Congratulations! You’ve Been Fired

Congratulations! You’ve Been Fired – The New York Times:

Treating workers as if they are widgets to be used up and discarded is a central part of the revised relationship between employers and employees that techies proclaim is an innovation as important as chips and software. The model originated in Silicon Valley, but it’s spreading. Old-guard companies are hiring “growth hackers” and building “incubators,” too. They see Silicon Valley as a model of enlightenment and forward thinking, even though this “new” way of working is actually the oldest game in the world: the exploitation of labor by capital.

HubSpot was founded in 2006 in Cambridge, Mass., and went public in 2014. It’s one of those slick, fast-growing start-ups that are so much in the news these days, with the beanbag chairs and unlimited vacation — a corporate utopia where there is no need for work-life balance because work is life and life is work. Imagine a frat house mixed with a kindergarten mixed with Scientology, and you have an idea of what it’s like.

[One of the differences between sports and almost any other job, is that while you can try and reduce people to numbers, it’s often horribly shaded by the perception of others. I’ve often said that sports that requires “judges” is not a sport. It’s performed by athletes, but a sport can be measured. You hit the ball fairly or not. You ran faster than the next gal or not. And because of that ability to measure, you can apply other arithmetic solutions to the problem of “value”. That simplicity of goal and skill is why sports is so much fun for all of this. Instead of myriad shades of gray and decisions you have the clarity of simple goals and yes or no. Applying that thinking to most workplace jobs simply reduces people to… well read the article. I know folks are replaceable at a skills level, but you’re failing if you miss the human behind those skills and bringing out the best in them.

Here’s my prescription since I’ve been from one end of the US hiring economy and back.

  1. Stay out of or get out of debt
  2. Build, author, design, create things that other people want with quality and integrity.
  3. Enjoy what time you have, none of us know our allotment.

Since so many young people start off with lots of debt relative their income, I say this to the parents now (it applies to them to, but some bandwagons are hard to abandon) don’t saddle your kids with debt by allowing them to run up huge debt to start out. (and try and teach them that it’s not the Way.) Consider eliminating your own. (cars, house, business loans, venture capital, etc. the stuff that really ties you down.)]

Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule:

When you’re operating on the manager’s schedule you can do something you’d never want to do on the maker’s: you can have speculative meetings. You can meet someone just to get to know one another. If you have an empty slot in your schedule, why not? Maybe it will turn out you can help one another in some way.

Business people in Silicon Valley (and the whole world, for that matter) have speculative meetings all the time. They’re effectively free if you’re on the manager’s schedule. They’re so common that there’s distinctive language for proposing them: saying that you want to “grab coffee,” for example.

Speculative meetings are terribly costly if you’re on the maker’s schedule, though. Which puts us in something of a bind. Everyone assumes that, like other investors, we run on the manager’s schedule. So they introduce us to someone they think we ought to meet, or send us an email proposing we grab coffee. At this point we have two options, neither of them good: we can meet with them, and lose half a day’s work; or we can try to avoid meeting them, and probably offend them.

Till recently we weren’t clear in our own minds about the source of the problem. We just took it for granted that we had to either blow our schedules or offend people. But now that I’ve realized what’s going on, perhaps there’s a third option: to write something explaining the two types of schedule. Maybe eventually, if the conflict between the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule starts to be more widely understood, it will become less of a problem.

Those of us on the maker’s schedule are willing to compromise. We know we have to have some number of meetings. All we ask from those on the manager’s schedule is that they understand the cost.

[Well explained. I try and line up meetings in a given day. When they can’t be aligned that way I use the middle of the day, reserving the morning and end of the day for “maker” time. Allez! ]

Better than an “email vacation”

Better than an “email vacation”:

Much like inbox bankruptcy, simply running away from email overload doesn’t solve the problem. What does work is to engage email as described in Bit Literacy (free Kindle ebook, free iBookstore ebook). To summarize: move your action items to a todo list, and archive or delete everything else. The inbox should be empty at least once a day.

