Work Futures Update | A Secret Order

| CSR | Women and Men | Pay Cuts | JPMorgan | Postmates | Instacart | Avoid Email If You Need A ‘Yes’ |

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

2020–04–02 Beacon NY | I am offering a bunch of snippets in this issue because I have too much material and too little time.


Changing the name to ‘Work Futures Update’ because I can’t even keep to a weekly schedule.

Quote of the Update

In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.

| Carl Jung

I hope he’s right.


A great many large companies talk about having a social purpose and set of values, or about how much they care for their employees and other stakeholders. Now is the time for them to make good on that commitment.

| Mark Kramer, Coronavirus Is Putting Corporate Social Responsibility to the Test


The real problem is not a lack of competent females [for leadership roles]; it is too few obstacles for incompetent males, which explains the surplus of overconfident, narcissistic, and unethical people in charge.


Twenty-first century leadership demands that leaders establish an emotional connection with their followers, and that is arguably the only reason to expect leaders to avoid automation.

| Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Cindy Gallop, 7 Leadership Lessons Men Can Learn from Women


we’re being asked to choose our own pay cuts | Alison Green of Ask A Manager gets asked

In the wake of COVID-19, my large company has been told that “tough decisions” are ahead, and that they would first start by asking us to to take voluntary pay cuts. The more of a pay cut that everyone takes, the fewer people will need to be laid off.

Here’s the catch — we get to pick the pay cut.

Green doesn’t like it — there are too many ways it can go wrong: inequities, the implicit loyalty test, backlash against people with many dependents, and so on. But she doesn’t ask the (obvious?) question: does the company let people decide how much they are getting paid, before coronavirus? I bet not.


JPMorgan Announces New Diversity Push | Emily Flitter looks into new efforts at JPMorgan:

JPMorgan Chase is increasing its efforts to diversify its work force and customer base after a Dec. 11 New York Times report showed a black customer and a black employee each struggling to gain access to the same opportunities as their white peers at the country’s largest bank.

In a memo to employees on Tuesday, Gordon Smith and Daniel Pinto, JPMorgan’s acting co-chief executive officers, said the bank was making diversity training mandatory for all employees and would pay more attention to employee complaints. They said the bank would expand the recruiting team dedicated to hiring people of color, make a greater effort to hire vendors run by minorities and work harder to provide customers with access to its full range of products.

Many observers — like Heather McCulloch, the executive director of Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap, says this is just ‘more of the same’ and not the deep change that’s needed.

JPMorgan is the nation’s largest lender.


Postmates couriers are employees, New York appeals court finds | Jennifer Carsen

An appeals court in New York has concluded that Postmates couriers are employees entitled to unemployment insurance (In re Vega, №13 (State of New York Court of Appeals, March 20, 2020)).

Postmates, according the court, is a delivery business that uses a website and smartphone application to dispatch couriers to pick up goods from local restaurants and stores and deliver them to customers in cities across the United States. Couriers are required to undergo a background check before starting work and are paid 80% of the fees customers pay to Postmates; Postmates pays the couriers even when the fees are not collected from customers.

The court concluded that “Postmates exercised control over its couriers sufficient to render them employees rather than independent contractors operating their own businesses.” The company could not operate without the couriers, whose delivery assignments are controlled by Postmates. If a courier becomes unavailable, Postmates (rather than the courier, the court emphasized) finds a replacement. Additionally, “[t]he couriers’ compensation, which the company unilaterally fixes and the couriers have no ability to negotiate, are paid to the couriers by Postmates” and Postmates “bears the loss when customers do not pay.”

The gig economy house of cards is slowly falling apart.


Instacart updates benefits and policies as workers threaten strike | Krishna Thakker reports:

Some Instacart gig workers are planning to strike Monday over a lack of safety measures by the company, according to reports and a letter posted by Gig Workers United, the organization that has called for the strike. Workers who participate will refuse to accept any orders until the company gives them $5 hazard pay and a default tip of 10% per order, free safety gear like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, and extended paid leave for those with pre-existing conditions who have been advised not to work, according to the letter.

