Diamonds and Graphite

[Edit: Math]

It’s a time of nontrivial pressure here at my work, as we arrive at the end of one Fiscal Year and on the precipice of another. Like a calendar New Year this invites all sorts of process of evaluation and review and planning, meaning that if you are a front-line manager you are currently juggling the evaluation of your individual team members (both career wise and performance wise, which I would argue are two different things), the evaluation of the team as a whole (did we do the things we said we were going to do and if not why not), the planning for what the team will do in the coming period (as informed by previous), and the budgeting for that plan (which… is a bit more constrained everywhere). Every year we “kid” ourselves that come the new Fiscal Year things will Calm Down because we will have Sorted Out Last Year and we have a Plan For Next Year; and in some cases, that’s legit. In others, it is an invitation to self-delusion.

One analogy I hear a lot is how you can’t make a diamond without pressure. Sure – that is principally correct, if you want those carbons matrixed such that they create a 10 on the hardness scale and you can use them to be effective tools to cut other things (e.g., industrial diamonds) or inspire awe and avarice (e.g., diamond adornment) then rock on: apply your pressure to that carbon. It’s expensive, but the end product is useful, and sometimes pretty.

You know what else is made of pure carbon? Graphite. The stuff in your pencils (whether they be Dixon Ticonderoga or mechanical pencils) is graphite, and it’s *elementally the same* as diamond, it’s just configured differently. If a diamond is matrixed carbon, graphite are cellular sheets of carbon. (You can see diagrammatic and explanatory differences here). While graphite requires pressure too (about 75k lbs/square inch to form), Diamonds require tenfold more pressure.

Diamonds and graphite are measured differently — even the goth diamonds (industrial diamonds) are priced in carats (about 0.20 oz) and graphite is priced in ton (one ton =2000 pounds, 1 pound =16 ounces, so the differential there is 32k). Industrial diamonds can be priced as low as 12 cents per carat (I’m using industrial diamonds here because they produce work, vs other diamonds are for “art”). Graphite is running about $2281 per ton. In terms of value, graphite is then about $1.10 per pound and industrial diamonds are about $1.92, so the price difference is about a fifth of the pressure difference.

You get what you pay for. But what do you want?

You wouldn’t, for example, use an industrial diamond to sort out your notes, to sketch things, to use as a heat sink for your laptop, for use in a battery, to reinforce plastic or to deflect radar; you wouldn’t use graphite to grind or cut things. The pressure exerted produces a fundamentally different material and you use the material differently. The markets are also different: the Industrial Diamond market is projected to be $2.5bn by 2028, Graphite is headed to $25.7bn in the same year.

Which is a link-and-fact-ridden way to say that if you are valuing the pressure for the pressure’s sake then you are not valuing anything at all. You can hone a clump of carbon into a very, very specific tool with very, very specific use cases in a narrow-ish market (again, unless you’re doing it for “art”), or you can use about a tenth of the pressure and get a fundamentally broader application from your toolset.

If the metaphor hasn’t hit you with a carbon-fiber baseball bat yet, here we go: reveling in the volume of pressure applied to personnel for the value that “people work well under pressure” and “you can really see the value people provide when they are under pressure” is a detrimental and flawed approach. If what you want to do is hone that particular person into that particular niche, understand that you are developing a very, very hard matrix in that human that will allow it to go and cut things and grind things but at the expense of its ability to buffer things, to connect things, and to elucidate things. Or if you are asking the human to do both of those things then you will get neither well.

Sure, people are not elements (well technically people are elements, collections of them, but whatever). People have the ability to compartmentalize, to have sentience, to make decisions, and to make choices. Some of us were hardened and pressured and then had things written in our reviews like “bodies in the wake”; it takes a lot of hard work on the person upon whom pressure was applied to de-matrix their carbons and get to those nice flowy sheets (Years. It takes years, trust me).

We should not spend all of our efforts trying to create batches of diamonds alone, and we should identify and appreciate the need for graphite.

Numbers Game

(Something a little more lighthearted. Maybe.)

Every morning I “play” at least one Sudoku puzzle. I have a book of 3000 puzzles and they’re listed as “medium” to “hard” and I’ve graduated to “hard”. I can usually get one done in about 5-10 minutes and it kind of helps me wake up with my coffee and frame the day.

Yesterday I had to redo one twice, eventually erase it, give up, and move on to the next one in the book, promising myself to return today. This had not yet happened in my Sudoku history, and I wasted (?) probably 45 minutes yesterday trying to prove to myself I could do this puzzle. I had to complete the next one to “validate” that I still have “got it”, but it didn’t quite sit right.

