WFD | A Lazy Future

| Writing Solidifies, Chat Dissolves | Microenterprises at Zappos | Treat Us Like Adults | Save The Future Of Work | Paul Valery |

Photo by Antonio Gabola on Unsplash

Beacon NY 2020–01–14 | I wrote CPO Skepticism Is High this morning, relating a lively interchange that took place on Twitter following a reference to a Kathryn Newbery story, Seven key HR trends for 2020, in the January 10 issue of my Work Futures Daily newsletter. The title says it all.


Also, I am migrating the deep content I developed over 2019 at the On The Horizon publication over to a section at Work Futures on Medium. You will be able to see all that material via the On The Horizon navigation element at the top of the main page, as well as a selection of the most popular stories in the From The Archives.

Guide to Internal Communication, the Basecamp Way | Basecamp has a great set of principles for internal communications, like these:

2 | Real-time sometimes, asynchronous most of the time.

3 | Internal communication based on long-form writing, rather than a verbal tradition of meetings, speaking, and chatting, leads to a welcomed reduction in meetings, video conferences, calls, or other real-time opportunities to interrupt and be interrupted.

4 | Give meaningful discussions a meaningful amount of time to develop and unfold. Rushing to judgement, or demanding immediate responses, only serves to increase the odds of poor decision making.

5 | Meetings are the last resort, not the first option.

6 | Writing solidifies, chat dissolves. Substantial decisions start and end with an exchange of complete thoughts, not one-line-at-a-time jousts. If it’s important, critical, or fundamental, write it up, don’t chat it down.


Q&A With John Bunch: Holacracy Helps Zappos Swing From Job Ladder to Job Jungle Gym | Sounds like Zappos is adopting Haier-style microenterprise model (see Evolution of the Platform Organization: 3 Haier, Rendanheyi, and Zhang Ruimin’s Vision):

… we are working on internal market-based dynamics, which essentially means that each circle in the organization would be run like a micro-business. In this system, each micro-enterprise would be funded by the customers. These can be internal customers or external customers. Instead of a top-down funding model, we are shifting our funding as being derived from the customer of whatever work you do. In a traditional company, employees might not see the value that they are creating. This change is relevant to the employee’s personal value because employees won’t think of themselves as a cost to an organization. By creating these internal customers through these micro-business interactions, employees can really see the value that they add to the company.


Why we treat employees like adults | Manuel Küblböck has aa succinct run-down on the elements of what I call the fast-and-loose business.


5 Ways to Stop Corporations From Ruining the Future of Work | Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor, has created a manifesto for how we need to take back the future of work from corporations:

First, workers need a stronger voice, from the boardroom to the shop floor.

Second, if we want corporations to invest in innovation and their workers we need to reform Wall Street.

Third, we need to rebuild strong collaboration between government and business in researching and developing new technologies, so they work for the benefit of all.

Fourth, a more open and forward-looking industrial policy can help steer the nation’s economic growth toward combating our central challenges— climate change, poverty, our crumbling infrastructure, costly and inaccessible health care, lack of quality education.

Finally, we need to assure that our workers are protected from the downsides:That new information technologies along with their increasing potential for monitoring and surveilling workers don’t undermine worker autonomy, dignity, and privacy. That the use of algorithms to manage workers doesn’t give top management unwarranted power in the workplace. And that workplace technologies don’t make work more unpredictable for millions of workers.

Workers need a voice. Government needs a responsible role. We deserve a forward-looking and open industrial policy. And the rules of the game need to be fair. We should all be able to steer the direction of technological change and influence how new technologies affect our lives.

Quote of the Day

The future arrived but it’s lazy.

Paul Valéry

Work Futures Weekly | Automation Discourse

The great American labor paradox: plentiful jobs, most of them bad. | Gwynn Guilford

Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

Beacon NY 2019–12–21 | I’m happy to say that I have a lot of interesting work on my plate. That’s nice, but it has gotten to the point that I had to resort to a spreadsheet to estimate the impact of one-more-project on the sanity quotient, my shorthand for work/life balance.

Work Futures Daily is a labor of love but I am kicking off a new phase and a new format, driven by the need to reduce the time involved in writing and editing it. Note that I am NOT planning to reduce my investment in research, but I will be more selective in what I surface in the Daily, and how it will be presented.

What I going to try is this. I’ll try to pick a single story that I think is important and focus on that in each issue, which I am limiting to three or four a week. I will also provide links to a handful of other stories, with a line or two of commentary. The Weekly will be similar, with a single in-depth story with one line summaries of the lead stories of each Daily. This is the first of the new Weeklies. (Note I have been so busy, I haven’t been doing weeklies on a weekly basis in months.)

