Monthly Culture Inspiration: April 2017

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: Why Every Weekend Should Be A 3 Day Weekend, According To Science

I'm a sucker for good data visualizations, especially ones that present information in a way that is new or surprising. Tiffany McAdam's data visualization shows the actual relationship between working hours and productivity, and the findings might surprise you. See the full visualization here.

Book: Radical Candor by Kim Scott

It is the rare business book that manages to have both wonderful narrative and helpful tips. Kim Malone Scott manages to do both in Radical Candor. I read the entire book in one sitting and dog-eared many pages. A lot has been written about the main concept of Radical Candor, so I'll skip the summary. But in addition to sharing the Radical Candor framework, Scott also shares many helpful tips.

  • How to think about career growth:
    • Who are your rock stars, and who are your super stars?
  • How to think about emotions when giving feedback:
    • "Telling other people how to feel will backfire"
    • "Keep some closed bottles of water at your desk" to have at hand if someone is getting upset
    • "Walk, don't sit: When planning a difficult conversation, try taking a walk instead of sitting"
  • Why companies should create regular management fix-it weeks:
    • Here's how these worked at Google: "A system was created where people could log annoying management issues" like taking too long for expense reports to be approved. "The management bug tracking system was public, so people could vote to set priorities. Somebody was assigned to reading through them all." Then during the fix-it weeks, managers got assigned bugs to fix and would cancel all regularly scheduled activities and focus on fixing the management issues that were most annoying to the organization.

Article to Bookmark: Five Lessons from Scaling Pinterest

Sarah Tavel is a partner at Greylock VC, and formerly worked on the product team at Pinterest. She was involved with Pinterest from 5 employees through 650. She shares five important lessons from scaling Pinterest, including two lessons that are culture related: 1) What you measure matters, and 2) org charts matter. Read the full post on the Greylock blog here.

Monthly Culture Inspiration: March 2017

Every month, I post three types of culture inspiration: a visual, a book, and an article to bookmark.

Visual: Five Spaces Leaders Need to Design and Nurture

I recently discovered Tanmay Vora's absolutely delightful illustrations. Vora started his blog, QAspire, as a personal archive of lessons he was learning as a new manager. It now attracts tens of thousands of visitors each month. Here are several other illustrations about company culture. I could look at his site for hours.

Book: The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni is perhaps best known for his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, but my favorite of his books is The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. If there was one book that I could offer leaders of organizations, it would be this book. Lencioni argues that "a healthy organization is one that has all but eliminated politics and confusion from its environment. As a result, productivity and morale soar, and good people almost never leave." On the other hand, "the smartest organization in the world, the one that has mastered strategy and finance and marketing and technology, will eventually fail if it is unhealthy." So why haven't more organizations embraced the benefits of organizational health? Because it's hard and it requires courage. "Leaders must be willing to confront themselves, their peers, and the dysfunction within their organization with an uncommon level of honesty and persistence. They must be prepared to walk straight into uncomfortable situations and address issues that prevent them from realizing the potential that eludes them." In the book, you'll learn the four steps an organization has to do to get healthy. While this is a "touchy feely" topic, this is not a soft book-- it has incredible detailed, tangible, and actionable steps, with in depth exercises for leaders and teams. Lencioni also has a detailed checklist and roadmap for the steps on his website.

Article to Bookmark: 100 Culture Change Insights from 100 Culture Expert Posts

Culture University is an educational website about workplace culture supported by a faculty of culture experts, including my favorite culture expert, MIT professor Edgar Schein. They have a helpful article, "100 Culture Change Insights from 100 Culture Expert Posts," which is chock-full of good tidbits, like this one: "Terrific, talented people reach their capacity to absorb change and they check out. Every person has their own “change sponge” that has a maximum amount of absorption. Both personal and professional changes decrease the change capacity. Employees become disengaged when they run out of capacity. All the leadership commitment, compelling cases for change and brilliant change strategies in the world are irrelevant if you do not assess and manage change capacity."