OrgHacking 2020 wrap-up

This is my 6th full year of posting on OrgHacking and continuing my annual tradition of writing an end-of-year wrap-up post (previous reviews: 2019, 2018, 2017: 1 & 2, 2016, 2015). I’m going to stick with last year’s 3-part format in a slightly abbreviated form. 

And what a year it was. Pair the global pandemic that’s been raging since March upending traditional ways of working, with a couple of major life events: starting a new full-time job and getting married — and 2020 became a year of many “firsts”. 

Part 1: 2020 reflection 

At the end of last year, I highlighted org governance and distributing power, value generation (performance) and value allocation (comp), and distributed work as areas of interest for 2020. Those remained top-of-mind for me throughout the year, with the latter in particular becoming a lot more real due to COVID-19. I did not get to just think about them, but also write about them, with the relevant posts captured in the “organization fundamentals” and “distributed work” sections of Part 3. 

It was fascinating to see the “two sides of the same coin” relationship between performance and compensation a lot clearer (the value you generate for the group, and your share of the collective value) and see how they fit in broader frameworks of fundamental challenges of organizations. 

The big a-ha moment around distributed work came from shifting my language from talking about “remote work”, which stands in contrast to “co-located work”, to “distributed work” which is more of a spectrum. Companies start to work in a distributed fashion a lot earlier than they used to (it’s hard to find a 100-person tech company that’s 100% co-located), and while many have hit “peak distributed” during the pandemic, some will stay there, and some will go back to a lower lever of distribution that’ll still be higher than their pre-pandemic level. It highlighted that many of us have been working distributedly for quite a while, but perhaps not in a very skilled way. It also highlighted the role that the human element plays in that dynamic: from the challenge of attempting to collaborate in a way that goes beyond our evolutionary wiring, to the possibility of mitigating the relational biases that we tend to rely on heavily while working co-located. This takes me to intentional community design, but I’ll skip that rabbit hole for now. 

My personal life events (and perhaps pandemic-related fatigue build-up) have impacted my writing in the last couple of months of the year, and I did not stick to my weekly cadence. There are a few pieces of content I came across and did not have the time or mindshare to write about: 

I’m hoping to get back to them at the beginning of the new year, but I’m also planning to hold my intention of writing a weekly post a bit more lightly in 2021. We’ll see how it goes. 

Part 2: 2021 areas of interest 

My 2021 areas of interest seem to be a refinement and evolution of my 2020 themes:

  • Intentional governance/design of productive communities/organizations in general and the value generation (performance)/value distribution (compensation) challenge in particular. 
  • Collective sense-making — an emerging category this year, that I hope to continue to explore further. Most likely, through the work of Dave Snowden and the Cognitive Edge. 
  • Building human connection and addressing human needs in collaborative efforts. I slot some of the more interesting challenges of distributed work into this category and the maturing DEI space which is finally generating some balanced, evidence-based approaches and practices. 

Part 3: 2020 posts by emergent categories 

About mid-year I moved away from the old naming convention of using [] in summary posts. Therefore, original (synthesis) posts are indicated below with an *. 

People practices

Organization fundamentals


Distributed work

Behavior change

Small-group dynamics

Large-group dynamics


Knowledge Management


OrgHacking 2020 wrap-up

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