Because of this new format, the subtitle of each Weekly and Daily will be a one-line description of the lead story, rather than a long series of teasers. (This is one of the tasks that made this time-consuming).

There are going to be other changes. Wish me luck.

Quote of the Day

The return of automation discourse is a symptom of our era, as it was in times past: it arises when the global economy’s failure to create enough jobs causes people to question its fundamental viability.

| Aaron Benanav, Automation and the Future of Work — 1

The Lead

The Job Quality Index is the economic indicator we’ve been missing | Gwynn Guilford offers up the essence of work in the US, today:

The great American labor paradox: plentiful jobs, most of them bad.

Which can now be measured:

A team of researchers thinks they may have uncovered the Rosetta Stone of the US labor market.

They recently unveiled the US Private Sector Job Quality Index (or JQI for short), a new monthly indicator that aims to track the quality of jobs instead of just the quantity. The JQI measures the ratio of what the researchers call “high-quality” versus “low-quality” jobs, based on whether the work offer more or less than the average income.

A reading of 100 means that there are equal numbers of the two groups, while anything less implies relatively lower-quality jobs.

And here’s the 30-year slump:

The bottom line is that fewer good jobs are being created. Time for that long-awaited infrastructure push, to get away from carbon-based energy.


Vox Media to Cut 200 Freelancers, Citing California Gig-Worker Law | Marc Tracy and Kevin Draper report on some of the fallout from AB5 in California, which is leading media companies to drop freelance writers who live in the state

from Work Futures Daily | Dominating Nature


Post-Work: The Radical Idea of a World Without Jobs | Andy Beckett collates points of view on a world where ‘work is not working, for every more people, in ever more ways’.

from WFD | Post-Work


A Few Cities Have Cornered Innovation Jobs. Can That Be Changed? | Eduardo Porter cites The case for growth centers: How to spread tech innovation across America by Robert Atkinson, Mark Munro, Jacob Whiton.

from WFD | The Time of Monsters


Most Employees Want Their Bosses to Give Them More Responsibility | James Davis spoke with Mark Robinson of Kimble Applications about a recent research survey involving 1000 full-time employees in the US: The survey found that 72% of American employees wish their boss or manager would give them more responsibility.

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WFD | The Time of Monsters

WFD | Soon Forgotten

| Portable Benefits | 8 Hour Workday? | McKinsey | Sexual Harassment in Gigland | Frozen Middle | More Responsibility, Please |

| Portable Benefits | 8 Hour Workday? | McKinsey | Sexual Harassment in Gigland | Frozen Middle | More Responsibility, Please |

Photo by Buzz Andersen on Unsplash

Beacon NY | 2019–12–09 | Back from a lapse. Holiday, visitors, stomach bug.


Moving longer mentions into separate posts. See Elsewhere, below.

Quote of the Day

What we call the present is really the past. Life is only what we remember, and all of us are soon forgotten.

Stephen Holden, Review: ‘Sunset Song’ Shows a Woman’s True Grit

Great insights can be found anywhere, even in a movie review.


Philadelphia’s Portable Benefits Plan Could Be Gig Economy Model | Rick Grimaldi writes about municipal plan for gei worker benefits:

Similar to the way most paid sick leave laws work, eligible workers will accrue one hour of PTO for every 40 hours they work. There will be provisions addressing accruals, and a maximum cap and carryover and other details, but the key factor is that domestic workers can take these benefits with them from one job to the next.

Inevitably, when the conversation comes to benefits, the question of funding gets raised. And many eyes across the country will look to how Philadelphia handles the matter to see how sustainable the funding platform is. Each employer will contribute a prorated amount to a worker’s PTO bank based on the worker’s pay. The mayor’s office estimates that it will lead to a 2.5 percent increase in costs for all employers contributing to the system.

This should be federal policy.


The 8-Hour Workday Is a Counterproductive Lie | Lizzie Wade does self-analysis on her workday as a work-from-home freelance writer and wants to generalize. She may be right when she says

For me, five hours is the ideal creative workday. An hour to warm up and check in with my team and the world, three hours of focused work on a project or maybe two, and an hour to wind down, plan for tomorrow, and make sure I didn’t miss anything important.

I confess to working a bit longer, but I try to take several breaks/walks everyday.


