Happy New Year, and thank you for inviting me to your inbox.
Today, a 2018 newsletter recap, along with a few key stories from the year and some of the questions they’ve inspired me to explore in 2019.
Supporting members, thank you! You’ve asked me great questions, and offered solid input. You’re also funding my cut to Substack, fees for web services I use to produce this work, some of the books I write about, and a portion of my labor.
2018 in Review
The Power of Myth (in Business), The Superpower of 1:1 Meetings, Slowness, Speed and Structure, Mission and a Transition, Summer Reading, Managing Change, Training Day, Age and Today's Workplace, Teaching People "How to Have A Job".
And, here’s the 2018 audio playlist.
Newsletters I wrote for supporting members:
Ladies Swearing at Work, Audio Transcript: Francine McKenna and the Myth of Shareholder Primacy, History Is For Us To Make Every Day, Join Me, Pattern Recognition, (Mal)-Adaptive Noise Cancellation, Everything Has Changed, Failure to Respond, You Don't Need A Culture Plan, One Follow-up, One Question, One Goal.
(To become a supporting member, click here.)
2019: the blameless, the invisible, and the inaccurate
- Two years ago, a fire in Oakland claimed 36 lives.
A recent NY Times article profiled Max Harris, who played a part in creating this tragedy. I was gobsmacked by the photo of Max, as though ripped from the pages of a fashion spread.
I paused to consider other stories about inexperienced, photogenic young men, deemed talented, who have been insufficiently responsive to problems in and from their businesses.
And to remember that some negative outcomes are influenced by multiple and complex conditions.
Even so, when people have been harmed, an apology can’t repair the damage.
A question for 2019: how am I responsible for unintended consequences?
- A reporter for a tech outlet recently tweeted that “nobody much” seems to talk about age discrimination in tech. This is not true.
(In the reporter’s defense, he was tweeting a ProPublica story about age discrimination.)
What’s true is that these discussions are happening in many venues, yet apparently invisible, to some.
And, we’re all aging.
- Actress Eliza Dushku was filmed while cursing at work on a CBS series. She was also being harassed.
Also on film. Also at work.
The harassment was so invisible to the CBS Chief Compliance Officer that he gave video of Eliza’s harassment to her attorney. Figuring Eliza’s potty mouth would be exculpatory, wth?
- Many of the girls and young women that Larry Nasser assaulted and abused were not silent.
Yet for decades, their experiences were invisible.
- The other day, a Hilton security guard called the police on a hotel guest who was in the lobby, on a phone call with his mom.
Another business experiencing someone’s “customerness” as invisible — but not their blackness.
More questions for 2019: what am I not seeing, and how can I see it? Do I see anything that I can render more visible?
- The other day I was reminded that some people don’t have time for “management.”
This time, it was an influential guy in tech who has been known to quote Warren Bennis from 30+ years ago on leadership vs. management.
We have a habit of repeating stories over and over again, until they develop an aura of truthy-ness.
I wrote about this in 2016, applying Maria Bustillos’ framework on information-misinformation-disinformation-dismediation to narratives about the gig economy.
And again, just last month in this newsletter, on the so-called “shareholder value” myth.
- I’m in the process of tracing a more recently repeated belief: that Andy Grove is the “Father of the OKR.” This strikes me as unalloyed BS.
As part of my research, I tore through Grove’s memoir, Swimming Across (Biblio) (library). His story of coming to America as a refugee had me dabbing my eyes.
In my ancient edition of High Output Management, Grove uses the term MBO, not OKR — though I still have 50 pages to read.
Next up, historian Richard Tedlow’s Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American. (Indiebound) (library)
Another question: how can we develop and advance a better understanding of business history?
Credit: I scanned and read a few things about the American Chopper meme, also while dabbing my eyes, this time in appreciation of my own, er, unique sense of humor. I was cracking myself up.
Some questions I want to explore in 2019
- How am I responsible for unintended consequences?
- What am I not seeing, and how can I see it? Do I see anything that I can render more visible?
- How can we develop and advance a better understanding of business history?
- Next office hours: January 17*. Stay tuned for the signup link.
- I’ll also be sharing guides I wrote emerging for managers, on 1:1 Meetings, and the year-round process of staying on top of performance management.
Also, anyone who recently purchased either guide, watch for an email from me.
*yikes, the original email went out with a typo in the date. Sigh.
Thank you to everyone who gave time to help me to make the newsletter!
Thanks to Nick Barr, Gary Chou, CV Harquail, Beckie Klein, Jason Li, Mike Ma, Kieran McGrath, Marjorie Nass, Tracy Spencer, Michele Spiezia, Nikki Sylianteng, Edlyn Yuen, and many others who have given me feedback on my work this year, along with the folks at Orbital, the Danger Ladies, and my clients.
To my audio guests Marci Alboher, Juliette Austin, Bethany Crystal, Gary Chou, Karin McGrath Dunn, Kirsten Lambertsen, Francine McKenna, Ashley Milne-Tyte, Amy Vernon. (Here’s a link to a playlist with all of the 2018 audios.)
(And also to Camille Fournier, whose audio didn’t work out due to a technical issue. It was a user error. Mine. Here’s Camille, covering similar ground (and more) with Charles Humble, on the InfoQ podcast.)
Happy New Year
And thank you for subscribing, and reading.
If there are topics you’d like to hear more about, or questions I can answer here — or if you have feedback, or just want to say “hi,” please send me a note. I love hearing from you, and you will hear back from me.
Warm wishes for a wonderful new year,
A Good Thing
Vital Arts is a not for profit that has been established to honor victims of the Oakland Ghost Ship Fire by providing safe and affordable live, work, and performance spaces for San Francisco Bay Area artists and musicians.
If you’d like to donate, click here. If you work for an organization with a footprint in the Bay Area that would be interested in becoming a sponsor, reach out to the lovely folks at Vital Arts.