Over the weekend, Instacart beefed up its worker benefits package. It extended the deadline for its 14-day paid leave policy that covers hourly and full-time shoppers diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined an extra 30 days, to May 8. It also added a bonus system for in-store shoppers, introduced contactless alcohol delivery, retooled its tipping function to remove the no-tip option and announced it will begin distributing hand sanitizer to workers who request it.

The workers went on strike anyway, saying the measures were too little.

Work Futures Weekly | Punish and Reward

| Joy at Work | Note-Taking | Workplace Culture Shock | Food Responders | Zoom Happy Hour |

Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

2020–03–21 Beacon NY | I am well. Hunkered down. A basement full of supplies. I am having, I confess, a hard time concentrating on work. I am following @ProfAishaAhmad’s advice (see Elsewhere, below) and trying to not stress about productivity during wartime.

Quotes of the Week

Our society is constructed to reward the rich in good times and punish the poor in bad times.

| NY Times Editorial Board

Everyone has inside it himself, this plague, because no one in the world, no one, is immune.

| Albert Camus, The Plague


As Economy Is Upended, Marie Kondo Drops a Workplace Book | Penelope Green has a wicked turn of phrase, and looks into Marie Kodo’s newest book, Joy at Work:

The Goopification of the workplace is just a contemporary spin on what has long been a best practice of capitalism, albeit at very specific times.

“Basically, worker happiness becomes an issue anytime the labor market gets tight,” said Charles Duhigg, a former New York Times reporter who studies productivity and is the author of “Smarter Faster Better,” among other books. “Look at Henry Ford. The reason he paid his workers twice as much as everyone else is he figured out it was so hard to train them, he needed a way to keep them.”


Ms. Kondo marshals a few studies that show co-workers think neatniks are more trustworthy, intelligent and kind than their slovenly colleagues; and are more likely to be promoted. Tidy workers, basking in the glow of their colleagues’ high estimation, work harder, according to a tenet of social science called the Pygmalion effect, when we excel because others expect us to.

Social science being what it is, the reverse is also true: There are studies that have shown that those with messy desks command higher salaries than their tidy colleagues. There is some empirical proof that a big mess can be the sign of a creative mind, and that a swirl of scurf and funk can give birth to history-changing ideas. Think of Silicon Valley, and the notoriously slovenly offices of early Facebook, sticky with beer. Think of penicillin.

Still, not all messes are physical, and an empty desk doesn’t mean workers aren’t suffering from virtual clutter and chaotic systems. Such messes, like pointless meetings, too much email, too many decisions and lousy in-office communication, are not necessarily of their own making.

Ms. Kondo has gathered studies that show the average worker spends half of his or her day answering emails (amplifying stress levels and untethering their focus) and wastes two and a half hours a week in ineffective meetings, at a cost of $3.7 billion in lost productivity each year. Lost passwords, according to a study of American and British workers, equals a loss in productivity, per employee, of $420 each year. And so forth.

I am going to throw away the pile of business cards stacked on my desk. Aside from that, I remain defiantly scruffy. And I am unlikely to read this book.


How a Note-Taking System Can Make You Look Like the Smartest Person in the Room | The system described is a watered-down zettelkasten. Better to look at the original. But I agree with Barry Davret’s premise that investing in a ‘system of knowledge’ can become a superpower.


Workplace culture is a ‘rude awakening’ for new graduates| Layli Foroudi looks at some recent books about millennials at work:

Overly hierarchical company structures that do not empower young workers can be a “rude awakening” for new recruits, says Claire Raines, co-author of Generations at Work. Business degrees and courses mis-sell the idea of a modern company as “weblike in the way they handle leadership and assignment [and] encouraging engagement from workers of all levels”, she says, as if a flat structure with connections between people of varying seniority were standard. “They stay until they find something that looks better, and then they move on.”


