Thoughts on Leadership and Organizational Health

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A Manifesto for Small Teams Doing Hard Work

September 11, 20232 min read

For the last 11. months or so, our team at Ithaka has been working incredibly hard to rebuild our programs from the inside out (more on that later), in order to better serve our Residents. As we near the finish line, I'm reminded of this great post from Seth Godin from many years back, and think I'll share it with my team this coming week to help frame the important work we're doing...

A Manifesto for Small Teams Doing Important Work

We are always under tight deadlines, because time is our most valuable asset.
If you make a promise, set a date. No date, no promise.
If you set a date, meet it.
If you can’t make a date, tell us early and often. Plan B well prepared is a better strategy than hope.
Clean up your own mess.
Clean up other people’s messes.
Question premises and strategy.
Don’t question goodwill, effort or intent.
“I’ll know it when I see it,” is not a professional thing to say. Describing and discussing in the abstract is what we do.
Big projects are not nearly as important as scary commitments.
If what you’re working on right now doesn’t matter to the mission, help someone else with their work.
Make mistakes, own them, fix them, share the learning.
Cheap, reliable, public software might be boring, but it’s usually better. Because it’s cheap and reliable.
Yesterday’s hierarchy is not nearly as important as today’s project structure.
Lock in the things that must be locked in, leave the implementation loose until you figure out how it can get done.
Mostly, we do things that haven’t been done before, so don’t be surprised when you’re surprised.
Care more.
If an outsider can do it faster and cheaper than we can, don’t hesitate.
Always be seeking outside resources. A better rolodex is better, even if we don’t have rolodexes any more.
Talk to everyone as if they were your boss, your customer, the founder, your employee. It’s all the same.
It works because it’s personal.

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