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Entrepreneurs: What About Holacracy?

July 2nd, 2015 by Miki Saxon


Jim Heskett is a very smart guy. At the beginning of each month he asks a question of his readers, then publishes a summation of the general ideas expressed the comments at the end of it.

The topics are always timely, of great interest and the conversation lively.

This month he asked about something that is on many founders’ minds thanks to Tony Hsieh actions at Zappos.

The question was, Is the Time Right for Self-Management.

Here is the summary. I believe you will find it of great value to read all the comments if you are considering adopting/adapting it for your company or just intrigued by the idea.

When and Where Will Holacracy Work Best?

Holacracy, or self-management, is an interesting concept and not entirely new. It can work, but only under the right conditions. And its applications will be limited. That’s what one might conclude from reading responses to this month’s column.

The more thoughtful of them provide a primer on applying the concept. Deborah Nixon’s comment echoed several others when she said the idea has been around a long time in other forms, by other names. “The larger an organization becomes, the tougher one model is to implement. The time has always been ripe for self-management and there are always people who will poke up their heads and insist on managing themselves. But it isn’t a quick fix.” Others cited its long-time application in the London taxi system (Andrew Campbell), the hospital ER (M Iqbal Gentur B), and even Aboriginal societies in ancient Australia (Kai Akerberg).

Stephens Jr., who loves the idea, said, it does not come without extensive time, cost, and involvement in employee development. “I not only say yes (to the question of whether the time is right for self-management), but ‘it’s about time.’” Dyan Porter added, “Holacracy strikes me as a positive way to manage professionals, especially in flat organizations where job advancement is limited.” Brooks Tanner commented, “Regardless of its level of success at Zappos, this form of organization is the way of the future. The rapidly increasing complexity and unpredictability of our world is such that only a highly distributed decision-making structure will be able to adapt and respond effectively, she continued. “Most of us don’t think a centralized planning type economy makes sense. Why should it make the most sense for organizations?”

Others saw limited potential in the concept. As Edward Hare put it, “There are some people capable of managing themselves in a larger organization … but many who can’t… This strikes me as another of those ‘ideas’ promoted by consultants and academics. ” Frank Fabela added, “Holacracy in its form of each individual taking responsibility for their own self-management is absolutely necessary, however it is the responsibility of ‘managers ‘ to ensure effectiveness of the organization through coordination of those objectives. Pure holacracy … absent management is destined to fail.” Krishnan Mak was more succinct when he said: “Culture will eat Holacracy for breakfast.”

Many comments addressed conditions under which Holacracy might work best. “It might not be for everybody,” wrote Maria Rosa Serra, “but if you hire employees aligned with your values and pay them fairly, it seems an interesting proposal for both the company and the individual.” Juan Manuel Salas Guevara commented that the challenge in Holacracy “is a strong communication process from the top level of the organization that enables each member to understand the company’s vision.” Charlie Efford added that “The key to self-management becoming embedded is changing the mindset of the management team. Most corporations haven’t made this shift.” Denis Collet suggested “it’s all about clear goals and deliverables, and the metrics for success. Absent of these it’s bound to fail.”

Personally, I agree with Krishnan Mak when he said, “Culture will eat Holacracy for breakfast.”

Image credit: HBSWK

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Success Sans Ego

June 29th, 2015 by Miki Saxon


What is the secret to getting ahead?

According to Mike Curtis it’s pretty simple.

“Look for opportunities, and shed your ego.”

Curtis should know.

After high school, he was working in a coffee shop when a company called iAtlas Corporation opened across the street.

He pestered his way into an internship that included acting as receptionist and answering the phones.

When Alta Vista (the original search engine) acquired it he chose to move to California instead of starting college.

After a stint at AOL and another company he landed at Yahoo where he was lead engineer for Yahoo Mail, with a team of 200 and a 2-window office.

The reason he left offers yet more sage advice.

“Make sure that one day whatever company you join is working as hard for you as you are for it.”

He went from an executive position at Yahoo to Facebook’s bootcamp sitting next to interns and new grads, hence his advice to drop the ego.

Now he’s a VP at Airbnb.

Quite a career path for a guy who skipped college before it was fashionable and worked his way up.
Flickr image credit: Celine Nadeau

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United Airlines: Unbelievably Stupid

June 25th, 2015 by Miki Saxon

It’s amazing to me how just plain stupid some companies are and, worse, maintain that stupidity for years.