Malcolm Harris, author of Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials, found during his research that many young people coming out of university know what they are preparing for, but “whether they are willing to accept their work conditions is another question”. “Workplace ‘reality’ is a bludgeon that bosses use to attack their workers’ standard of living, when the real reality is that work conditions are up for dispute,” he says, adding that salaries for younger workers should in many cases be higher.


I Deliver Your Food. Don’t I Deserve Basic Protections? | Mariah Mitchell makes the case for emergency funding of gig economy workers. They are also first responders.


You Can Still Have Happy Hour. Just Do It on FaceTime. | Priya Parker inspired me to have a Zoom cocktail party yesterday.


Thread by @ProfAishaAhmad: Academic peeps: I've lived through many disasters. Here is my advice on "productivity"

Remote Work Update | Various news flashes from Slack, Microsoft, Scribd, Around, and Swit | Stowe Boyd

Scaling Up To Wholesale Remote Work | A very different prospect than a few people working at home on occasional Fridays | Stowe Boyd

Work Futures Weekly | Metaphors Matter

| Wholesale Remote Work | Remote Isn’t | Work Journaling in Markdown | Closing Triangles | Part-time Pay Penalty | O’Reilly Pointers|

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

2020–03–16 Beacon NY | I missed a week because I was filling the bomb shelter with provisions. (I just call the basement a bomb shelter: it’s not, really. Although it looks like one, now.)

Quote of the Week

A person who doesn’t think metaphors matter is half blind.

| Stowe Boyd

In Scaling Up To Wholesale Remote Work, the newest installment in the new Work Talk series, I explore the challenges of what many businesses are facing: going 100% remote, all at once.

While many businesses have allowed occasional working from home, most businesses operate around the premise that most people, most of the time, are working from a company office. People schedule face-to-face meetings that take place in conference rooms, at people’s desks, or at the corner Starbucks, and they rely on proximity to conduct a great deal of the daily business informally and spontaneously. It’s well-known that sitting more than 50 meters away from a colleague drastically decreases interaction with them. What will 50 miles do to that relationship? Then multiply that level of disruption by the number of people in your company network who will now be working from home.


Grappling with a wholesale transition to remote work will force a new obligation on leaders to reassess the company’s operations across the board, and to reconfigure for a distributed, decentralized, and discontinuous world order, which we have been watching evolve over the past decade: the 3D world of work.


Perhaps just as important: we are on track to learn a costly lesson. Our societies — and the world of business — need to build more resilience into how we live and work in a globally interconnected world. Coronavirus is only the most recent example of an epidemic sweeping the world that we are unprepared for. If and when coronavirus abates, we will still be subject to other pandemics, for example, like the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed an estimated 50 million. We will have to build into our institutions — including businesses — the capacity for distributed, decentralized, and discontinuous work. Permanently. Not just for the duration of this pandemic.

The series sponsor, Simpplr, has announced their Work From Home 2020 Communication Package, which can provide remote employees a virtual headquarters. Simpplr is waiving implementation fees and offering ‘a two-week deployment to support organizations with an enterprise-wide internal communications platform to keep the workforce connected and aligned’.


A related post in the Work Talk series is apropos: Paradoxes of Engagement: Remote Isn’t | Do remote workers make their managers better? It seems so.


I wrote about WFH in Work Week | Work From Home, like the offers of help from Zoom, Zoho, and other vendors.

Here’s what’s happening at Zoom:


I wrote about how I am Work Journaling in Markdown with Typora. I’ve defected from highly structured work management solutions in my personal work.


I enjoyed Valdis Kreb’s Network Weaving 101 post (from 2006), which popped up on Twitter recently:

The basic skill of network weaving is “closing triangles”.

A triangle exists between three people in a social network. An “open triangle” exists where one person knows two other people who are not yet connected to each other — X knows Y and X knows Z, but Y and Z do not know each other. A network weaver (X) may see an opportunity or possibility from making a connection between two currently unconnected people (Y and Z). A “closed triangle” exists when all three people know each other: X-Y, X-Z, Y-Z.

Let’s look at a real life example of network weaving.