This morning I finished the puzzle, but I had to do something I really hate doing: I had to guess. In most Sudoku, there comes a time where you are looking at 2 of the 9 slots in a line or a cube and you *know* that it there’s two numbers that fit into those two slots, and you know which numbers they could be (e.g., Slot A is a 5 or a 9, slot B is a 5 or a 9). This allows you to know that all of the other slots in the line are not those two numbers, but it’s not like they’re interchangeable: those two slots also impact their cubes and impact their perpendicular lines. Guessing, even educated guessing, is a gamble.

The gamble increases in scope when you make that guess early on: say, when your puzzle is only 20% complete instead of when it’s 80% complete, because the downstream impacts of your guess permeate through almost every other number choice. So, in a puzzle of 81 numbers if you’re 30 numbers in and you guess, then 50ish more number choices are impacted. Granted, the stakes are low: if you’re wrong, which you will discover with about 10 numbers to go, (or hopefully earlier), you grab your trusty eraser (may I recommend a Pentel Hi Polymer, I prefer mine to a Pink Pearl, my earlier go-to) and erase the crap out of the sudoku and start over. The only thing you’ve lost is time (and maybe a little pride).

We are, in my organization, coming out of RIFs, entering a planning season, and doing the logical thing: we’re looking around at what has to be done and with what resources (human and otherwise) we can do it. We’re also trying to predict the future: what will we need 3, 6, 12 months from now; where will we need to be in 2 years, etc. In some cases, we know pieces of the puzzle, and in some cases, we have to guess. We have pretty PowerPoint slides and impressive Excel pivot tables and neatly combed backlogs when we are done, but ultimately, there will be a time in this process where we have to say we think Slot A is a 5 and Slot B is a 9. Even in my relatively steady area of Fundamentals and Operations, there’s an aspect of predictability that is missing; while not nearly as bad as my Product Manager friends have it (their customer base is legit millions of people; my customer base is some <1000 engineers), the human component represents a blank slot on the Sudoku board and we have to put in a (hopefully very educated) guess as to what goes there. The price of erasure and starting over is and can be disruptive and is not brushed aside by a “never mind, we’ll get to it tomorrow”. It happens, and we absorb it, but it’s not terribly fun, either to explain or execute. In our case, this un-fun piece is mollified by an evolving process and an attentive release team that keeps us on track and has a system in place for when we identify that we indeed guessed wrong, and that Slot A was supposed to be a 9. It doesn’t take the sting completely out, but it does help.

And then we go on to the next puzzle.


We’ve all had that friend with that messy relationship that doesn’t end well, and someone ends up seeking “closure”. And the closure-seeker is usually denied that: the other party has ghosted or cannot or will not give the answers the closure-seeker needs.

Closure is not for the person who left, closure is for the person who is left behind.

With the volume of layoffs out there, there are those who are leaving (and that sucks), and then there are those who are left behind. We need to acknowledge that also sucks. There are (broadly) two sets of folks left behind in the workplace after layoffs: managers, and individual contributors. Much as with Now What, this is the best I can do (for now) with some things to think about:

Individual Contributors

If you’re an “IC” it means you aren’t managing anyone but yourself, and your workload. In a post-layoff world, that’s a lot to manage, because you are also having to manage your response. You probably have survivor’s guilt: a combination of wanting to know why specific people/groups/etc. were picked, replaying in your head what decisions you would have made had you been in charge, worrying about if another shoe is going to drop, and trying to figure out what it all means. Things feel a little unstable, and that seems to seep into your everyday work, even after the team meetings and frank conversations have subsided.

  1. Understand that you will not get answers. It’s rare that the full weight of the decision-making or rationale will ever be exposed and you’re likely being protected from some uncomfortable choices that someone else had to make.
  2. Understand that it is not your fault. I grew up with the adage that “you cannot say it is not your fault if you cannot also say it is not your responsibility” and frankly, if you’re not a manager, you were not part of any decision-making process, and therefore it wasn’t your responsibility, and therefore it wasn’t your fault.
  3. Seek to control what you can control. You can control your response. You can set boundaries in your work and personal life. You can (hopefully) provide input *to* your management about what the next steps can/should be as you see them.
  4. Take a breath: this is unpleasant, yes, but it also affords you a swift spiritual kick to the gut: why are you here? I mean, yes, why are you here in the cosmic universe, etc., but also: why are you in this role, doing this thing? Do you still like it, even with its ugly bits? Is it time to *plan for* (not execute) a change in the coming months/years? What would you need for that, or if it isn’t time for a change, what do you need to double down in your current space?
  5. Give yourself time to grieve. Grief processing looks different for each person; in my case I carefully box it up and put it ‘way down while I focus on tasky and strategic things and then it blows up in my face some months later. I do not recommend this approach, but I identify with it.
  6. List what you learned. Especially if this is your first experience with layoffs, pay attention to what you learned – how did you respond, what do you wish you had prepared at home or in life for this, what conversations did you have to have at home or at work and what did you need or want for those?


