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What does tomorrow's workplace look like?

  1. Flat. Small teams of cohorts around a mission.
  2. Titles are tied to functions and not status. Doer, Team Lead, Builder, Tester, Programmer, etc. 
  3. Decision making is federated and consensus driven (think Paxos in computer science, if you know that).
  4. Responsibility before authority
  5. Open culture. Data is shared about customers, about problems, about performance, about salary, etc.
  6. Everyone is a leader or a potential leader.
  7. There are no specialists. Only problem solvers.
  8. People don't work for bonuses or payouts. There are way too many options to make money.
  9. Artificial pressures won't work. Passion and ownership trumps authority.
  10. More beneficial to collaborate than compete.
  11. No need to stay within any walls. Literally and metaphorically.
  12. No unproductive meetings. Small cohort stays focussed on the problem and always collaborating.
  13. The barrier to building tools to get a job done more efficiently is low.
  14. People will not be dependent on managers to solve their problems or approve a request for tools or software.
  15. There will be no managers. Only leaders.
  16. Companies that intersect where technology is heading will be relevant. Others not so.


Responsibility before authority

In the authority before responsibility model, you are waiting to be picked and blessed as a leader so that you can tell people what to do.

The responsibility before authority model is different. You don't care about being picked by someone to lead. You rally the troops and march towards a shared cause. You are an owner of the cause. You don't need someone to choose you.

Too often in workplaces, I stumble on this scenario where someone either plays the authority card or the lack of. Don't wait to be picked by authority to be an authority. Rather, take responsibility. You pick yourself because you are doing the right thing. Rest does not matter.

Kindness vs righteousness

I am working with my son these days on 'choosing kindness over being right.' In some places, it is obvious and he sees it, and it is easy for me to work with him. In some places, it is extremely hard because his sense of righteousness kicks in. It is an area I have to walk very carefully to balance between his sense of being morally right and choosing kindness. 

I see this in workplace as well. Businesses are optimized for results and kindness becomes a nebulous grey area that leaders have to tread carefully. This can be related to culture, bad performers, management, etc. While there is no template here, the general framework becomes, how can you continue delivering results for the company while being kind and empathetic to people's lives.

It is important to constantly probe ourselves in this area. Kindness and empathy leads to a stellar culture, which truly can become a unfair competitive advantage for every company. 

Do we want our employees to fit in?

Or do we want them to stand out?

Because fitting in is to fit in our way of thinking, our way of solving problems. Fitting in is to make our lives easier because we have designed the system and it is a pain to work with outliers.

If they stand out, we need to cater to their needs. We need to adjust our system to accommodate. And, sometimes we are not willing to do that. We need to tweak the rules of our carefully crafted assembly line of processes that industrialization has taught us. 

It is good to desire excellence and innovation. It is good to desire uniqueness and perspectives. It is. Desiring is one thing. Accepting and rolling with it is another.


Doing less is the way to win

There is a plan. There is a plan B. There is a plan C.

Those are three things.

Now, your team does twenty things. For everything, there is a plan A, plan B, and plan C. Sixty things. Your company has ten teams. Six hundred things.

Of course, this is an exaggeration, but also not. Companies fail because they try to do more and not be good at anything. The secret to winning is in fact no secret at all, it is just to "do less and obsess."

Read the book Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More. It's worth your time.

Don't confuse truths with opinions

Don’t confuse opinions with correctness. You have a voice and a voice gives your thoughts wings. Don’t cage your thoughts because you are not sure if you are right.

You don’t have to be right all the time. But, your voice should be heard. Your voice will change as you grow, mature and learn new truths both about yourself and the world. A changing voice does not mean lack of conviction, it merely means personal growth, new truths, new ideas. Over time, you will find that your voice will settle down into few themes that you deeply care about. But until that time, there is no point in worrying about what that voice should be and what is the story you are telling.

The story you should tell is the story of yourself, your growth, your work, your community. Just be honest and your honesty will give uniqueness and strength to your voice.

Don’t keep quiet because you are not sure if you got it right.

Bad performers

Treat your bad performers with dignity.

It is far too easy to get caught up in the moment and treat someone like you don’t want be treated yourself. You think that employee is not working out and your goals are being impacted, and your bonuses are getting reduced. In a cut-throat culture that favors fire faster to preserve efficiency, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the other person is human, inherently flawed and not perfect. And, certainly at the wrong place at this point in time.

Treat them with dignity. Give them options and part ways gracefully. You never know the full picture. 

Your company has cancer

Your company has cancer

Your company has cancer because your leaders are institutionalized. They can protect their territories, are part of unspoken treaties and know how to appear busy without being productive. 

Data is not there to comfort you

Data is not there to comfort you

If we have data on everything that happens in an organization, would that enable us to design processes to organizational efficiency?

How do  you engage your employees?

How do you engage your employees?

Employee engagement is one of the most abstract concepts in workplace. Unfortunately if you ask a lot of leaders to explain what it means, you will find that they are not able to.

Why do you what you do?

Why do you what you do?

As you are doing that very thing you are doing, do you think about why you are doing it? Why the work you are doing is important and if it really is?

Customer, company and I

Customer, company and I

That's the order. Always. Customer, Company and I. Every employee needs to think that. There are no averages. There are no majorities.

Emailing ourselves to mediocrity

Emailing ourselves to mediocrity

The primary form of communication among teams co-located with each other should never be email. It should be face-to-face.

Be the champions of knowledge

Be the champions of knowledge

We all need to be champions of knowledge, not the gatekeepers of it. Whatever we know, we need to share. If someone asks us the second time, we need to liberate ourselves from holding the keys to it but document it someway (docs, slides, videos, audio, wiki) and provide a map for the other questers of the same information.

On equality and empathy

On equality and empathy

A company that I admire a great deal and was privileged to be part of (on two separate occasions) is PayPal. For a company with several thousand employees, we had a great culture that was transparent and trickled from the top really well. PayPal champions diversity and rights like it is nobody else's business.

How to innovate at your job

How to innovate at your job

Deadlines. Sameness. Hyper customer growth. Technical debt. Lack of cross-functional domain understanding. Fear. Necessity to ask permission. Lack of visionary leadership. Lack of market understanding. Imitating competition. Herd mentality. Needing to please. Desire for promotions and pseudo recognition. Lack of passion. And, countless more is how innovation stops.