Here we see our friend and colleague Ed Morrison, of iOpen, connected to two of his clients — the economic development folks in both Lexington, KY and Oklahoma City, OK. He knows each of these groups, but they do not know each other. Much could be learned if both of these groups shared their economic development experiences with each other — innovation happens at the intersections.

But you can’t introduce groups to groups, or organizations to organizations — it works better by introducing people to people. So, Ed picked two leaders from each group to close the triangle. He picked Cynthia Reid at the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce[OKC] and Lynda Brabowski of Commerce Lexington[CLX]. This triangle is illustrated below.

When Lynda expressed a desire to Ed for CLX to visit another region that they could learn from, Ed immediately knew the answer — visit OKC, who previously had faced similar issues and handled them very well. Ed, also knew which introduction to make — a network weaver needs to know WHOM to connect by knowing the people, the groups, and the dynamics involved in the connections that are being made. The closed triangle — after Ed’s introduction — is shown below.


Working part time comes with a 29% pay penalty, says EPI study | Valerie Bolden-Barrett reports on new research on the part-time pay penalty:

Part-time workers experience an adjusted hourly wage penalty of 29.3% compared to similarly situated full-time workers, according to new research by an Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and Penn State economics professor, Lonnie Golden. After adjusting for industry and occupation, part-timers are paid 19.8% less than full-timers.

The research showed that the pay gap for part-time workers is even greater when benefits are factored in, adding up to a 25.3% penalty. The adjusted wage penalty is worse for men than for women, and for white male workers compared to workers of color. EPI notes this difference likely reflects “white male workers’ advantage in wage rates at full-time jobs.”

“While some workers prefer the time flexibility that part-time working provides, more than 4 million U.S. part-time workers still would prefer to work a full-time job and likely many others who are working part time for non-economic reasons would also prefer full-time work if they did not have constraints like the lack of support for family caretaking and pursuing education,” Golden said in a media release.

And it’s even worse when you factor in lack of paid sick leave during a pandemic.


O’Reilly’s newsletter recently included a bunch of great pointers:

Last Sunday’s edition of the New York Times Magazine zooms in on a few issues relevant to the future of work. Unlike other such special editions — rife with prognostication and grand visions of what’s to come — the contributors to this annual edition hew close to a unifying theme: the challenges faced by twenty-first century workers and how they can assert power on the job. Beyond the cover’s depiction of a Rube Goldbergian corporate machine, you’ll find stories on activists within the ranks at Google and the repercussions they face, how the Trump administration has hog-tied organized labor, the movement toward salary transparency, contending with a multigenerational workforce, and five ways to work the system at work. More than a portal into the future of work, this edition provides a look at issues very much in the now.

+ As reported in The Hill, Kickstarter employees just became the first white-collar tech workers to unionize, marking a breakthrough in tech activism.

+ Tech employee activism is spreading. Ars Technica reports on the employee walkout at Oracle over founder Larry Ellison’s Trump fundraiser.

+ From Quartz: A field guide to the future of work

+ For another take on the future of work, including an algorithm-driven STEM school gone horribly haywire, watch The Simpsons episode “The Miseducation of Lisa Simpson” (season 31, episode 12), which aired about two weeks ago.

Work Futures Weekly | Hostile to the Unfamiliar

| Anaïs Nin | Industrial Robots | Robots as Bosses | AB 5 Reversal | Remedy for Turnover | Labor Law Is Broken | Buzzwords | A New Way of Work |

Photo by Daniel Tuttle on Unsplash

Beacon NY 2020–03–01 | I took a two-day trip to Montreal which kind of blew a hole in things, but that’s a great town.

The Quote of the Week

It is a sign of great inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar.

| Anaïs Nin


Robots aren’t taking our jobs — they’re becoming our bosses | Josh Dzieza outlines how AI is becoming first-line management for hourly workers:

On conference stages and at campaign rallies, tech executives and politicians warn of a looming automation crisis — one where workers are gradually, then all at once, replaced by intelligent machines. But their warnings mask the fact that an automation crisis has already arrived. The robots are here, they’re working in management, and they’re grinding workers into the ground.

