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A Theory of Nature
Every age has a theory of rising and falling, of growth and decay, of bloom and wilt.
Quote of the Moment
Every age has a theory of rising and falling, of growth and decay, of bloom and wilt: a theory of nature. Every age also has a theory about the past and the present, of what was and what is, a notion of time: a theory of history.
The eighteenth century embraced the idea of progress; the nineteenth century had evolution; the twentieth century had growth and then innovation. Our era has disruption, which, despite its futurism, is atavistic. It’s a theory of history founded on a profound anxiety about financial collapse, an apocalyptic fear of global devastation, and shaky evidence.
| Jill Lepore, The Disruption Machine
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This is a study that raises more questions than it answers: Do You Know How Your Teams Get Work Done?, Rohan Narayana Murty and a (large) group of colleagues found out that managers have a bad grasp of of the work their teams do:
Summary In a research study at four Fortune 500 companies, when managers were asked about their teams’ work, on average they either did not know or could not remember 60% of the work their teams do. This is a major problem because it can lead to unrealistic digital transformation targets and the poor allocation of resources. But in the same study, machine learning tools were able to bridge the gap between manager intuition and reality. The study showed that employing ML algorithms reduced the average work-recall gap from ~60% to 24%. Managers should roll out such ML tools but take steps to ensure employees don’t feel surveilled — they can anonymize and aggregate data, and communicate openly with employees about what they are measuring and what they hope to achieve.
My friend Michele Zanini quipped on Twitter:
Along with avoiding the most fundamental question — if managers don’t really know what their reports are doing, then what are managers spending their time on? — Zanini’s observation jumps past the superficial into the essence of this surveillance. Why don’t the companies simply find out how the work gets done by asking the people doing the work? The managers might suffer from this ‘work-recall’ gap, but I bet the workers don’t. Instead, the immediate impulse is to use machine learning to prop up the broken processes of a fading era.
PS I am working on post from a recent discussion with Michele: coming soon!
Emma Goldberg reports that Your Head of H.R. Is Now Basically the School Nurse:
Just as the Covid-19 crisis made amateur epidemiologists of people trying to go about their daily lives, it also forced H.R. professionals, especially those at small and midsize businesses, into a new focus on public health. As companies weighed when to return to the office, whether to require coronavirus vaccines and what sort of exemptions from those rules to allow, it was often H.R. directors who were asked to lead those efforts. It was no longer sufficient for these professionals to manage the job satisfaction and career development of their colleagues. Suddenly, they were also charged with monitoring their health, safety and views on immunization.
The added dimensions of H.R. jobs are coming into sharper focus now, as more organizations put vaccine mandates into effect. About 17 percent of American employers were requiring vaccinations or negative Covid tests for employees returning to the office, according to a Gallagher survey of more than 500 employers conducted between August and October.
And the public health aspect of people operations is unlikely to diminish as we enter yet another terrifying spike in Covid, and a growing realization that the end is nowhere in sight. What if the coronavirus becomes endemic, but with much higher mortality rates than other endemics like the flu?
Related discussion by Emma Goldberg and Lauren Hirsch:
With Covid case counts soaring, fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant, businesses are once again weighing when to reopen, and what steps they need to take to do so safely.
In recent days, Jefferies, Goldman Sachs, Chevron and many more employers have delayed or changed their January return-to-office plans. Starbucks, Delta Air Lines and BlackRock have amended their Covid safety protocols, responding to shifting guidance from public health authorities.
The memo reflected a view, shared by some business leaders, that the spread of the Omicron variant — which is more infectious, but also more mild, especially for the vaccinated — could usher in the endemic phase of the pandemic, and with it a wave of office reopenings that might actually be executed.
I stumbled upon an interesting cloud community based on a network of org charts: theorg.com
Google is a Grinch: Mark Bergen reports on a Google worker getting fired after stating 'that's bullshit' when learning the company’s policy on double pay for holiday shifts is reserved for those who have worked at least six months for the company. Her behavior was deemed ‘ungoogley'.
Almost a year ago Tiffany May and Amy Chang Chien reported on 'Smart' Office Cushions Track Workers by the Seat of Their Pants.