Online connection should happen on occasion, for justified reasons, and in moderation
Also tips on how to experiment with a “no meetings” week
Just a short intro today, mainly to point you to Ian Bogost’s article for The Atlantic, The Age of Social Media Is Ending. This part really stood out to me:
It was never a terrible idea, at least, to use computers to connect to one another on occasion, for justified reasons, and in moderation (although the risk of instrumentalizing one another was present from the outset). The problem came from doing so all the time, as a lifestyle, an aspiration, an obsession. The offer was always too good to be true, but it’s taken us two decades to realize the Faustian nature of the bargain. Someday, eventually, perhaps its web will unwind. But not soon, and not easily.
I like those “rules” for connecting online: on occasion (don’t let it take over your life), for justified reasons (figure out why you are doing/posting/reading), and in moderation (do whatever it takes to make sure you have time limits and boundaries).
With that, I’ll just say have a good weekend, everyone! On to the reading…
Links I found helpful this week
Emily Nakashima writes about the changing role of Engineering Managers, and proposes a “contract” between them and the their teams in An Engineering Manager’s Bill of Rights (and Responsibilities). She starts by acknowledging how the EM role has evolved, and I think this is relevant for all managers and leaders:
Managers who match the classic bad boss stereotypes of the prior era—managing by fiat, feeding their own ego, giving orders with no context, seagulling with unexpected changes, treating employees like “resources”—will often see their teams evaporate quickly out from under them, or even find their own job at risk.
These changes are all categorically good for our teams, but we have to acknowledge that in many cases, they represent a dramatic increase in the scope of expectations for managers—and most of our organizations are poorly prepared to provide any kind of support in helping new managers learn how to fulfill these lofty expectations. Many people stepping into these roles will also have never had a manager in their own past successfully model how to do any of this.
The proposed “Bill of Rights” includes 6 commitments between managers and their teams and I don’t want to spoil it by quoting from it—it’s really good stuff. Just go read it.
The RawSignal team’s post The strategists, the smugglers, and the silent is a great companion piece to the newsletter issue on planning from a couple of weeks ago. They first discuss some of the issues that often happen during planning:
The few leaders who enjoy doing strategic planning jump in with both feet. They give the illusion that the process is working, because it works for them. Others feel utterly out of their depth and go quiet. And the rest, typically the majority of your leaders, become smugglers. For them, the entire exercise becomes one of trying to ingeniously hide their teams’ needs and wants and existing plans inside a package that looks like strategy.
They go on to give some great advice for how to make planning work better for the whole team, starting with a few key questions to ask to help calibrate the year that’s been before moving on to planning for what’s coming.
Ellie Huizenga writes about Zapier’s “no meetings” experiment in A week with no meetings—and how it “gave us thousands of hours back for impactful work.” There’s also some great tips on how to make sure an experiment like that succeeds:
Go async. No-meeting week doesn’t mean no-communication week. Before you start, figure out which asynchronous channels you’ll use to do which type of work.
→ This reminds me of our 2018 experiment to take a week off Slack.
Random links I found interesting
🎬 ProxiMovie is a neat web app that helps you “find movies that are similar to the ones you already enjoy.”
🎥 A long, riveting profile of James Cameron. I couldn’t stop reading The Return of James Cameron, Box Office King.
🚘 Some good news out of the “self-driving” car industry: Forward Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking Reduce Front-to-Rear Crashes by 50%.
🧓 This week’s “for my fellow olds” link: a delightful profile of the people who still get DVDs delivered from Netflix.
Some good music
I revisited a couple of modern jazz albums this week that are really lovely and relaxing: Jakob Bro’s Bay of Rainbows and Matthew Halsall’s Salute to the Sun. These are both “even if you don’t like jazz…” albums. But if you already do like jazz, also check out Matthew’s On The Go, which is probably my favorite modern jazz album of the past decade.
Oh and while we’re talking about music, I’ll leave you with this…