The robots are watching over hotel housekeepers, telling them which room to clean and tracking how quickly they do it. They’re managing software developers, monitoring their clicks and scrolls and docking their pay if they work too slowly. They’re listening to call center workers, telling them what to say, how to say it, and keeping them constantly, maximally busy. While we’ve been watching the horizon for the self-driving trucks, perpetually five years away, the robots arrived in the form of the supervisor, the foreman, the middle manager.

These automated systems can detect inefficiencies that a human manager never would — a moment’s downtime between calls, a habit of lingering at the coffee machine after finishing a task, a new route that, if all goes perfectly, could get a few more packages delivered in a day. But for workers, what look like inefficiencies to an algorithm were their last reserves of respite and autonomy, and as these little breaks and minor freedoms get optimized out, their jobs are becoming more intense, stressful, and dangerous. Over the last several months, I’ve spoken with more than 20 workers in six countries. For many of them, their greatest fear isn’t that robots might come for their jobs: it’s that robots have already become their boss.

In few sectors are the perils of automated management more apparent than at Amazon. Almost every aspect of management at the company’s warehouses is directed by software, from when people work to how fast they work to when they get fired for falling behind. Every worker has a “rate,” a certain number of items they have to process per hour, and if they fail to meet it, they can be automatically fired.

The platforms underlying these first-line manager bots scale up non-linearly, so they are the CFO’s dream come true. But for the workers running as fast as they can on the automated treadmill, it’s a faceless stress prison where everything is geared to running the machine faster, faster, faster. And the machine parts that give out are the human beings putting consumer goods in plastic bins.

The final solution will be when they can deploy robots to make the beds and pack the Amazon boxes, which is just around the corner. But in the meantime, the humans are wearing out under the strain.

People can’t sustain this level of intense work without breaking down. Last year, ProPublica, BuzzFeed, and others published investigations about Amazon delivery drivers careening into vehicles and pedestrians as they attempted to complete their demanding routes, which are algorithmically generated and monitored via an app on drivers’ phones. In November, Reveal analyzed documents from 23 Amazon warehouses and found that almost 10 percent of full-time workers sustained serious injuries in 2018, more than twice the national average for similar work. Multiple Amazon workers have told me that repetitive stress injuries are epidemic but rarely reported. (An Amazon spokesperson said the company takes worker safety seriously, has medical staff on-site, and encourages workers to report all injuries.) Backaches, knee pain, and other symptoms of constant strain are common enough for Amazon to install painkiller vending machines in its warehouses.

A very good piece that ranges into call centers and knowledge-worker monitoring. I’ll leave you with one thoughtful line:

Every industrial revolution is as much a story of how we organize work as it is of technological invention.

Go read it.


Apropos of that, in Crazy idea but hear us out… With robots taking people’s jobs, can we rethink this whole working to survive thing?, Thomas Claburn reports on new research in France that shows companies adopting industrial robots leads to less work for people:

The adoption of industrial robots in France makes manufacturing businesses more productive and profitable but at the expense of jobs, according to a recent paper presented by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private, non-profit, non-partisan research organization in America.

In a paper titled “Competing with Robots: Firm-Level Evidence from France,” economics professors Daron Acemoglu (MIT), Claire LeLarge (University of Paris Saclay), and Pascual Restrepo (Boston University) analyzed 55,390 French manufacturing firms to study the economic impact of robot adoption.

Within that data set, 598 French companies deployed industrial robots between 2010 and 2015. The researchers found, as they expected, that firms adopting robots shed jobs as they became more profitable and productive. They also created jobs internally, but those gains were more than offset nationally by job losses among competitors who were unable to keep up with the early adopters.

“Overall, even though firms adopting robots expand their employment, the market-level implications of robot adoption are negative,” the paper says.

In 2017, Acemoglu and Restrepo conducted a similar analysis in the US and found in that instance robots were depressing wages.

This latest research argues against the notion that automation technology will create more jobs than it will destroy.

Depressing wages in one study and the number of hours of work in another. Please connect the dots.