Congratulations! You get to own the message. You may or may not have had a direct input into the decision-making process, but you’re in it and must execute on it, and now you are down one-to-N team members, and you have folks on your team who are scared, disoriented, or frankly freaking out. Typically, layoffs come with a “redirection” or “new focus” so you get to manage your team not only through this massive change in their/your dynamic but *also* potentially with new or altered charter.

  1. Acknowledge the elephant(s) in the room. Yes, there are/were layoffs. Yes, people are impacted. No, you don’t have answers and/or you can’t give answers. Yes, it sucks. Give yourself, and your team, a space to vent, ask questions, and work through their stages of grief. If you are only going to open that space for one meeting and move on, that’s your call, but be transparent about it.
  2. Support your team. This means providing that vent space, but also reminding them of any work benefits that provide therapy/counseling, reminding them of the need to take time, acknowledging the new work dynamic and doing your best to answer their questions about how things will work in the future.
  3. Clear, consistent, and candid convos: You do not have all the answers but that doesn’t mean clamming up is a good idea. There are going to be tough discussions ahead: who works on what, what work drops, or if somehow the expectation is that you do more with less, be candid about it. Euphemistic handwaving about a “brave new future” isn’t helpful when it comes with the same ginormous backlog.
  4. Recognize growth. As the team progresses through this event you will see signs of improvement and/or growth; recognize it and publicly appreciate it. This isn’t to say there won’t be folks who take longer to get through it, but when you see signs of progress do acknowledge it: grit deserves recognition.
  5. Everything that applies to an Individual Contributor also applies to you. Meaning, you need to give yourself time to grieve, you need to evaluate how you will approach this or what you learned, you need to take a breath. You did not stop being a human being when you became a manager and you may need to remind yourself of that.

Now What

I work for a major tech company, one that is/was recently in the news for layoffs, and I get that that doesn’t narrow things down much. I’m not immediately impacted. Many are.

This is my best effort at a salient list of what to do if you found/find yourself on the receiving end of a difficult conversation, a last-minute scheduled meeting with HR, or a sterile email. (I am glad to be working at a place where it wasn’t the latter).

  1. Read Everything – I mean really read it. Don’t gloss over the letter/notice/information you’re given, read everything and make sure you read everything before you sign anything. You should be given time to read it and review it with someone else if needed.
  2. Get answers to the questions you will have after reading everything:
    • What happens with your health benefits? How long are you covered, is there COBRA?
    • Can you claim unemployment insurance? (in some states you can after a layoff, and in some if you take a package, you can’t. Your state may vary, check the state site. Here’s that page for Washington State.
    • What happens with your stock, specifically your unvested stock?
    • What happens with your ESPP (if you participate)?
    • What happens with your 401k?
    • Are they offering employment assistance (e.g., helping you find another job)?

If it’s all happening NOW

  • You’re going to feel overwhelmed, but you’ll need to do steps 1 and 2 above to the best of your ability. Don’t *sign anything* until you have to. Let the person who notified you know that you need time to review the notice with your SO, parent, roommate, whatever.
  • Take a walk or scream into a pillow or take a hot shower or do something, anything to give yourself some space. Breathe.
  • If you have a budget, revise it based on what your package will be (if you get one) and what your unemployment will be (if you get it).
    • You can work with most companies (energy, mobile, etc.) to create payment plans and/or assistance depending on your circumstances. The reality is that some people live paycheck to paycheck and so if that’s you, start communicating early. This includes you credit card companies.

If you have time between now and D-Day

  • Use your benefits. That means:
    • Get your doctor’s appointments in, eyeglasses, dental, etc. *Same for any dependents*.
    • If you have other perks, use them.
  • Establish *how much time* you really have and what “normally” happens in that time:
    • Do you have stock that vests? Do you contribute to your 401(k)? Do you participate in an ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Program)?
  • Do you have enough time to look for another role in the same company (large company layoffs are usually strategic and around projects, your skill set may work in another project).
  • Should you start changing automatic deductions/drafts *now* to accommodate an uncertain future?

