November 2019 – On the anatomy of work, managers and self-managing, Amazon, and employee letters to FB

A survey on the anatomy of work

Asana surveyed the behaviors and attitudes of 10,223 knowledge workers across Australia, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S.

Here are some of their findings:

  • The majority of respondents’ time (60%) is spent on work coordination, leaving only 13 percent for strategic planning and 27 percent for the skill-based job they were hired to do.
  • Responding to a constant barrage of emails and notifications is the primary reason that nearly one-third of employees regularly log overtime hours, followed by unexpected meetings and chasing people for input or approval.
  • Respondents surveyed believe that nearly two-thirds of meetings are unnecessary.
  • Over 10 percent of an employee’s day – 4 hours and 38 minutes per week – is spent on tasks that have already been completed. This amounts to more than 200 hours of duplicated effort and wasted efficiency annually.
  • Less than half (46%) of respondents surveyed clearly understand how their output contributes to the achievement of their organization’s objectives and mission. (Asana)

The future of work? It’s not about degrees, it’s about skills

So says IBM. “New Collar jobs are roles in some of the technology industry’s faster growing fields – from cybersecurity and cloud computing to cognitive business and digital design – that do not always require a traditional degree. What they do require is the right mix of in-demand skill sets.” (IBM)

In praise of turtles

John Goodenough was recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He is 97 years old. “Some of us are turtles; we crawl and struggle along, and we haven’t maybe figured it out by the time we’re 30. But the turtles have to keep on walking” and “You have to draw on a fair amount of experience in order to be able to put ideas together.” Also that at his age “You no longer worry about keeping your job.” (NYT)

Meetings malaise

In the U.S. alone, we hold 55 million meetings a day. Most of them are woefully unproductive and tyrannize our offices. Freakonomics’s Stephen Dubner has a take on how to make meetings less terrible (Medium)

Coming to a workplace near you: using cameras to do metrics on workers

Video surveillance that “uses machine learning to analyze footage of restaurant staff at work and interacting with guests. It aims to track metrics like how often a server tends to their tables or how long it takes for food to come out. At the end of a shift, managers receive an email of the compiled statistics, which they can then use to identify problems and infer whether servers, hostesses, and kitchen staff are adequately doing their jobs. “It’s not that different from a Fitbit.”” (Wired)

Three myths and misconceptions about self-managing organizations

A short enlightening discussion by Lisa Gill. “Self-managing organisations are not a cure-all. Like any organisational model, there are benefits and there are weaknesses. However, far from what self-management critics or sceptics might have us believe, this is not a fad or passing trend, and self-managing organisations are not utopian playgrounds.

The most inspiring case studies show us that organisational self-management is a sophisticated and explicit human system which, when executed well, can liberate untapped knowledge, creativity, and energy in our organisations at a time when we desperately need it.” (Medium)

Survey: Why do managers leave their jobs?

In a recent survey, 70% of managers said they feel undervalued and underpaid at their current company. 24% had never received any training on how to manage people, and 76% wanted their employers to provide more training and professional development. (TalentLMS)

Progress at the top is constrained by a “broken rung”

The biggest obstacle women face on the path to senior leadership is at the first step up to manager. For every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, only 72 women are promoted and hired. This broken rung results in more women getting stuck at the entry level, and fewer women becoming managers. Not surprisingly, men end up holding 62 percent of manager-level positions, while women hold just 38 percent.

This early inequality has a long-term impact on the talent pipeline. Since men significantly outnumber women at the manager level, there are significantly fewer women to hire or promote to senior managers. The number of women decreases at every subsequent level. So even as hiring and promotion rates improve for women at senior levels, women as a whole can never catch up. There are simply too few women to advance.

The case for fixing the broken rung is powerful. If women are promoted and hired to first-level manager at the same rates as men, we will add one million more women to management in corporate America over the next five years. (McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2019)

It’s a big world out there

Millions have taken to the streets not only in countries like Egypt and Iraq, but also in places like Chile and Hong Kong. And don’t forget France and Lebanon.

Is there any discernible common denominator? “To express anger at the entire political system, rather than having a clear political agenda or even identifying with a political party.” (Axios)

Two long reads on Amazon

“Bezos controls nearly 40 percent of all e-commerce in the United States. More product searches are conducted on Amazon than on Google, which has allowed Bezos to build an advertising business as valuable as the entirety of IBM.

One estimate has Amazon Web Services controlling almost half of the cloud-computing industry—institutions as varied as General Electric, Unilever, and even the CIA rely on its servers. Forty-two percent of paper book sales and a third of the market for streaming video are controlled by the company; Twitch, its video platform popular among gamers, attracts 15 million users a day.

Add The Washington Post to this portfolio and Bezos is (…) arguably the most powerful man in American culture.” (The Atlantic and The New Yorker)

Patagonia founder on the sustainability myth, the problem with Amazon—and why it’s not too late to save the planet

“Yvon Chouinard and his company have spent decades—and millions of dollars—fighting for environmental causes around the world while investing in more sustainable business practices. Patagonia has embraced and promoted the B Corporation movement, while Chouinard led such efforts as 1% for the Planet, a collective of companies that pledged to donate 1% of sales to environmental groups and has raised more than $225 million since 2002.

Meanwhile, over the past 46 years, Patagonia has become a billion-dollar global brand, making it the ultimate do-good-and-do-well company. But Chouinard remains unsatisfied. ” (Fast Company)

Facebook employees send a letter to their CEO

“We want to raise our concerns before it’s too late.

Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing.

Misinformation affects us all.

Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for. We strongly object to this policy as it stands.” (NYT)

What company policy do you object to? And what would your letter look like? Write it now and, at the very least, send it to me.



Work: Back on the road coaching and facilitating after a month of developing content: a new leadership training program and a new coaching and mentoring framework.

Music: Dust-to-Digital is a record label specializing in historical American recordings. They have an excellent Twitter feed with videos.

Film: Loro – a satire/speculation of Silvio’s (Berlusconi – the last name is never mentioned) quest for political power. Parallels to current events are purely coincidental.

Finished reading: El viajero más lento: el arte de no terminar nada by Enrique Vila-Matas.

Now reading: The answer to how is yes by Peter Block.

One more on books: Fellow Canuck Margaret Atwood loves a book that happens to be one of my favorites. “I first encountered both Lewis Hyde and The Gift in the summer of 1984. I was in the midst of writing The Handmaid’s Tale.” (the Paris Review). Read The Gift for an excellent discussion of an economy that -beyond commodity exchange- makes room for creativity and culture.

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