7 May 2013
As an employee it’s quite easy to become cynical about the role your company takes in society. Most companies seem to focus on making money within the legal limits – not minding ethics, even less being a positive force in society. One example is the recent TeliaSonera leadership meltdown in Uzbekistan, where management defended from allegations of bribery by claiming to follow local legislation. That’s far from enough today for a major company. You have to do what’s right, not just what’s legal.
More and more people think it’s important how their suppliers, and by extension their own company, behaves but very few have the power to influence that behaviour. This incongruence creates a feeling of unease, or even resentment. You want to proudly present your company – not excuses.
If you are in that fortunate situation where you can influence your company, it’s a whole other matter. As a company owner you have all the power but no excuses. Any crappy behaviour is on you. You have to decide on environmental policies. You have to find the worthy causes. You have to work out how your organisation should contribute to the surrounding world. This is more difficult than it sounds. There are many choices. For example, should Adaptiv focus on our game, the software business, or focus on our home town Stockholm, or should we aim higher and battle inequality, racism, poverty, environment? What?
These are difficult questions that need to be answered again and again. There are no easy answers. All I know is that we, the owners of Adaptiv, wanted our company to be more than a financial entity. We wanted it to be a decent corporate citizen at least. Here are some choices we’ve made:
- One of the first decisions we made was to act in an ecologically sustainable manner. That’s really not particularly difficult for a service organisation. For example, it means we prefer public transport over cars, trains over planes and walking/biking over most other transport means. If we go by plane we sum up our flying miles over a year and compensate for carbon emissions. To encourage biking we’ve set up a “biking benefit” to be able to buy a decent bike for commuting. Biking is great because it’s both good for your health and the environment. There is much more, of course. You can read more in our environmental policy.
- We want to encourage Swedish companies to become more competitive using Lean and Agile thinking. We believe this is good for business and therefore good for Swedish society. That’s why we often give talks or lectures for free or for a very modest fee. This also implies that we should support local events and groups. This year will be the 5th year in a row that we sponsor the “Agila Sverige” (eng. “Agile Sweden”) conference. We have also sponsored local programmer communities, like the Swedish Java user group JavaForum.
- We give 10 % of company profits after dividends and taxes to charity. This typically sums up to SEK 30 000 – 40 000 a year. We try to find a worthy cause, e.g. planting trees to battle deforestation or giving donkeys to women for taking their goods to their local market.
Of course there is a lot more we could do. I’m happy we’re doing what we do, but I also walk around with a bit of a bad conscience because there is so much more with could do. For example, we would like to take on a charity software project sometime. But there you go; you can’t do everything you want. After all, we’re just four people.
What is your company doing and are you satisfied with that? What are you doing about it?
22 April 2013
I recently blogged about Adaptiv’s peer performance conversations, or PPCs. As a comment to that post, I received a great question from Bob Marshall (@flowchainsensei), which was: “Please tell me how this in any way makes sense in the context of Deming’s 95/5?”. This is my response.
19 April 2013
I’ve had mostly poor experiences with performance reviews. They often left me feeling slightly dirty; like I wanted to take a shower and forget the whole thing ever happened. I am not alone, it seems. Some people call them a joke. Some say they’re tayloristic, elitist or even evil. Very few enjoy them. It’s just one of those things that you “have to do” in business. Or is it?
What I have experienced as an employee is the Swedish form of performance review, most often referred to as a “development dialogue”. They are similar to their Anglo-Saxon counterpart, the “performance appraisal”; typically a little bit more coaching and a little bit less assessing, but only by a margin. At heart, they’re the same. The supervisor assesses the employee and indirectly or openly link that to their yearly compensation adjustment.
At Adaptiv, we wanted to get away from the negative stuff. But how could we? Just skipping performance reviews (I’ll use that term to mean all forms) would be one way, but why throw the baby out with the bath water? To me, there is clearly some value in getting honest feedback on your performance from your colleagues at least once in a while.
Would it be possible to set things up so that you could get that without the dirt?
9 April 2013
In my last post I talked about how my company, Adaptiv, strives to optimise the lives of the consultants (there are four of us). But talk is indeed cheap. How do we accomplish that in practice? Of course this differs from company to company, but I’d like to present some of our ideas. We’ve come up with a number of benefits, which we feel move us in the right direction.
We have many of the more typical benefits at Adaptiv, e.g. health insurance and a money pool for physical training expenses. It would be boring to list all of those. Instead I would like to talk about four more unusual benefits that contribute to my quality of life.
26 March 2013
Let’s start with an eternal question: What should a company seek to optimise? Its profits? Share price? Or something else?
For many, company profits is the obvious answer. “Without profits a company cannot exist”, they proclaim. This is obvious but misleading. It’s like saying “Without water a human cannot exist”. Its true but that doesn’t mean I should always optimise my water level. As long as its over a certain level, I’m fine.
For others, shareholder return is the focus. Investors and owners are certainly important, but are they most important? Think about it. We have all seen the negative effects of management trying to inflate share prices. How good is truly the quarterly focus for a company? And how motivating are stock price increases to employees?
Some management gurus claim that everything must start with a customer focus today. Customers should pull what they need from organisations. Organisations should be designed and adapt continuously to cater to their needs. This strikes a chord with me, but what if customers don’t really know what they need? Or what if my job is to know a lot and learn what they need?
There are other thoughts on this. Some system and complexity thinkers, claim you should not optimise for one group but strive to satisfy all stakeholders, including even the families of employees and society at large. This sounds great, and I agree, but there are two problems:
- In context, some groups are more important than others and there are dependencies between them.
- Saying you should satisfy everybody doesn’t really provide much focus at all. It doesn’t help us attack our initial question.
From the above, we can deduce that even very smart people disagree on how to answer this question. I guess it’s because there are many true answers and it depends on context. In this post, I’d like to explain how my own company, Adaptiv, has reasoned around this. We have chosen none of the options above.