest workplace story, and where "we" stand today.

Part 3, looking into 2018, including an option to support my newsletter financially.  (This month's format, my homage to TinyLetter.)

Part 1, Charting Where this Newsletter Has Been in 2017

(10/18 editorial note, I will slowly be posting some or all of these back issues to Substack, rather than linking to the old Mailchimp versions of the newsletter.)

Goals and Resolutions, My Hierarchy of Workplace Needs, Workshops and Team Building, Relationships at Work, Beach Reading, Interviewing, Being a Good (Enough) Manager, and Codes of Conduct.

Part 2, Dead Reckoning

To reckon is count, estimate, or compute.  Or to consider.  In the cascade of  media coverage on workplace harassment, “reckoning” has emerged as a  word, or maybe the word, to describe this moment.

The word acknowledges that we’re not done yet, though:  we're in more than a moment.

Dead reckoning is a navigator's iterative calculation process used to estimate  location.  Given information believed to be certain, like starting  point, distance traveled, and speed, a navigator can calculate a ship's  dead reckoning position, or fix.

The American Practical Navigator (library) (Indiebound) describes dead reckoning:

Dead reckoning’s…most important use is in projecting the ship's position in the immediate future and avoiding hazards to navigation.

The navigator should carefully tend his or her DR plot, updating it when required and using it to evaluate external forces acting on his or her ship.  Navigators can compare the dead reckoning position to a known fix to determine other forces acting on the vessel, such as wind and current. They can then use all this information to create a more accurate DR plot and stay on course by correcting for the known errors  and their effects.

Using dead reckoning, you assess your position on regular intervals, using the best information you’ve got.

If a navigator has not taken a fix for an extended period of time,  the DR plot…will accumulate time-dependent errors.  Over time that error may become so significant that the DR will no longer show the ship’s position with acceptable accuracy.”

Football coach Barry Switzer described a similar calculation error,  “There are many people who don`t know what real pressure is.  Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”

If you don't know where you started, you can't calculate where you are.

A bit of information for calculating our current fix:  we’re on course for gender pay equity in about 217 years.  As far as I can reckon, racial pay/wealth equality is in still-uncharted waters -- though there are ideas on how to proceed.

Previously unheard voices are urging necessary course corrections.  

But everyone isn’t using the same starting point.  Everyone hasn't been heard.  So agreement on our current fix is hard to come by.

A navigator’s symbol for a dead reckoning fix is a dot beneath a semicircle.  There’s a nearly identical symbol in music, the fermata.  

A fermata directs a musician to pause on a note – or a moment of silence – before proceeding.

In this moment, a pause may be useful before proceeding to solutions.  Because for workplace harassment, apparently there are no proven solutions.

(NB:  My quotes from The American Practical Navigator came from a full post of the book via The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).  As of October, 2018, the link to that page on their site returned one of those “incorrectly configured, dangerous to click” error messages.  Hmmm.)

Part 3:  The Path into 2018

Since starting to blog in 2006 and in various incarnations of my newsletter — dating back to 1996! — I've been sharing practical, proven resources about people management and startup/business culture.

And I love to mix in other disciplines and pop culture.

In early 2016, I started sharing audio from my conversations with practitioners and experts.  In 2017, I moved to a nearly-monthly schedule as guest schedules and technology added complexity to creating the newsletter.

Year-end brings its own dead reckoning point, and my own personal calculation includes some things I read.

Anne Helen Petersen wrote about how expert thinking has come to look quick and cheap.  And why it shouldn't be.  And Cate Huston shared why she and Chiu-Ki Chan are pausing Technically Speaking.

Though I run a one-woman business, I am beyond fortunate to have a community at Orbital.  I have access to people there and elsewhere who will honestly engage in discussion of the sustainability of a freelance career.

My income comes from client work:  delivering development programs to companies, coaching leaders, and consulting about building management strength, and so forth.  

My writing helps me to learn, to demonstrate expertise (i.e. self-promote), to advance important ideas, and to contribute to community.  It's not a money-maker.

When I'm asked to show up and speak, unpaid, about my area of expertise,  I use a complex reckoning to decide whether it makes sense.

More and more, it does not make sense.  I've begun to apply this thinking to my writing, hence my scarcity on Twitter and elsewhere  online.

In the past, I've experimented with self-serve portions of my work.  Some of you are participating in one of (now-expired) tests:  thank you!

In 2018, I'll be trying new ways to be paid when I'm present and/or sharing my expertise.  

Starting here:  if my newsletter has value for you, click this link and pay what you wish.  (10/18 editorial note: this experiment one step on the way to landing here at Substack.  So it’s no longer “pay what you wish.”)

A friend and fellow newsletter creator asked how I got feedback, and I told her that surveys and requests in the newsletter hadn’t yielded much feedback.  Other than actual conversations with some of you, I can only look at subscriber retention, clicks and open rates; all of these are pretty good.  When you refer someone, sometimes they tell me.  (Thank you!)

So I'll receive an added benefit from this test:  feedback, in seeing how many subscribers effectively vote for my newsletter.

Is receiving the expertise I share in my newsletter each month worth a nice meal?  A latte or two?  A coffee, regular?  

Or will you unsubscribe?  Maybe send me a note?

I've already got 2 audio interviews recorded for 2018, and a couple of topics I'm really excited about.  And I don't feel burned out, or ready to quit.  Inspired by Cate, though, it has to keep moving.

So, any old way you respond, thank you in advance.  Your input will help me to accurately calculate a fix on my position.

As the returns come in, I'm considering what I might offer to people who vote financially, à la Ann Friedman's pie chart, which I do endorse.  Stay tuned!

In Conclusion

Leading people at work takes more than simply reckoning:  you must pilot the ship.

You have to act.  In 2018, what will you do:  how will you take action?  This is your moment, too.

Here are some suggestions.  In 2013 I wrote about drinking culture in the workplace.   Last year, I shared a more expansive view of some workplace behaviors to look out for and act on.  

Many thanks for reading, and for sharing the newsletter with your friends and colleagues.  I read and answer every email I receive.  (Ok, not the spam — but you’d never spam me!)  So if you have any suggestions or questions, I'd love them.

I wish you and yours a warm and happy New Year.

Anne Libby

Photo:  Navigation, by Julien Carnot, on Flickr, under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.