United Airlines is a good example.

In 2009 it damaged the Dave Carroll’s guitar. Carroll spent 9 months trying to get United to fix it, which they refused to do.

So Carroll, whose band is Sons of Maxwell, posted “United Breaks Guitars,” a musical video on YouTube.

The video went viral and UAL’s stock dropped 5%.

Six years later the video has garnered 15 million views, 83 thousand Likes, 21 thousand comments and is still being passed around.

You would think they would learn something from that experience.

You would be wrong.

Last month, United personnel once again stuck their foot in it when they first refused to provide hot food to an autistic teen, although they finally relented.

The girl was fine, but the idiot pilot called for an emergency landing, called the paramedics and the cops.

When the officers started to leave, the captain stepped out of the cockpit and said something to them, Beegle said. They then asked her family to leave, she said.

“He said, ‘The captain has asked us to ask you to step off the plane.’” Beegle said. “I said, ‘She didn’t do anything’ … But the captain said he’s not comfortable flying on to Portland with [Juliette] on the plane.”

All of this with the full support of management.

United said its “crew made the best decision for the safety and comfort of all of our customers and elected to divert to Salt Lake City after the situation became disruptive.”

Passengers who witnessed the whole thing and posted videos said it was total bunk.

Of course, what UAL did to this child was far worse than breaking a guitar, but it goes to show their motto is still “the customer is always wrong, no matter what.”

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Ducks in a Row: Pinterest’s Creative Harmony

June 23rd, 2015 by Miki Saxon


Scott Goodson has worked at Apple, Instagram and Facebook; all hot companies known for their creativity, innovation and cultures.

Goodson recently joined Pinterest and found an enormous difference.

“I found Pinterest to be a very different sort of culture than I’m used to. One of the most unique things is that the company really values interdisciplinary work across the different functional areas of the team. The notion of empathy is deeply understood here. At other companies there’s a bit more of a competitive or even ruthless perspective, so it was really refreshing to see the level of cooperation here.”

He goes on to say,

“There’s definitely a stereotype of a successful startup that it’s often this aggressive, type A place and that’s just not necessarily true. You can have geniuses that are nice or geniuses that are really egotistical. But they’re both geniuses. So, we really want to work with the geniuses that are nice to each other and have a common level of respect.”

What neither Goodson nor the article mention is that Pinterest has a strong team of female designers and engineers.

While the founders are male, the culture they developed is one where women thrive.

It was a revelation to join the team at Pinterest and feel like I was treated like an engineer first, not as a female engineer. In most other places, I felt like people always treated me as a “female engineer,” like I was a novelty. People even called me a unicorn to my face. It was really nice to come here and not have that gender modifier in front of who I am.” –Tracy Chou, Pinterest engineer

Pinterest’s culture fosters creative collaboration and mutual respect because it is the absolute opposite of the typical frat-boy startup culture so common in the Valley.

Flickr image credit: katdaned

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If the Shoe Fits: Ignore Security — Forget Funding

June 19th, 2015 by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIf you’ve been around long enough you find déjà vu connections everywhere.

I had a strong sense of it reading that security has become a priority with VCs.

According to The Information, computer security companies are being brought on to advise other companies about startups they are thinking of acquiring, and VCs are including cybersecurity experts as part of their due diligence when they look to invest in companies.

Security has been an after thought, if that; a feature that the company would get to as soon as [whatever] happened.

The déjà vu hit because that is the same attitude companies had towards quality once-upon-a-time (some still do).

After conception, architecture, design and manufacturing were done the product was sent to QC (quality control) and back up the line if there were problems.

In many cases the quality flaws were actually designed into the product or the manufacturing process itself, which made fixing them very expensive or impossible.

The same problem happens when security is the afterthought.

Any fool knows that if the wrong grade of steel is specified for a bridge or the spec is changed to facilitate speed or budgetary concerns the bridge is likely to fail sooner rather than later.

Zukerberg’s oft repeated “move fast and break it” is proving to be a deal breaker in a more ways than one.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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Entrepreneurs: the Truth about Warm Intros

June 18th, 2015 by Miki Saxon


The questions on Quora provide a fascinating look into today’s mindset, which makes for a giant time-suck, so I rarely allow myself the luxury.

However, Why are VCs so adamant about warm intros? caught my attention, because I am asked it so often.