And then

  • Brush up your resume. This includes:
    • Updating your work history
    • Looking at current job listings at other companies/your companies and identifying how skill sets are being labeled/displayed “these days”
    • Updating your LinkedIn profile
  • Consider working with a contract or temporary agency – not glamorous, but it keeps you out there, it gets you exposure in companies, you get additional skill sets, and most importantly, it helps pay bills.

Your mileage may vary, and some may be in a better position than others. There is this perception that if you work in the tech sector, you have scads of cash just lying about for just such an occasion, and whilst there are those that do, there are those that do not. Not all tech sector jobs are high-income engineering, and things are tightening up.

We’ll get through it. It’s going to be rocky, but we’ll get through it.

Forcing Functions

I am staring down a forcing function Then Me put into place for Now Me, and would like to have a talk with Then Me. To be clear: Now Me knows Then Me was right. In just a little over six weeks I need to be able to run 9.3 miles (15k), and I have successfully run recently as far as… 3. Three miles. If you are doing math and saying, “hm… you can make it, but just barely”, you’re right.

This year I turn 50, which is a nice round number. This year also marks the fifteenth anniversary of when I first started running – I was at a birthday party and a friend waited until after the second glass to let me know we were all running in the Seattle Half Marathon (2008). When I told my (then boyfriend) he laughed, which was all the incentive I needed to actually do it. At 50, incentives require a bit more “oomph”. Signing up for events as forcing functions is one of the “oomph” things, reminding myself of the health benefits is another. But oh, it’s hard to wake up when it’s gray and rainy and tell myself I need to go running up my hill (I live on a hill. No matter which way I leave my house, there will be hills to run).

I also have purchased a Smart Scale. The Smart Scale is quite smart – so smart that it talks to my phone, and it talks to My Fitness Pal, and it talks to Apple Health, and it blabs about all of my intransigence, including my lean mass and therefore also my body fat percentage. You’re not supposed to weigh yourself every day, more like once a week. So naturally, I weigh myself every day. In the olden days, I could step on the scale, and if it said you weigh NNN.4, I could say, “well we can just round that down to NNN” and put that manually into my phone. Now… now my scale tells on me, with that blunt matter-of-factness that I know I do to other people sometimes, and now I understand the look they give me when I do that. It’s not that I (or the scale) am/are *wrong*, it’s just that the message could be a little softer.

I do know what I have to do to get the numbers to go in the correct direction, but after a Holiday Season TM stretching from October to early January, it’s hard to convince yourself that cauliflower rice is really that good, and that you shouldn’t have that cookie. Four months of “I’ll take care of it later” have come home to roost.

The problem with all of these forcing functions is they also come with a dollop of potential backfire: at my age (and this is not me pitying being nearly 50, it’s me celebrating it but being honest about some of the constraints of it) you can injure yourself a lot easier by pushing too hard, and having taken a nasty fall a couple of years back I don’t want to do that. I’ve started lifting recently and got lectured by my PT for not stretching adequately (such that standing up “straight” had me pivoted slightly to the left; my left hand was correctly at my side, but my right hand was about 3″ forward). It’s a balancing act, and when you layer on the realities of the current working environment and just being an adult in general there’s a lot of room for failure … and improvement.

And so, I have my forcing functions, and I’m trying to expand them… as long as they’re not too forceful.


Here we are, on the edge of the annual change over, this time from 2022-2023.

If you are susceptible to these sorts of things — and I am — you’re probably identifying a list of productive, “new me” things to do. With the caveat that 1. everyone considering “new me” should perhaps consider “adjusted me” instead, as it’s far more realistic and 2. these things are better done in small stages rather than the whole shebang, I present the following list of things that are approachable, productive, and can be timeboxed:

  1. Charity Review: This time of year, you get entreaties from ALL of the nonprofits you’ve ever given to. Use it to weed and be thoughtful of your beneficiaries, and also remind yourself for upcoming tax season.
  2. Paperwork Cleanup: Speaking of which, unless you have some peculiar tax scenarios and/or routinely get audited, you can probably axe your 2013 and older returns.
  3. Paperwork Cleanup, Part II: And while you’re at it, consider going through your filing cabinets and recycling (or shredding) any documents no longer useful. For example, we had an Owner’s Manual to a Sears Leaf Blower no one has seen for ten years.
  4. Clothing Cleanup (Extended): Weeding isn’t just for papers – flip the hangers on all your clothes so the bulb of the hook is facing *away* from you in the closet. As you wear something, you can set it with the bulb *towards* you. At the end of the year, anything facing away still, was not worn, and can get weeded.
    • Also, no you aren’t going to wear that sweater that you bought on impulse but was too short/too boxy/too long/too deep/etc. Let someone else wear it, or (if you’re feeling adventurous) refashion it into something you would wear.
    • Sunk Cost Fallacy is a thing.
  5. Email Armament: You also probably have an inbox full of emails from everyone you’ve ever transacted with, telling you about their sales.
    • You can unsubscribe (every one of those mails *should* have a link at bottom to do so) – opting out of “marketing emails” is separate from “not getting receipt emails”.
    • Then (if you’ve got the inclination) set up inbox rules to handle inbound email receipts, newsletters, etc.
  6. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:
    • Your holiday lights can be recycled at select locations (for example where I live, McClendon’s Hardware lets us do that) – because you and I both know that you of Next Holiday Season is going to be upset with you of This Holiday Season for not getting rid of the lights that have the inexplicable dead zone halfway through the strand.
    • Your unopened toiletries of the scents and types you don’t like anymore but still insist on keeping under the sink can be donated to your local shelters.
    • Your old prescription glasses can be donated at your local Costco Optical.
    • Your local waste service company likely has a listing of where/how to recycle things in your area.
  7. Prepare: Do you plan to have new spending habits in the new year? Or a new approach to food or exercise? If you’re like me and working your way through that box of Lucky Charms just in time to do a sugar detox Jan 1, that’s all good, but:
    • Make sure you’ve downloaded your apps, subscriptions, dusted off the treadmill, etc. *before* Jan 1 — the fewer hitches you have getting started, the more likely you are to get started – and stay started.
    • If you’re fighting habits (Starbucks, McDonalds, Fridge, etc.) you can do things like put strategic sticky notes in places, detach your credit cards from apps, etc. in order to provide a “hitch” to the habits you’re trying to break.
  8. Secure Your Shit. I’m serious.
    • If you have a password manager (NOT Last Pass — BitWarden is good, and there are other good ones) update your passwords. There’ve been a ton of breaches and stuff stays on the dark web for ages. Don’t reuse passwords.
    • If you don’t have a password manager, get one, and then update all your passwords.
    • Get a copy of your credit report while you’re at it:

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, I didn’t for example suggest doing an audit of your flatware to determine if you’re off one or more pieces for your full 12-piece place setting (but if you are, you can get individual pieces here). You don’t have to alphabetically organize your spice drawer/cabinet (I recommend instead filing them according to frequency of use). It isn’t actually required to review and reorganize the contents of your sock drawer, or yarn stash, etc. But sometimes little things can help when getting ready to tackle the big things.

The next big thing: 2023.

Change Management, Part II

Following up on the earlier post, as I have had Spare Time TM courtesy of a bout of COVID.

The Ripple Effect

I failed to mention previously that Big Changes tend to have ripples, and much like when you throw a rock into a pond and then another rock shortly after it the ripples sort of crash into each other, creating other ripples, is how post-major-change ripples go. For example: you have broad reorganization A – let’s say whole departments move, charters move, Big Changes happen. That’s the first rock.

As the ripples from the first rock stretch out to other parts of the water, things in that part of the water get impacted — in this case, there’s the tactics of administrating to a reorganization (changing of cost centers, migrating of resources, identifying process or people gaps, revising projections, etc.) and then there’s the tactics of reacting to a reorganization (I had guaranteed funding from your team to do X, you have gone through a reorganization, is my dependency on you at risk). After enough buildup of these ripples, it often comes to management’s (correct) mind that another reorganization is needed, to account for the things that weren’t immediately derived or attended to with the first one. This “aftershock” reorganization is typically smaller, more nuanced, and often has better details worked out (direct reporting lines, accounts for previously identified gaps, etc.). Perhaps pedantically, this aftershock can breed additional, smaller aftershocks (or, additional, smaller ripples) that eventually calm down as they extend through the system. Depending on what time of year The Big One hit, the Little Ones can extend 3 to 6 months afterwards.

Driving To Clarity

The unloved but absolutely necessary job of the shitbird.

