A few years at our annual CEO summit, Scott Heiferman, founder and CEO of Meetup, told a room full of startup CEOs that you have to build diversity into your company from day one because if you don’t, it becomes so much harder later on. He explained that nobody wants to join a company where nobody looks like them. That really hit home and woke quite a few people up.
All companies and people suffer from back burnering things. You focus on what you must get done and everything else takes a back seat.
That doesn’t work when it comes to hiring and diversity. You have to prioritize it and make it intentional.
Coherence, the quality of forming a unified whole, is about our actions matching what we think and what we say.
Pablo Ferreiro and Manuel Alcazar, in their book Managing People, refer to lack of coherence as disloyalty. Although it’s obvious, the term disloyalty gave me a new light on the concept: lack of coherence always has an effect on other people.
Disloyalty. This is the attitude of an individual whose actions do not match his words. Even when truth and veracity exist, action is neutralized. In these cases, the problem is not communication but motivation: the disloyal person knows what he is doing but chooses to continue. This is particularly serious in the case of managers because their disloyal actions are more eloquent than their words and compromise any good communication that may exist in the organization. Unity1 is rapidly destroyed2.
- Unity can be loosely defined as the bond of trust and motivation among the members of the organization that makes them willingly go the extra mile for both those members and to exceed the expectations of the organization.↩
- Garcia, Manuel Alcazar; Pablo Ferreiro de Babot. Managing People, Kindle Edition, Locations 4208-4212. The quote in Gobierno de Personas, the Spanish edition of the book, reflects better the idea: “Deslealtad: Es la actitud de quien no es fiel en sus acciones a la palabra dada. Aunque haya verdad y veracidad, la acción se torna estéril. En estos casos el problema no es la comunicación sino la motivación: el desleal sabe, pero no quiere. Es especialmente grave en el caso de personas con mando, porque sus acciones desleales resultan más elocuentes que sus palabras y contradicen toda la buena comunicación que pueda haber en la organización. La unidad se destruye de modo acelerado.”↩
Daniel Goleman, writing about his father Irving Goleman, philologist and professor:
Irving’s signature course, “World Literature: Autobiography of Civilization,” extended beyond the standard cannon to include myths, folk ballads, and oral works from ancient to modern times. The first paper he assigned was an autobiography, with the prompt “Who Am I?” Based on this assignment, he would design a personalized reading list for each student. He chose books that spoke to the issues they faced in life.
There’s a lot that can be said about treating each student differently instead of insisting that everyone should conform to the same mold. More important, this does not apply only to school or college, but also to other situations in life. It’s a kind of empathy that helps us consider the person in front of us as unique and original.
After using Todoist for managing my task list for more than a year, I’ve decided to change systems again1.
There’s nothing wrong with Todoist. It can organize tasks into projects, and tag them with contexts. It handles deadlines, integrates well with several mail clients and other programs. Syncronization between the desktop and mobile version works flawlessly.
However, Todoist interface somehow gets in the way between me and my task list.
I’ve switched back to Gina Trapani’s todo.txt, which is just a command line interface to a plain text file. Syncing can be done through Dropbox, and there are several apps available for iOS and Android. I’ve used todo.txt before, so its text interface feels natural to me2.
The first thing I’ve noticed is that now I’m relying a lot more on my task list to organize my day.
Showing up every day, and doing your work, even though it may not have the quality you expect, will lead you to producing better work.
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
Frameworks and procedures make us feel secure. They excel when execution and efficiency are crucial. However, when we hit a wall, or when we are stuck with a problem; when we hear an explanation that is presented to us as the only explanation posible… it may be time to take a step back and consider things from a different point of view.
The comfortable framework that we’ve built around the situation may be hindering us from finding better alternatives, or a solution at all. We may be so fixed in our point of view that we fail to consider that other people probably understand the problem differently. They may be seeing relevant aspects of the situation that we are blind to.
Clayton Christensen, explaining the concept of jobs to be done, tells the story of a company trying to offer a better product for their customers but actually failing to understand what the customer wants the product for. (It’s not the main point of his explanation, but I think is a good example of different points of view of the same situation.) A restaurant chain discovers that some significant part of their clients buy their milkshakes in the morning before going to work. The do their homework: they group their customers in segments, study the competition… and after several iterations, they decide that they clients would benefit from more shake flavors, added nutritional value, etc. To their surprise, this strategy has no effect and the sales remain essentially the same.
In face of failure, they decide to actually go to the point of sale and talk to their actual clients. Christensen calls this understanding the job to be done. Why are they really buying milkshakes for. What job are the customers ‘hiring’ the milkshake for?
“Most of them, it turned out, bought [the milkshake] to do a similar job. They faced a long, boring commute and needed something to keep that extra hand busy and to make the commute more interesting. They weren’t yet hungry, but knew that they’d be hungry by 10 a.m.; they wanted to consume something now that would stave off hunger until noon. And they faced constraints: They were in a hurry, they were wearing work clothes, and they had (at most) one free hand.”1
In his book Tribe of Mentors, Tim Ferriss explains the question he asks himself whether considering a business decision, personal relationship, etc. What would this look like if it were easy?
What happens if we frame things in terms of elegance instead of strain? Sometimes, we find incredible results with ease instead of stress. Sometimes, we “solve” the problem by completely reframing it.
Reframing can be an excellent tool when used properly. The difficult part is recognizing that the current frame needs to be changed or discarded2.
- Clay Christensen’s Milkshake Marketing. This video of Christensen explaining the case in class is worth watching: link. ↩
- There are several ways to do this. For example, you can consider the constraints of a given situation, identify the critical ones, and test if you can walk around them. For example, see Bill McNeese overview on the Theory of Constraints, popularized in novel form by the book The Goal. ↩