AB 5 Author Proposes Legislation Easing Impact on Freelance Journalists | Hollywood Reporter | Katie Kilkenny reports on major revisions to the AB 5 law’s impacts on freelance writers, photographers, and editors:

California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez is responding to freelance journalists’ repeated criticisms of her gig economy law with new legislation.

The author of AB 5, legislation that aims to crack down on companies that misclassify part-time workers as independent contractors, revealed on Thursday that she is working to nix the prior law’s 35-”submission” cap for freelance writers, editors and photographers in a bill working its way through the California legislature this year, AB 1850. Her latest amendments to AB 1850 make clear that a contractor does not and cannot replace an employee role.

The new amendment to AB 1850 also requires that a freelancer’s contract states rate of pay, the time by which the contractor will receive payment and what kind of intellectual property rights the contractor has to the work. Freelance writers have often complained that publications pay them for their work late; typically, a freelance writer does not have rights to their stories published at a major outlet.

The new AB 1850 amendments also require that companies hiring these contractors must allow them to work for more than one business, and that the majority of the work the contractor performs cannot take place at the hiring company’s office. Gonzalez’s office adds that journalists and hiring entities must satisfy the following AB 5 requirements to keep their independent contractor status: that the contractor works through a “sole proprietorship” or other business; that the contractor has a separate location from a hiring entity’s office in which to do their work; that the contractor has a business license for work performed after July 1, 2020; that the contractor is able to set or negotiate their own rates; and that the contractor is able to set their own hours outside of “reasonable” business hours and project completion dates.

If passed, the legislation will go into effect January 1, 2021.

We have to wait a year for this necessary recast of AB 5 to go into effect? I bet that if the bill passes businesses will operate on the obvious assumption that no one will be prosecuted if they immediately start operating on the 2021 model.


The remedy for high turnover | Augusto Giacoman and Deniz Caglar make the case that in service industries, where employees frequently quit, upskilling frontline managers and redesigning the hiring and onboarding processes can help ease the pain.


Why Are Workers Struggling? Because Labor Law Is Broken | Emily Bazelon provides a great recap of centuries of labor battles and law.


The Fault Lies Not In Our Buzzwords | But in ourselves, that we are buzzlings | Stowe Boyd

A Manifesto For A New Way Of Work | We need a revolution in our thinking about business, and how we organize ourselves to accomplish work, as individuals, networks, and businesses | Stowe Boyd (2015)


Somehow, working or making phone calls in a tiny phonebooth does not strike me as inducing happiness.

Work Futures Weekly | A Pig On The Tracks

| Ursula Le Guin | Organizational Amnesia | Zappos Drops Holacracy | Why People Quit | Work OS |

Photo by Forest Simon on Unsplash

Beacon NY 2020–02–24 | Been two weeks, since I took some time off last week.

Quote of the Week

I am not proposing a return to the Stone Age. My intent is not reactionary, nor even conservative, but simply subversive. It seems that the utopian imagination is trapped, like capitalism and industrialism and the human population, in a one-way future consisting only of growth. All I’m trying to do is figure out how to put a pig on the tracks.

| Ursula Le Guin


Organisational Amnesia | Andy Polaine on why companies forget so quickly the hard-won learnings that came from workshops and transformations projects. He’s had previous customers ask him to return to lead new activities that are repeats:

For some people in the organisations that were coming back to us, the training and mentoring was a career-changing experience. So career-changing that a few of them left to work in more design-led organisations, frustrated they couldn’t work in these new ways in their current one. Or they moved within the company afterwards, either voluntarily or through one of the endless rounds of departmental reshuffles that don’t really tackle underlying structural problems of organisations.

The result is a kind of organisational amnesia. Some of the ways of working and process did remain, but it was living on in the remaining people more than the organisation. When they leave, the organisation will forget.

If you think of people and practices as the neural pathways in the organisational brain, when they’re damaged — through redundancies, attrition or “restructuring trauma”, those pathways are destroyed, blocked or fade. Process is often used as a scaffold to rebuild the pathways. It does help to have an explicit process or methodology that everyone understands and shares the meaning of, but process alone does not preserve understanding and shared meaning.