I’m sorry, there’s no better way to put it, although LinkedIn me wants to change “shitbird” to “change facilitator” or something; the bottom line is that oftentimes the people who have to drive through the stickier parts of the ambiguity pursuant to a reorg (particularly when we are talking about things like charter, support, keeping programs running, transfer of knowledge, transfer of understanding (those are indeed two different things), and so forth) are incredibly unpopular because we are often the ones pointing out the un-fun things to be done. For example, if the reorganization of people and charter does not equate to a clean reorganization of resources, there’s typically a lot of tedious work in identifying which resources go where, which ones can’t move until they’ve been reviewed, etc. In a world where development teams are already stacked with features and fundamentals work, the tactics of a reorg often present an unfunded mandate and are not usually expressed in cost of hours (e.g., this reorganization equates to N developer hours spent on the tactics of the reorg).

Note I do not say “wasted”. The time spent inspecting and enabling a reorganization to be successful is *not a waste* if done transparently, with understanding of the purpose of the reorganization, and in good faith. Like any effort, there are costs to that effort; the overall reorganization ostensibly results in greater long-term efficiencies, development or productivity. There is a short-term cost, however, and I’ve yet to see any reorganization actually attempt to size the cost and get better at sizing and predetermining the costs associated.

Tactics vs Strategy

Thus far all of my conversation here has been about “tactics” because the reorganization itself is the output of a strategy decision, and the implementation and administration of the reorganization is all tactics. But should it be?

I’m fairly certain that my company is not the only company to regularly shift resources, assets and charter in a near-constant effort to get better: we are a for-profit company and like sharks you either swim or die. We spend money on things, we want to be as efficient as possible for the best possible outcome, and ostensibly every reorganization is made with that goal in mind.

In a world where this is the case then it occurs to me that, by now, there should be a playbook for these things: how to determine the lines of the reorganization, how to pre-identify some of the impacts (both proactive and reactive), and most of all size the costs associated. Those costs need to be juxtaposed with the previous planned expenditures and weighed accordingly – you cannot absorb the impact of moving a thousand people around with no delay in production or productivity; to do so is either specious or obtuse.

One could argue that we cannot get to the impacts of the proactive/reactive tactics to a reorganization because the people who tend to understand these pieces best are too close to the ground – they cannot be trusted, in advance, with the knowledge of the pending changes enough to provide sizing of impact, and so it’s better to let the reorg roll and then “just deal with it”.

If you cannot trust your team to size things in advance, that’s probably a signal to pay attention to. Let’s ignore that for now, because that’s not what we’re talking about here (but we will, later).

You can have some aspect of both worlds.

The Strategy of Shuffle

Working with the fait accompli that a reorg is coming, you cannot (for whatever reason) pre-plan the reorg transparently with your organization, and you have to land the message and then pick up the pieces: approach it as strategy.

Because this isn’t the first one of these you’ve done, and it won’t be the last.


If you don’t have a playbook, build one. Literally start building one by capturing the experience of the pain of the tactics of this reorg:

  • What were the hardest parts of the implementation?
  • What were the things you didn’t plan for?
  • What were the things you planned for that didn’t actually happen? Or didn’t turn out the way you thought?
  • How much time did your team actually spend implementing the reorganization?
  • What projects for that period ended up being delayed (either directly or indirectly)?
  • Did any of your KPI’s suffer?
  • Did your OKR’s have to change?
  • How did your employee satisfaction scores change before/after/6months after 12 months after (for those who were part of the cohort before and after)?
  • What volume of attrition could you directly or indirectly tie to the reorg?

You’re already having to absorb the tactics of the specific reorg you’re undergoing right now, you may as well track this while you’re at it.


As you’ve captured all this information, be transparent with it – share it with your team, share it with your management, share it with your impacted peers, share it with your leadership. None of these things should be sensitive and every single one of them is useful.

“None of these should be sensitive? What if my KPI’s suffered? What if our employee satisfaction scores suffered?”

I would argue that it’s likely anyone seeing this data already has access to it — it’s not unusual for employee health scores to be shared out semi-or-annually, OKR’s and KPI’s by their very nature are shared in a Measure What Matters context, and I guarantee that regardless of what they wrote on their “going away/changing roles” email everyone knows why someone left the team or company.

The transparency and sharing of the data facilitate conversation, they facilitate awareness, and most of all they facilitate the ability to identify areas to improve *next time* — because there will be a next time.


If you’re thinking, “hey it looks like you’re gearing up to say now that I’ve measured all this and documented it, I should benchmark and improve” then ding! go to the head of the class. Because that is exactly what you (I, anyone in this) should do. If for no other purpose than your own for the next time you go through one of these, to better set expectations and understand the volume of work, and to better approach the tactics of *that* reorg, record what it took last time and use it to inform your experience the next time.


