Notes on Leadership (4): Simpler vs clearer, or Consulting 101

Guess who1:

Delivering clarity does not mean making things simpler. Making things simpler may not help. There may be inherently complex or complicated issues that need to be understood and cannot be usefully simplified. But what you can do and what you should try to do is to make them easier to understand and clearer, so that people can act on that understanding.

So your mission, Ethan (which is now a gender-neutral name) is:

  • aggressively remove ambiguity and business bullshit
  • create clarity in existing goals
  • make sure people understand what it is you do, by making it super clear how what you do contributes to those goals

  1. It’s Dan Hon.↩︎

June 25, 2022 leadership

Notes on Leadership (3): The surprisingly hard task of setting goals

Dan Hon, again, again:

You’ll read what your organization has to say about itself, both internally (like reading your OKRs, or other goal-setting exercises) and externally.

What you’ll discover is that much of this internal documentation and writing and presentations and PowerPoints are, more or less, meaningless.

In other words, they may be difficult to measure or verify. Is it easy for you to check whether an objective has been achieved? Does it say the equivalent of be more efficient”? Do you know why more efficiency is required? How much is enough, or how much is too much? If an objective ends up saying something like implement modern practices”, then which ones, and why, and to what end?

Obviously goals should be SMART. It is remarkably hard to get smart people to set goals.

Coming up with SMART goals is hard. It is so hard that you would be forgiven for giving up in a large, many-person environment. It requires lots of negotiation, lots of contextual understanding and lots of alignment, otherwise people will just give up, by which I mean the phenomenon where a meeting or presentation happens and there are clearly people who do not understand, or disagree, and yet nobody says anything, for a variety of reasons.

Another challenge is that smart, usually important, people don’t set themselves enough time to create SMART goals. Either they think that the goals they set are self-evidently good (because they are the boss) or that they have lost the grounded way of thinking necessary to actually set detailed, measurable, goals.

The actually hard work of working through something in sufficient detail so that it has value beyond the end of the meeting is often not the responsibility of senior people.

June 25, 2022 leadership

Notes on Leadership (2): Alignment and Truth-telling

Dan Hon, again:

What you need to do is

repeat back what it is people want to do, and also repeat back why it is that they want to do that. Because you are not just trying to discover alignment, but you must create some, so that you (and all the dependencies involved in you achieving your work) can actually get things done and achieve whatever your goal is.

How, Dan? How?

If you want to do start building alignment, you’re going to figure out if you’re in an environment where you’re able to do at least a little bit of truth-telling. Nothing you’re going to say is going to be untrue. But the reaction to what you’re going to say may be predominantly on the dismay/dislike/active denial end of the spectrum of reception.

Oh boy, have I been there.

Ben: Here is what your organisation is doing wrong.
Org stakeholders: yeah, yeah. Just tell us how good we are.

June 25, 2022 leadership

Notes on Leadership (1): Decide to treat things as important

Dan Hon:

What you have is influence without authority. You can suggest that people do things, but unless these teams’ managers and directors decide to do those things, they’re not going to get done. You do not set priorities. Your peers set the priorities. You merely inform. This might hurt and if you’re not careful, it might also lead to burnout.

You need to make it easier for people to decide that what you think matters actually matters.

You can’t make people decide to treat something as important. But you can make it easier, and there are things you can do to make it easier.

June 25, 2022 leadership

You had a coordination headwind problem. You threw blockchains at it. Now you have two problems. You’re ngmi.

Venkat, obviously

June 25, 2022

No it doesn’t

When someone unironically says bitcoin solves this” or this looks like a DAO problem,” it is generally safe to assume they’ve never actually encountered any version of the problem they’re claiming bitcoin solves, or done any organizing, let alone decentralized autonomous organizing.

Venkat with a characteristic truth bomb

June 24, 2022

Facebook also recently announced a big new re-pivot to video because it’s a culturally dying website run by people who seem to actively loathe both the platform itself and the people who are still using it.

Ryan Broderick

May 21, 2022

Specificity Gradient

May 5, 2022

Memphis all the things (August Mood)

Apple Memphis Corridor

Apple Interiors via CARI Stream

April 27, 2022

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