A new leadership imperative: Corporate social responsibility | McKinsean soaring rhetoric:

This article, based on a range of McKinsey research and case studies of leaders in action, provides a glimpse of the emerging new leadership imperative. Sometimes it’s about boosting transparency — for example, the moves a few fashion- and consumer-oriented companies are making. Empathy also looms large, as shown by new McKinsey research based on surveys and interviews with a group of fellows at Ashoka, one of the world’s leading communities of social entrepreneurs. Also critical: a sense of meaning, say two CEOs who recently described their work during a panel discussion marking the 50th anniversary of Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business School. Transparency, empathy, and meaning — timeless and increasingly timely — are all starting to define a new leadership benchmark.

Sounds like a bunch of high-minded gobbledygook. I feel like I should agree, but I sense all the dirt that has been swept under the rug.


The Gig Economy’s Sexual Misconduct Problem, and How to Fix It | Alexandrea J. Ravenelle reports on the startling degree of sexual harassment of workers and customers in the gig economy. We need more prevention.


Thawing the frozen middle | Why transformation efforts fail? Senior leaders do not craft engaging narratives about the why, and then don’t engage middle managers.

A must read.


Most Employees Want Their Bosses to Give Them More Responsibility | James Davis spoke with Mark Robinson of Kimble Applications about a recent research survey involving 1000 full-time employees in the US:

The survey found that 72% of American employees wish their boss or manager would give them more responsibility. I asked Robinson about that result. He said, “We have a very large number of people in the survey saying that they want to be given more responsibility in their job and are almost frustrated that they haven’t gotten it.” To fully appreciate the meaning of that finding, weigh it against what Robinson said about motivation: “It’s not like you have to motivate people to take responsibility.”

In other words, U.S. organizations don’t need to focus on motivating their employees. This survey shows that at least 72% of them are motivated but are not given a way to express that motivation. Robinson adds, “You just have to find ways to let them do it.” Robinson believes that although it might seem discouraging that so many people want more responsibility, it’s actually encouraging “because if you got the survey back saying that employees don’t care and don’t want that responsibility, it would actually be quite negative.”

The survey also suggests what employees perceive to be the source of the problem: managers and bosses. However, Robinson adds some contour to those findings, saying, “It may be because the manager is not giving employees more responsibilities, but it may just be that there’s so much bureaucracy in the way.” Finding ways to remove the red tape and other barriers could have a very positive effect on your employees’ sense of responsibility.

This is more evidence of the stupidity of top-down management.


Being Black At Work | Black people lost ground when ‘of color’ became the popular thing to say. — Michael C. Bush | Stowe Boyd

Yes, Do Post-Mortems, But Call Them Retrospectives | Steve Bryant wants us to learn from our experience, not run from it | Stowe Boyd

The Fall of The Silos, The Rise of Self-Organizing Teams | A number of reports agree with my recent Silos in Work Technology brief | Stowe Boyd

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WFD | Trying To Get A Grip

| Kim Stanley Robinson | Softbank Effect | Impact of Higher Minimum Wages | Convoy Funding | Google and Unionization | Breastmilk Policies |

Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

Beacon NY | 2019–11–25 | Head down, typing so much my fingers hurt.

Quote of the Day

History is a record of humanity trying to get a grip.

Kim Stanley Robinson, 2140


The SoftBank Effect: How $100 Billion Left Workers in a Hole | Pushing too much money into ecosystems that rely on ‘contractors’ to bear costs of their own involvement, and then cutting the platform cashflow leads to huge whiplash, harming the invested contractors.


As Push for Higher Minimum Wages Grows, New York Offers a Test Case | Jeanna Smialek reports on research about the impacts of higher minimum wages. The findings are mixed, but it appears that recent increases have not pushed people out of work in great numbers, if at all:

Across seven states, recent pay increases have not clearly pushed people out of jobs, Arindrajit Dube, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, found in an analysis published this month.

“Up to a point, minimum wages can be absorbed without any substantial changes in employment,” said Mr. Dube, who is advising the British government on wage policy.

Mr. Dube looked at California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York and Maine, all of which had raised pay to at least $10.50 by 2018, directly affecting almost 20 percent of their work forces. He found no discernible employment impact across the group, even for workers with low education levels.

“As these states have raised their minimums, at this point many of them are at $12, that is definitely telling us more information than we had before,” he said. “We don’t necessarily know what $15 at a federal level would do, but the evidence base is expanding.”

The fact that job losses are not rampant does not mean that a higher wage floor is painless. Evidence suggests that businesses cover higher labor costs in one of three ways, Mr. Dube said: taking a hit to profits, improving productivity or raising prices.