Obviously if every impacted team did exactly this then that would be a heck of a conversation with leadership about (and accrued body of data to inform) the strategy of reorganizing. Armed with the data of the costs pursuant to a reorganization (in time, developer productivity, attrition) vs. the benefits (in strategic pursuit, overarching delivery, etc.) leadership can make better informed and more surgical reorganization decisions. Specifically, armed with data about implementation times — e.g., if Reorg A took a really long time to implement because the volume of entrenched and shared resources was particularly gnarly to tease apart — then when approaching the next reorganization leadership can cast an eye in that direction and ask their middle management (who will be better informed on this aspect but also ostensibly in the Circle of Trust, or at least enough to help message the reorg) to size the effort for this bout and/or adjust their reorganization plans accordingly (move more/fewer people, move more/less charter, etc.).

In turn, much like any development effort, the management team can identify predictive costs of the reorg (if we do X, it will use up about Y productivity, and potentially impact Z project, to N degrees), avoiding many of those unpleasant conversations (or worse, handwavy conversations without any actual data attribution) that happen 6, 8, or 12 months down the line when we’re collectively trying to figure out why something did or did not happen.

Perfect vs Good

A quick note here about perfectionism: it’s good in small doses to get you directionally better at things. It is not a good management philosophy or philosophy to apply to any sort of “benchmarking and improvement” endeavor, which I would posit the Strategy of Reorgs as. Which is to say:

  1. Your first round of reorganization benchmarking will not solve for All the Cases.
  2. Your first or even second set of impact metrics will not be enough data to create a predictive model, but will be enough potentially to suggest correlation.
  3. The practical upshot of this exercise is to fractionally minimize the pain and/or volume of expense with each go.

It’s not going to be perfect, ever. You are welcome to aim for perfection; understand you will oft settle for good.

Which is better than settling for nothing at all.

Change Management

Author’s note: I had to go back and read through this blog a bit because I was certain I had already talked about this, but it turns out I’ve only dallied around the edges. Time to hit it head on.

I’ve been at my current company for about 8 years, meaning that if I stick around for another year (likely) it will be the longest time I’ve ever been at one company (and, should I stick around another year after that, the longest time I’ve been consecutively in the same approximate management chain/position). We just underwent the largest reorganization I’ve ever been through.

When a reorg happens, one or more of at least three things can happen:

  1. Your manager changes.
  2. Your reporting chain changes.
  3. Your charter changes.

Any one of these can be disruptive and when they happen it’s a good idea to go through and do that risk assessment, “Do I want to be here/Do I want to do this”. I advocate doing that assessment on a twice annual basis (or however often you have formalized reviews/checkpoints of your career at your company) anyway, so in my case, this assessment was about a two-minute exercise.

Once you’ve picked your stance, you then have to pick how you’ll approach it. As a manager, my first responsibility is to my team to make sure they have what they need to 1. do that risk assessment and 2. act on their plans outbound from their risk assessment. It’s also to make sure they get the answers they need to the questions they have, and to make sure they are supported. My second responsibility is to my charter: I am here to do a job (and it is not volunteer work, I am well paid) so let me focus on that job.

Which is why when a major reorg happens, I am probably not the best person to ask about “how I am feeling right now”. I put that in quotes not because I don’t feel anything, but because any emotional reaction I am going to have about the change will not hit until all of the change is managed and is *complete* — meaning, until we are all comfortably in our new place doing our new things as defined the new way, I am still in “change management” mode and my focus is to *get things done*. One of the defining criteria of leadership at this company is the ability to manage through ambiguity and my ability for that is to work consistently until there isn’t any.

This is all well and good until you work with someone who expects you to want to talk about the emotional reaction to the reorg, to have sentimental lookbacks, to “wallow” in the unknown a bit, or (and this is the one that grates the most) you have to work with someone who is “ostriching” — ignoring the change and hoping that things will just “stay the same”. That last shows up in things like being willfully obtuse, or pretending like the decision today will not make a larger impact four weeks from today; it’s the opposite from “I see the vision of the future and I want that future right now” (which to be fair is also pretty annoying — you have to traverse the interim between the two, you have to *do the work* to close out the old world and prepare for the new one).

Unfortunately, the way many folks deal with change are to either ostrich or to do that “assumptive time jump”, and so when you are the person who points out you can’t really do either and you must traverse the A, B, C, and D between the two, it can be perceived as unfriendly or adversarial. Which sucks, because the intent is to get through that sludge as quickly and efficiently as possible, not to reinforce the discomfort people are feeling with that change.