Actually process can have the opposite effect, because blindly following procedure can be pretty mindless. People aren’t thinking about why they’re doing something, they’re just on autopilot, like when you drive a familiar route and suddenly realise you’re nearly home and can’t remember the last ten minutes of the journey.

Practice — a combination of craft and habit — does reinforce those pathways. Especially reflective practice, which is more than just making. It’s is also intentional consideration of what you are doing before, during and after the act of making.

Practices, rituals and craft skills — what might loosely be termed cultures of doing — deteriorate if there is nobody practicing them or if they’re not valued. Think of languages that die out. Unless a practice becomes a habit and is valued in an organisation, it will fade away.

Read the whole thing.


Zappos has quietly backed away from holacracy | Aimee Groth breaks the news:

In the last few years, Zappos has been quietly moving away from holacracy. It has done away with its at-times rigidly (and ironically) bureaucratic meetings and brought back managers, while retaining its circular hierarchy, a key artifact of holacracy.

Zappos executive John Bunch, who co-led the rollout of holacracy, has explained that the company, famous for its exceptional customer service, encountered some “big challenges” in its business metrics and sought to redirect employees’ focus back to the customer (an oft-cited criticism of holacracy is that it is too internally focused). By March 2017, the e-retailer had shifted its strategy to remedy this.

The solution? A marketplace system where teams operate like small businesses and manage their own profit-and-loss statements, rather than focusing on the scope of their holacratic authority to manage the company’s full P&L.

According to company sources, the internal small businesses are incentivized to develop new product lines and services for Zappos’s customers. They transact with one another at market rates, similar to the way they’d transact with the outside world. The bet is that market incentives, the resulting allocation of resources, and value-creation signals (e.g., profit) will more effectively help Zappos innovate — and that the costs added by internal negotiations, competition, and self-direction will be outweighed by the benefits of speed, innovation, scalability, and adaptability.

Sounds like Zappos has adopted a micro-enterprise model, like Haier RenDanHeyi and Kyocera Amoeba Management.


Why People Really Quit Their Jobs | Lori Goler, Janelle Gale, Brynn Harrington, and Adam Grant assert that Facebook has worked hard to make great managers, so the usual ‘people quit their bosses’ doesn’t hold. Instead, this:

Of course, people are more likely to jump ship when they have a horrible boss. But we’ve spent years working to select and develop great managers at Facebook, and most of our respondents said they were happy with theirs. The decision to exit was because of the work. They left when their job wasn’t enjoyable, their strengths weren’t being used, and they weren’t growing in their careers.

At Facebook, people don’t quit a boss — they quit a job. And who’s responsible for what that job is like? Managers.

If you want to keep your people — especially your stars — it’s time to pay more attention to how you design their work. Most companies design jobs and then slot people into them. Our best managers sometimes do the opposite: When they find talented people, they’re open to creating jobs around them.

Working with our People Analytics team, we crunched our survey data to predict who would stay or leave in the next six months, and in the process we learned something interesting about those who eventually stayed. They found their work enjoyable 31% more often, used their strengths 33% more often, and expressed 37% more confidence that they were gaining the skills and experiences they need to develop their careers. This highlights three key ways that managers can customize experiences for their people: enable them to do work they enjoy, help them play to their strengths, and carve a path for career development that accommodates personal priorities.

In a company that allows greater personal flexibility and a whole-person approach to work, the truism about quitting bosses is undone. In such a context, people may feel they have to leave to find greater fulfillment, but they aren’t necessarily fleeing a toxic relationship. A kind of Mazlovian hierarchy of motivations.


A Prospectus | People Analytics | People analytics is one of the newest and most important domains of people operations.

Beyond People Analytics: Relational Analytics | People operate in complex networks, not in org charts or excel spreadsheets

Work Operating Systems? No, We Need Work Ecosystems. | Machines are an inadequate metaphor for the future of work.

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