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  • Doug Belshaw 1:28 pm on October 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Hurry Slowly: communication and trust are key to successful organisations 

    Image CC0 José Martín Ramírez C

    I’m re-reading Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina at the moment, which has one of the most famous opening lines in literature:

    “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

    As a consultant who works with a range of organisations in different sectors, I see the same thing in terms of organisational effectiveness. The two things that make organisations awesome, whether they’re for-profit, non-profit, co-ops, or something else are:

    1. Communication
    2. Trust

    Without these two, organisations have to have a lot of something else to get things done. That can be money, it can be time, or it can be talent. But the quickest and easiest route to success is paved with good internal and external communication strategies, and trust between stakeholders.

    This brings me to the first episode of Jocelyn K. Glei’s podcast Hurry Slowly, featuring Basecamp CEO Jason Fried. I’m a big fan both of Jocelyn’s newsletter and the Basecamp’s Signal v. Noise blog, so I’ve been looking forward to the launch of this new podcast! It didn’t disappoint, and I recommend you listen to it in its entirety.

    Fried touches on a number of points, backing up my theory around communication and trust being central to successful organisations. He points to manifestations of this such as the problem of ‘workplace chat’ tools, working beyond 40 hours per week, and having complete control over your own calendar.

    To be specific, the kinds of things I see in great organisations are things like:

    • Discrete channels for specific kinds of conversation.
    • A process for making decisions without having to have a meeting (or several!)
    • Employees blocking out hours at a time for ‘deep work’.
    • No (or very few) emails and notifications outside of normal working hours.
    • People volunteering for work and covering each other, rather than having to have it assigned to them.

    In contrast, and to return to the Tolstoy quotation above, disorganised, problematic organisations are all different. However, in How F*cked Up Is Your Management?: An uncomfortable conversation about modern leadership, Johnathan Nightingale outlines a test he has to ‘out’ problematic business practices. The book is based on a blog, so the post pertaining to the first chapter can be found here.

    Nightingale (who was in charge of Firefox while I was at Mozilla) has a list. It’s more tech company-specific than mine would be, but it illustrates issues similar to those I would highlight. He says you should score one “My management culture is f*cked up” point for each of the following:

    • We have an unlimited vacation policy
    • We don’t do regular 1:1s, but we have open office hours/are super available if anyone wants to chat
    • We don’t have a process for interviewing, we just hire awesome people when we meet them
    • We super care about diversity, but we don’t want to lower the bar so we just hire the best person for the job even if it means diversity suffers
    • We don’t have defined levels and career paths for our employees, we’re a really flat org
    • We don’t have formal managers for every staff member, everyone just gets their work done
    • We don’t have, like, HR HR, but our recruiter/office manager/only female employee is super good if you want someone to talk to
    • We don’t do performance improvement plans for employees that are struggling. We just have a super honest conversation about how they aren’t a good fit and fire them
    • We would have some hard explaining to do if our salary list accidentally became public

    Later in the same post/chapter, Nightingale makes a really important point about management and leadership. Everyone wants to innovate around it, he says, but just as you shouldn’t ‘roll your own’ cryptography, so you should go with an existing management approach:

    “I don’t need you to be the best in the world at management. But if you’re not planning to be, if you’re not going to be really studious and dedicated to it, then for god’s sake stop messing with it. I promise you can’t build a better management system in your spare time.”

    In other words, get your processes right, and good things follow. And the key to getting your processes right? Communication and trust.

    Image CC0 José Martín Ramírez C

  • Doug Belshaw 7:55 am on October 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arthur Brock, blockchain, currency, Douglas Rushkoff, Holochain, , recognition, Serge Ravet   

    Currencies and ‘current-sees’ 

    Money is a terrible measure of value. In the same way that most of the value you have to offer, is simply not accessible through dollars, our economy fails to access and enable the bulk of the value around us. Until we create currencies which recognize value flows at all these levels, we perpetuate intolerable poverty. This isn't a poverty of inequitable distribution, but a poverty of measurement.

    I’ve been catching up on Team Human podcasts this week. In Episode 48, Douglas Rushkoff interviews Arthur Brock, who describes himself as spending most of his “time and energy on projects that [he] believe[s] support and accelerate the harmonious evolution of humanity”. His website comes across as quasi-mystical and, to be honest, wouldn’t have been something that I would have paid much attention to, had it not been for the podcast.

    >> Listen to Episode 48 of the Team Human podcast

    The interview covers a wide range of topics, including some insights as to why existing cryptocurrencies are set to replicate the same problems we’ve already got. The key takeaway for me, however, was captured in a play on words Brock makes between ‘currencies’ and ‘current-sees’. The diagram above kind of gets to this, in the sense of not reducing everything to a single measure of value.

    Instead of thinking about fiscal exchange, Brock points out that we already ascribe value to objects that aren’t contained in the object itself. For example, food is described as ‘organic’, diamonds as ‘conflict-free’, etc. Collapsing all of that down to a price point or exchange of money doesn’t capture all of the value. This is where ‘current-sees’ come in; ways of capturing value that aren’t reducible to financial instruments.

    My brain went immediately to Open Badges as a form of ‘current-see’, much in the way that people like Serge Ravet talk about the importance of ‘recognition’ over credentialing. The value of badges is that it’s a standardised way of capturing diversity and difference. That’s why initiatives that seek to standardise and lock these things down are, to my mind, misguided.

    More technical people reading this might want to explore Holochain, an initiative to ‘think outside the blocks’. Instead of a single ledger with every transaction, Holochain ‘blockchains the blockchain’. “Instead of being built on top of cryptographic tokens [Holochains] are organized around cryptographic validation of people (peers) validated against an immutable cryptographic record of those peers actions.” Geek out on the details here.

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