Well, the money has to come from somewhere, but the good news it’s winding up in the pockets of minimum wage workers.


Convoy Raises $400 Million to Expand Digital Freight Business | Jennifer Smith reports on new funding for Convoy:

Digital freight broker Convoy raised $400 million in a Series D funding round that values the business at $2.75 billion and backs its expansion in a growing array of technology-focused upstarts making inroads in the freight transportation sector.

Sustainable investment management firm Generation Investment Management LLP and previous investor T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. led the latest funding round, with participation from previous investor Alphabet Inc.’s CapitalG fund and others.

Founded in 2015, Seattle-based Convoy is among the biggest operators of online marketplaces that match truckers with shippers needing to move cargo. The startups, including Uber Technologies Inc.’s Freight unit, aim to make booking shipments more efficient by using mobile apps to find available trucks and automating transactions that had traditionally been arranged through emails and phone calls.


Convoy’s latest funding brings its total capital raised to more than $668 million. A previous funding round of $185 million in September 2018 valued the company at more than $1 billion and Convoy said the new round more than doubled the valuation to $2.75 billion.

Making a better marketplace for truck freight is a win-win for truckers, freight companies, companies shipping goods, and the environment. This also lessens the tight market for truckers, since it leads to fewer truckers needed.

Of course, we are headed for autonomous trucks, with long-haul first.


One Google Staffer Fired, Two Others Put on Leave Amid Tensions | Ryan Gallagher — or Bloomberg’s editorial staff — didn’t do a great job on the title of this piece. It’s really about ongoing controversy about labor unrest and Google’s recent efforts to close down access to company documents, formerly handled in a much more transparent way.

In the past, one of the employees said, employees could review internal documents for virtually any project underway within the company. In recent years, however, more projects have become closed off and accessible only to smaller groups on a “need-to-know” basis, the employee said.

Earlier this year, following a series of leaks to the media, Google executives tightened their grip. They shut down thousands of contractors’ access to company documents, citing security concerns. Google’s senior managers, meanwhile, warned employees not to access or share certain documents.

In a memo to employees in early May, Kent Walker, senior vice president of global affairs, warned that it was considered “a violation of our policies to improperly access, copy, or share confidential or need-to-know information, whether or not it is explicitly marked.” Walker added that the company had “fired people who violated our data policies,” according to the memo, which was previously reported by BuzzFeed News.

The spokeswoman said the company earlier this year sent employees a reminder of long-standing data classification and security policies.

In the last 18 months or so, a divide has grown between Google’s management and rank-and-file employees, who have become increasingly politicized. Employees have protested leadership’s handling of sexual harassment complaints and launched internal campaigns against some Google projects, including a censored search engine in China and a contract with the Pentagon to analyze drone footage. Earlier this month, more than 1,000 employees called on the company to cancel deals with oil and gas companies.

As news of the suspensions spread through Google last week, many employees responded by posting satirical memes to Memegen, an internal photo messaging board.

In one meme, an employee posted the Google logo alongside a reinterpretation of the company’s corporate mission statement. “Organize the world’s information,” it said, “and make it accessible on a need-to-know basis.”

In related news, Google has apparently hired anti-union consulting firm IRI Consultants. The management-vs-unionization battle is hotting up.


When Companies Support Pumping Breastmilk at Work, Everyone Benefits | Allison S. Gabriel, Sabrina D. Volpone, Rebecca L. MacGowan, Marcus M. Butts, and Christina M. Moran describe findings of their research:

Our results showed that when women saw pumping as a source of interference in their work lives, they also tended to feel worse emotionally. Correspondingly they also made less progress on work goals for the day and produced less breastmilk while at work. But when women reported feeling enriched by pumping at work, these effects reversed — women’s emotional well-being increased, as did their output relative to work goals and breastmilk production goals. Furthermore, we found that there was no significant relationship between the amount of time women reported pumping and their productivity at work. These findings suggest that the time women devote to pumping doesn’t decrease their work productivity — when women feel good about pumping at work, it can actually increase it.

It’s becoming clear that pumping is beneficial to mothers and children, and that it behooves managers and coworkers to create workplaces and workspaces that support women who need to pump. What might that support look like? Providing ample and comfortable space is essential. Our survey results showed that women who were able to pump in quiet spaces with more comfort and privacy tended to experience more positive moods. And, at a more general level, being compassionate to breastfeeding mothers at work and being flexible for their schedules can go a long way. These efforts will mean that working mothers will feel better, have greater productivity, and go home knowing they have the breastmilk they aspire to feed their child.

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