Working to Code – An Example of Defining the Basics

My partner and sweetie introduced me to the concept of knolling (a method of organizing objects). She is a university professor who teaches a creative design-heavy capstone marketing class. Turns out that knolling is only Bullet #7 in Tom Sachs “The Code”, the rules for being a successful employee at his design studio. It struck me how fundamental these rules were, The Basics if you will, and how important he must believe they are to the success of his company for him to codify them in this way.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every company or organization were this clear on their values and expected behaviours? That they understood what drives their success? Many organizations do, but most don’t. At least not in a living and authentic way.

What are you personal, team, or company bullets/basics/code? What disciplines, processes, and tools drive your success?

p.s. Tom also has a “How to Sweep” video. I would argue that if you or your company cannot thoughtfully and elegantly describe its work in a similar way, you might now know what you’re doing.


Bums in Seats – the Bad Proxy for Productivity

.”The person that’s leaving early on Friday probably isn’t disloyal.”

That’s quote from an real business owner. One who had never considered that the first person to arrive and the last to leave wasn’t there because he has working hard, but because it was what they needed to do to stay caught up.

I’m not saying the I want people working for me to be slacking off. Sometimes, especially as an entrepreneur, you have to work weekends or evenings or even pull a few all-nighters.

I want their passion. I want them to believe what I believe, and I want to know that they’re working with me because the work is as meaningful to them as it is to me. Not the least because no salary nor benefits will ever be able to compete with that.


I’d rather have somebody working for me that turns in a high-quality, high-volume of work early and goes home for the weekend well rested and ready to tackle the week next Monday. I’d rather that than somebody who has to come in early, leave late, and come in on the weekends just to keep up. Because how useful are they when it really is an “all hands on deck” situation?

If your measure of a worker’s productivity is that they’re the first to arrive and that last to leave, then I would suggest that you really don’t know what they’re doing, or how well they’re doing it. And that’s a problem.

If You Can’t Describe It, You Don’t Understand It

If you can't describe it, you don' t know it
If you can’t describe it, you don’ t know it

If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.”

– W. Edwards Deming

New Measurement Every Time

The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”

– George Bernard Shaw

A sensible man
A sensible man

Approximately right is better

Approximately right is better
Approximately right is better

When dealing with numerical data, approximately right is better than precisely wrong.”

– Carl G. Thor

What Gets Measured, Gets Done

What gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated.”

– John E. Jones

What Gets Measured
What Gets Measured

Refuse to Accept Poor Performance

Poor Performance
Refuse to Accept

Refuse to accept bad service, poor performance or disrespect. Until you do, you can expect the bad to keep coming your way.

What To Do If You’re an Underperformer

Congratulations. The first step is admitting you have a problem. The second is to do something about it. Here’s what to do if you realize you’re the under-performer everybody seems to be talking about.

Take Care of Yourself First

One of the things I learned as a Scout leader, and taught other Scout leaders as a trainer, was you need to take care of yourself first. Giving back to the community and developing character in young men and women does little good if your own health, marriage, and sanity suffer for it. Even more fundamentally it means we can’t help others if we are hurt are suffering either physically, mentally, or emotionally.

But the thing this HBR article about “Take Care of Yourself First” reminded me of the performance reviews inflicted on us there once a year at my former salaried job. Once a year, if HR had their act together and you actually got a performance review, and you chose your peers carefully enough that you weren’t sabotaged by a well-meaning but naive trust in the party line that feedback from all your peers  was a “good” thing.

Even though I went into one such review cycle with this open and learning attitude, my boss accused me of sand-bagging. He accused me of only choosing peers to give me feedback that would give me positive feedback. One of my friends chose a peers that would give her feedback that she knew might not be entirely positive, but she really wanted to learn. It affected her pay that year. Which is not how 360 reviews are supposed to work.  No matter how pure our own intent, other people do not always have our best interests at heart.

We are not only judged just on our performance. Watch your back. Deliver, and realize that performance is not the only thing you judged by.

Turning Anxiety into Performance

What happens when you take responsibility for you life? Turn anxiety into performance.