Most of the responses were justifications from VCs, but two provided a refreshing dose of reality.

Not surprising that neither are VCs.

The reason they want warm intros is because they are too lazy to research things themselves and many of them don’t know anything about starting a company or building one. The smart experienced guys at the top who have actually done something are too busy so they have the dime-a-dozen MBAs they hire do grunt work. Since the d-a-d has never actually built anything, and doesn’t really know what you do, they want a “warm” intro. Warm means someone else they can blame if they screw up yet again.David Feldman, CEO, ZF Micro Solutions, Inc.

Classism. No further to look than that. Let’s not make it complicated by trying to avoid the unpleasant.Michael O. Church

The ‘warm intro’ investor bias is one of the worst, because it raises the funding bar to almost insurmountable heights, which limits the entrepreneurial pool and even reduces the chances of success.

Whether it’s laziness, fear of the unknown or insecurity outside of their comfort zone doesn’t matter — the result is the same.

Too many good founders/companies don’t get funded.

Flickr image credit: Alexx Malev

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Another Worm is Turning

June 15th, 2015 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/10413717@N08/6935317800/First it was Uber drivers, members of the so-called 1099 economy, who sued Uber.

Next, the general public woke up to tech’s rapacious abuse of their privacy and personal information.

And last week nearly half of shareholders voted against the executive compensation plan of a company whose stock is near its all-time high.

According to an SEC document filed Tuesday, nearly 47% of the total shareholders voted against Salesforce’s executive compensation packages at its annual shareholders meeting…

Maybe, just maybe, corporate America has finally gone too far and we’re ready to fight back.

Flickr image credit: Annelid

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A Message from Miki

June 10th, 2015 by Miki Saxon


Dear Readers,

A lot has been happening in my world — all good for a change.

Long story short, my writing time has been severely compromised

The upshot is that MAPping Company Success will be published intermittently for the next few months.

I have no idea what effect, if any, this will have on you, but if you do need a project done or anything else you can always contact me directly.

In the meantime, have a productive summer and be sure to spend some of it on you and yours

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Apple and Your Personal Information

June 9th, 2015 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/5816482161/“You can make money without doing evil” is number 6 in Google’s 10 point corporate philosophy, but ‘evil’ is a fluid term.

Obviously, invading your privacy and stalking you on and off-line in the name of targeted marketing, AKA, making money, doesn’t count.

Mark Zukerberg of Facebook exhorts you to share everything in your life at the same time he bought all three residences surrounding his home (last paragraph) to assure his own privacy.

Many social sites now track your location and make it public.

93% want control of their personal information, but are resigned that it isn’t going to happen.

Once again, Apple is flying in the face of its tech brethren.

“I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”  (…)

“We don’t think you should ever have to trade it for a service you think is free but actually comes at a very high cost. This is especially true now that we’re storing data about our health, our finances and our homes on our devices.”

“We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is.” –Apple CEO Tim Cook, honored for ‘corporate leadership’ during EPIC’s Champions of Freedom event in Washington.

So the next time you sign in to Facebook, Google, Square, Twitter, etc., keep in mind that they aren’t selling their souls to make a buck, they are selling yours, your family’s and your friends’.

Flickr image credit: westonhighschool library

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Influence and Facts

June 8th, 2015 by Miki Saxon


How often are your actions influenced by what someone else says they heard?

I think most of us have a tendency to accept that kind of commentary, especially when other outcomes are unlikely.

The recent experience of Anthony Perosi is a shinning example of just how costly relying on second-hand information can be.

Like millions of others, Perosi plays the NY Lottery.

A few days after the Powerball drawing on March 14, Mr. Perosi, 56, was eating lunch at a restaurant, where someone told him that the 7-Eleven on Page Avenue had sold a Powerball winner.

“I says, ‘I’ve played at Page Avenue 7-Eleven,’ ” Mr. Perosi recalled on Thursday.

“She was like, ‘Forget about it.’ ” She heard a schoolteacher had won. She told Mr. Perosi, “You didn’t win nothing.”

So rather than checking himself he accepted what Sandy had heard as fact.

But his truck breaking down in April gave Perosi the impetus to check himself.

To his total astonishment the winning numbers were his.

His and the IRS, to the tune of 136 million dollars

The lesson here is that the next time you start to accept what someone states as fact, it pays to check for yourself.

Sometimes it pays very well indeed.

Flickr image credit: Mark Morgan

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