Good Strategy

Good strategy is not just “what” you are trying to do. It is also “why” and “how” you are doing it. … Good strategy requires leaders who are willing and able to say no to a wide variety of actions and interests. Strategy is at least as much about what an organization does not do as it is about what it does.

-Richard Rumelt

From Farnam Street.

Bad Management is Sabotage

Middle managers, especially, can get in on the act. Those with white-collar jobs should pontificate, flip-flop, and take every decision into committee, says a section on ‘General Interference with Organizations and Production.’ “Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible,” the OSS advises. Promote bad workers and complain about good ones. “Haggle over precise wordings… Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.”

-CIA Sabotage Field Manual

From Atlas Obscura.

Bad Culture Is Like Lead Pipes

Maybe people will look back on what we think is the really important part of the internet, all the memey stuff and the social networks and the places where people are making all this money, and they will look back on it the way we look back on the use of lead plumbing on the part of the aristocracy in ancient Rome. Which, to them this was like ‘Oh my god this is the sign you’ve arrived, this is where the action is, we have plumbing and it’s awesome!’ And it was! It was this amazing technological infrastructure. It was beautifully made, it provided them with an incredibly high standard of living and it also slowly, gradually made them irretrievably sick and insane*. It poisoned them day by day.
And we look back at it now as this thing that was simultaneously a fascinating part of how their culture worked, and the invention of a new kind of urban living but also as something that was slowly but surely making the ruling class into people who were desperately ill with terrible impulse control without ever realizing it or understanding why.

From The Last Word On Nothing

Project Woosh

When I was in high school, I went metal detecting with my dad out in this state park.  We were just looking for old homesteads.  We never realized it had been a bombing range.

From 1949 to 1951, the Naval Reserve entered into a cooperative project with the Minnesota Department of Conservation. The goal of this project, known as Operation Woosh, was to produce wallowing holes for some 5,000 moose to help them find refuge from biting insects. The military dropped more than 50 live bombs, ranging in size from 500 to 2,000 pounds. As each bomb dropped, peat sprayed high into the air, instantly opening a pond up to 30 feet deep and 100 feet wide.

From Minesota DNR.

How to Give Feedback

“There’s a Russian anecdote about a man who loved his dog so much that when the vet told him he needed to cut the dog’s tail off he couldn’t do it all at once, so he did it an inch at a time. Don’t be that kind of manager.”

Giving unclear, infrequent feedback has somewhat of the same effect — though slightly less violent. You end up hurting the person receiving the feedback more, even though you’re just doing what your parents always told you empathetic people do: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.

This is where Scott says she’s seen managers make the most mistakes. “No one sets out to be unclear in their feedback, but somewhere along the line things change. You’re worried about hurting the person’s feelings so you hold back. Then, when they don’t improve because you haven’t told them they are doing something wrong, you wind up firing them. Not so nice after all…”

In order to give people the feedback they need to get better, you can’t give a damn about whether they like you or not. “Giving feedback is very emotional. Sometimes you get yelled at. Sometimes you get tears. These are hard, hard conversations.”

Read the full article here.