OrgHacking 2019 wrap-up

This is my 5th(!) full year of posting a weekly piece in OrgHacking (with the exception of my first deliberate, short hiatus) nearing my 300th(!) post. You can find past annual reviews here: 2018, 2017 (part 1 & 2), 2016, 2015

I’m continuing to evolve the format of this post and this year I’m splitting it into 3 parts: 

Part 1 covers my 2019 reflections/review.

Part 2 highlights my hypothesized “areas of interest” for 2020.

Part 3 lists all my 2019 posts by their emergent category.

Part 1: 2019 year in review

  • I hold my “areas of interest” for the year very loosely, so it’s always interesting to look back at the emergent themes in a year of posts. This year those were: DEI, governance, people practices, personal/professional development, hard science, collaboration, performance and accountability, strategy and broader musings.
  • I expected people practices and personal/professional development to remain key areas of focus for me so I’m not surprised that they remain strongly represented in my writing. 
  • I’m happy that I was able to share more on DEI, putting my raw 2018 intuitions into more coherent points of view and more concrete alternative paths forward. 
  • The original pieces I’m most proud of writing this year were the one on psychometrics and the one on SaaB. The latter was my first attempt in capturing a broader trend in the HR space, dissecting in, and proposing an alternative. The ones on direction-setting and culture are pretty good too (imho).
  • I expected to write more on recruiting and deliberate practice in 2019 and didn’t. I spent a single post on each (Inclusive hiring and VCoLing). Recruiting is just as broken as it was with some incremental improvements. The much-needed paradigm shift, at least in my own thinking about it, hasn’t arrived yet. Deliberate practice may also be a bit further out, but I’m actually more optimistic that we’ll see some breakthroughs on that front in the near future. 
  • I noticed two areas where my perspective of them changed over the year. A small one is captured in the leveling piece, taking a slightly more idealistic stance. But a more profound one on remote work. At Opower, I experienced the collaborative tax incurred and cultural dilution that took place after the company had gone multi-geo pretty early on: first satellite office at under 100 employees and first international office at under 500 employees. As a result, I was pretty strongly at the camp of “giving ground grudgingly” and holding on to co-location for as long as possible. I’ve since then done something pretty close to a 180°: remote/distributed work is happening, so we might as well figure out how to do it well, and the sooner — the better. 
  • The posts that were most thought-provoking for me were around governance and the highly related pieces about performance/accountability. I’m starting to see past the more dogmatic incorporation of certain practices and into the underlying principles, so things are starting to click. A good segue to the next part of this post.

Part 2: 2020 areas of interest

As I previously mentioned, I hold the intention to explore these areas very loosely, but I still see value in stating them because they provide an interesting reference point for reflection. If I take an end-of-2019 snapshot of the things that I’m curious to explore further, these ones come to mind: 

  • Organizational governance, and perhaps more broadly, the paradigms, systems, and practices to manage and distribute power in the organization. 
  • Related but somewhat separate: egalitarian approaches for assessing an individual’s contribution to the collective (aka “performance”) and to allocating their fair share of the collective value generated (aka “compensation”).
  • As a final twist, layering on remote/distributed work on all of the above and making “remote work, work”. We’re already a bit over our evolutionary skies by attempting to collaborate in groups that far exceed the Dunbar number, and now we’re adding another interesting aspect that we were not necessarily innately designed to do well. Not a reason not to do it, but definitely something that’ll require a lot more intentionality in avoiding the pitfalls and learning to do it well.

Part 3: 2019 posts by emergent category

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)


People Practices

Personal/Professional Development

Hard Science


Performance and Accountability

Strategy and broader musings

OrgHacking 2019 wrap-up

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