Bad tools get bad results, so fix them

Lack of access to robust digital tools in the workplace can frustrate employees who see productivity hindered by inefficient systems. An excess of workplace tools can be overwhelming too, and can alienate for millennial workers. When tools fail to elevate workers, output suffers.

This is an obvious truth. However, the managerial point is to not let it happen. I’ve always gotten the feeling that managers and executives don’t have much first hand use of productivity tools: they use email, for sure, but they have whole staffs (whole divisions and companies of people!) who do the tinkering work in Office and other collaborative tools.

At each large company I’ve worked at (just two) and several small ones the productivity and collaborative tools have gotten in the way or been less than ideal. Security handling is often a problem, file sharing, collaborative editing, and basic Intranet information sharing.

The last time I recall the industry focusing on this collaboration was in the Enterprise 2.0 days – the mid-2000s. I think what happened was that Google Docs (G Suite – whatever) took over and the. Slack. Google’s enterprise stuff is really good, not least of which because it takes a very consumer tech approach. To that point, most people are familiar with Google apps and style from their own life. Schools use it. The way Google enterprise apps “think” is known.

Slack is just another, more efficient email. Oddly, Google never won the IM and chat room competition – their stuff was terrible and seemed to be ignored.

Anyhow: managers and executives! Each quarter use these tools for at least week, if not every week. If you find them weird, if you keep thinking you’ll ask one of your staff to do the work for you because you “just don’t have the time,” that means your tools suck and you need to replace them. Think of how every day your employees have that same experience.

Original source: Are employees disengaged? Check the tech stack

Often, governance and rules turn out to be folklore, their origins long forgotten, even non-existent. Here’s a technique to expose that, and then start building up more helpful governance.

For example, we ran a leadership program with a set of senior leaders in a large, private-sector organization. They felt frustrated about the ways the organization constrained them from innovation, from collaboration, and from having the time and space to focus more on creating what they want for the future rather than reacting to what they have now. As they discussed these limitations together, they realized they each had a different sense of what, exactly, the limitations were. Each person had created in her mind a set of the limitations that came from outside, and all of them had been acting to ensure that their own staff lived inside those boundaries. Upon collective reflection, though, they discovered that none of them had a really clear sense of what the actual limitations were in the organization. Listening to their different perspectives on this day was boundary shattering for them; they discovered that most of what they were railing against was a phantom, a rumor, or other ghostly sense of what was allowed or not. They realized that they, too, had been unconsciously creating these boundaries for their people, even as they disliked them for themselves. Collectively, they began to play with creating new boundaries—with their eyes open and on purpose—that would enable some of the things they had previously experienced as constrained.

Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders by Jennifer Garvey Berger, Keith Johnston

Ask open ended questions, for stories

“Instead, ask about people’s interests. Try to find out what excites or aggravates them — their daily pleasures or what keeps them up at night. Ask about the last movie they saw or for the story behind a piece of jewelry they’re wearing. Also good are expansive questions, such as, “If you could spend a month anywhere in the world, where would you go?””

Original source: Talk Less. Listen More. Here’s How.

Nice example of tech debt taken on for business reasons

This project might be considered a success; it was launched on time, on budget, and has the correct functionality. But then the sales team, who are often on the road, are demanding that this functionality be available on their mobile phones. So, the IT team is now tasked with building a mobile app. But the developers building the app aren’t able to use any of the work that was done for previous projects. So they have to redo all the work, which in itself is not a great outcome.

Even though the developers know this is likely a short-sighted approach, they justify it given the typically intense time pressures. If there are consultants involved (as is typical), the problem gets worse, as they have little incentive to think about the long term. Over time, changes become very expensive or near impossible to make. But as change is constant, agility is now made very difficult. As you can see below, the familiar “spaghetti code” pattern begins to take shape.

This is fine, so long as you’re a rational actor making the trade offs and prioritizing.

Original source: What is API-led Connectivity?

IDC review’s VMware’s $10bn year

Fiscal year 2019 was a watershed year for VMware as it achieved over $10 billion in revenues, executed two of the largest acquisitions (Pivotal and Carbon Black) in the company's history, expanded its vast partnership network (i.e. Telcos, MSP, ISVs, AWS), announced Kubernetes run-time and management tools, and continued to extend its product portfolio into new enterprise IT buying centers. The company also announced new security products, and a security strategy and vision now called its Intrinsic Security Strategy. At the same time, the company closed more $10 million plus deals than at any time prior. New pricing and delivery models emerged via SaaS delivered products and subscription pricing.

Original source: VMware's 2019 Watershed Year; What's It Mean To CIOs in the Future?