[Mark’s been talking about this for as long as I’ve known him. Just do it already. You can thank me later. BTW, the email client I’ve been using for work has an setting that shows only unread mail. Very useful.]

Source: Creative Good

Rookies in the bike shed

Rookies in the bike shed:

The ability to spot this is one of the most valuable skills a software developer can possess. There are endless features we could build and debates in which we could engage, but only a small subset are worth the effort.

The best developers aren’t the ones who can write the most code in the shortest amount of time or out-reason anyone on the internets. They are the ones that only write the code that’s most valuable to execute and only enter the debates of high substance.

[And that is what makes anyone good at what they do. It is about editing things down to the most important things and concentrating on those.]

Compare and contrast: The 4 day work week.

So there’s a pointer to this Inc. article in my inbox this morning. I don’t need any convincing about the potential for a company to form its own work schedule. But it seems to me that this article is lying, or the author is fooling himself, or worse, he’s taking advantage of his employees. To wit: The Case for a Four-Day Work Week

The extra time for research makes for a well-informed team and the realization they have something unique.

So they work 40 hours in 4 days. But then, they get to do research on their “day off”. Huh? How is that helping? I realize that they can run errands and do other things at home since their not expected in the office, and mot likely do not have to answer email, the phone etc. But this smacks of creating a 48 hour work week to me. Either include the research in the work week (“Hey, I need my people to keep up!”) or crow to Inc. magazine how you you fooled your employees into a 48 hour work week and here’s how. Or, one more possibility, no one’s doing anything significant for the company on that day and he knows it. Which makes the article a lie about the benefits of time for research.

Now compare that to how Jason Fried talks about the topic of his company’s schedule:

I don’t believe in the 40-hour workweek, so we cut all that BS about being somewhere for a certain number of hours. I have no idea how many hours my employees work — I just know they get the work done.

Only half the people in the company lives in the area where they could possibly come into the office. But there’s no requirement to at all. They don’t track hours because that’s not the goal. The goal is getting stuff done. I’ll bet there are weeks where people work many more than 40 hours, and times when they work less. Does it matter? Being home to “meet the plumber” shouldn’t be a benefit, but common sense. Not being able to schedule appointments and handle the trivia of life adds enormous stress to people. Do you want a bunch of stressed out, unfocused, people working with you? (do you think the leak held? No shower this morning, gah. etc. throughout the day) Do you want to create an environment where people consider lying as a time management strategy? (Hmm, I should call in sick so I can take care of this.)

Anyway, regardless of whether any of this works for you or your company try not to use it as a means of extending the work week rather than embracing the real benefits.

Wunda’s World: Clarifying purpose

Wunda’s World: Clarifying purpose:
How can we do this? By understanding and buying into what we are creating and how we see it experienced. We can create a mission, vision and values to clarify and create distinction.

The mission statement is all about purpose. Its about the problem you are trying to solve, the information you are trying to share and/or the service you are trying to provide. Its about the long term goals.

On the other side, the vision statement is an abstraction of the experience. It can include words like fun, simple, quality, quickly, stable, reliable, responsive, etc. It does not include ideas like color schemes, mechanics, technology specifics or other implementation details.

Time can also be spent on value statements (users own their information, we strive to directly connect with and respond to user feedback, all user feedback is valid, etc)

Continue drilling down into these ideas until everyone knows what they are doing, are excited to work towards the goals and know in their hearts they are working on an effort they accept fully.

For new teams, taking time to manifest an understanding of team dynamics, quality and creativity with as much openness and honesty as possible can help ensure the best “good-enough” software gets created in a way that is enjoyable, sustainable and collaborative.

Finally, read these statements every morning. When discussions become long, unclear or hostile, refer back to them. Use them as a method to stay detached to what is no longer serving and focused on the underlying issues.

[Well said!]