Most of the stock market owned by a handful of people

A whopping 84 percent of all stocks owned by Americans belong to the wealthiest 10 percent of households. And that includes everyone’s stakes in pension plans, 401(k)’s and individual retirement accounts, as well as trust funds, mutual funds and college savings programs like 529 plans.

As summarized in one of the sub-headings: “Don’t confuse the Dow with the economy.”

Original source: We All Have a Stake in the Stock Market, Right? Guess Again

The Economist writes up Bernie Sanders

If he got his way, all American residents, including undocumented immigrants, would receive free health care, child care and education at state universities. Workers would have a jobs guarantee, seats on corporate boards and receive 20% of the equity of large firms. Billionaire clout would be broken by a wealth tax.

Original source: What does Bernie Sanders’s political revolution hope to accomplish?

Scaling Spotify guilds: good for onboarding and culture transformation

So, do we recommend other companies to establish CoPs or guilds? The importance of implementing such parallel structures has been debated, and they do typically occupy the backseat in agile transformations and agile method implementations. However, Spotify experience shows that domain-specific, professional guilds is an important support for the squads and squad members. Guilds help new engineers get up to speed more quickly saving time for their colleagues. Guilds provide forums to tackle shared, emerging problems and opportunities with response times much shorter than individual experts would be able to provide. Besides, guilds' yearly events connect people across locations that would otherwise never meet. Therefore, we do recommend others consider cultivating participation culture in general and CoPs/guilds in particular.

Original source: Spotify Guilds

Food, we can all agree on food

In the last year there’s been so much travel, so much overscheduling, that lately I think I’ve forgotten what I like to eat. So I’m trying to do tiny little things to find joy.

And:

I very much feel now like I’m the product. It’s a weird thing to come to terms with. It’s been important for me to learn how to trust that what an audience wants is just me being me, that who I really am is something that they can relate to. It requires that I be very honest about whatever it is that I’m saying, that I really mean it. Because I’ve noticed that, if I fib a little, or exaggerate my feelings about something, people then are, like, “I love that thing, too!” And that feels terrible. So one thing that I’ve realized is ultra-important is making sure I’m surrounded by, and that I work for and with, people who are going to protect me from the forces that threaten the honesty and threaten the realness—wanting to be liked, wanting to be successful. Sometimes I’m that threatening force! So I need to have people I can trust to protect me from my own sick brain.

Also:

> I was always very aware that I was different, and I didn’t fit in, but I was also always trying very hard to fit in by being the nicest, the smartest, the most polite—whatever it is you need from me so that you and your people will accept me. I don’t regret that it’s how I coped with things, because it’s what makes me able to be available for all people—it’s a superpower. But I do feel like I’ve always been asking the world, “See me, see me, please.” And now I’m, like, “Don’t see me!”

Original source: “I Fail Almost Every Day”: An Interview with Samin Nosrat

# Socratic questioning

First, the method and it's good intentions:

Socratic questioning—Here, you leave people to draw their own conclusions by simply asking a set of helpful questions to take them to the realization that there’s an issue (and the hope is that they’ll then ask you for a solution or even stumble on your solution and offer it up as if it were their own). This, we’re told, increases ownership of the issue because the other person—the person needing to change—came up with the idea himself.

Then, how it often doesn't work out as exploration, more as pointing to an existing point:

Socratic questioning—This one is trickier, because it often looks open and curious. You’re asking questions, so aren’t you already doing what this different-questions approach suggests? Our experience is that generally people who use this approach are not actually curious about something new they might learn from the other person. (This lack of curiosity starts, we’re sorry to point out, with the great Socrates himself, who was a smart fellow who might be forgiven for thinking he had the solution concealed inside his cloak.) Instead, the questioner leads the person down a familiar path (designed by the questioner) and entirely inside familiar (to the questioner) territory. We can spot this in our videos with leaders because they will generally ignore any new information that comes their way and continue their set of questions. When someone gives an unexpected answer to the question, the leader looks more exasperated than confused—because the other person is missing the point. The leader is using questions to search for particular answers, not to get more information on the table.

I always want Socrates to just tell me what he wants the conclusion to be and work backwards. Plato needed an editor, perhaps. But chopped down, Socrates proofs wouldn't have seemed proofs.

Both quotes from Simple Habits for Complex Times.

Finishing books is overrated

They are often very pretty to look at. You also feel you can read them in small bites, or you can read only a single chapter or section. The compulsion to finish is relatively weak, a good thing. You can feel you have consumed them without reading them at all, a true liberation, which in turns means you will read them as you wish to.

Tyler here is one the biggest proponents of not finishing books if you don’t find it valuable. This notion is so different than the usual upbringing, what I’ve had, at least. It also raises concerns of FOMO, and lost money in those pages not read. I think it would work best with physical books: it’s still very hard to scan and flip pages in Kindles (perhaps a skill I need to build).

Original source: In praise of art books