The problem is even though I’m aware of it I can’t really turn it off, for two reasons: 1. I’m literally paid to make sure we actually do the things we’re supposed to do, and 2. I’m fundamentally wired this way. Case in point: when my mom died. My mom died of vascular dementia and acute arteriosclerosis in April 2020. We found out she had this in December 2019, her having hid the dementia (and associated health issues) behind an alcohol problem and a refusal to share any health information with us. By the time she got through the first of two surgeries it was clear that we were in the end of the book, and by the time we had to engage Hospice there wasn’t any pretending anymore. This is change and that change bridges between the old world (Mom is “fine”) and the new world (Mom will not be here). And in that world, I felt helpless, because unlike this in-between space I have at my job, I couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t a doctor, a nurse, a hospice person; I had no job to do in this space except sit and wait. I could bring blankets and chocolates and have nonsensical discussions and on the side work through the endless paperwork; but these were things I could manufacture for myself to do to at least feel like somehow, I was contributing.

It’s a pretty stark comparison to take a major life event and compare it to something so trivial as a job; I draw it only to reinforce that this is a “me” thing and not a “me at work” thing and it’s a thing I have to balance.

I’m therefore in this weird space between Old World and New World where I want to focus on the steps to get from A to Z but I’m dealing with folks who want to pretend we’re in “A” for ‘just a little longer’ and folks who want to get to Z ‘right now’ and I’m the shit bird who has to point out there’s 25 steps to do first and the more time people insist on wallowing the less time there is to do those effectively.

In terms of energy expense, I think the main difference is that for these other folks, their mental energy expenditure is the stress surrounding the change and what that could mean for them/their charter/their vision; for me, the mental energy expenditure is the practical approach to get it done. Which is why on my Insights profile I get things like “Bobbie needs to be reminded of the humanity in others.”

So really, I have to manage myself through this change.


TL;DR: Use your paid time off if you’ve got it.

There’s kind of a lot going on in my world right now, a conflux of “things we should have known better” and “things we had no idea would happen”; as my job is professional Anvil Spotter these things touch me in one way or another. (Typically: “Yes we saw that anvil, here’s proof we saw that anvil, here’s how we will duck out of the way of said anvil”, or, “Nope, didn’t see that anvil, but here’s how we dealt with a similar anvil, and here’s how we’ll keep from being under this anvil next time”.) So far none of the anvils have landed but there’ve been some close calls.

What this means in a dynamic, hybrid work environment is a finely controlled chaos. In a meeting talking about interpersonal dynamics the other day a graph popped up to show all the interaction capabilities in a group of say, six people — and it’s factorial. Which means that if you have six people then Person A can have a “group” with all 5 other people, or 4, or 3, or 2, or 1, and as you whittle down the numbers the combinations increase as to which people they can be interacting with. Which in turn means that a group of “six” people is actually something like 720 “groups”. Which is why at the end of the day you and I and everyone are exhausted when working on a “small group” project (never mind 3 or 4).

The privileged luxury I have is to be able to take a break. This break has been like a few others where I’m actually not completely removing myself (even though that is/was the stated purpose) from work, but it is a departure from my normal work habits and a drastic reduction in the amount of mental involvement and time spent in front of a machine (for work). It’s that last that gets to the crux of it – the same machine I would log in to for fun or just routine access to docs and such, is aligned with my work. I can remove work notifications from my phone relatively easily (without having to remove the apps) but removing those from my Outlook, for example, is a bit more of a project. Thusly I’ll log in to say, update my grocery list or check in on something outside of work and I’ll see the little red bubble and it will entice me to go pay attention to that Teams chat or email. These sporadic check ins are not as tiring as a full day of work but are, as you can imagine, not as relaxing as one completely departed from it.

The fact that I *also* stacked this “break” with my to-do list of non-work stuff makes it feel like less of a break — car maintenance, catching up on house stuff, etc. means that my eternal fantasy of sitting on the couch systematically eating the marshmallows out of a box of Lucky Charms while watching Jaws and Aliens still eludes me.

That said, this “break” still provides respite and is necessary to ensuring that when I do officially return, I’m a sane, practical, rational person, whose job it is to identify anvils as they hover. The takeaway here for you, is to use your paid time off.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a thing – and probably drives some amount of “nah I’ll just take a break later”. It’s not necessarily fear of missing out on the fun stuff, though, but rather fear of missing out on crucial information to a given project, or the nuance in a meeting, or having the time to catch up on XYZ technology, or getting your administratea done. The objective horror of coming back to literally hundreds (thousands) of emails can also be a deterrent. Much as lying down without sleeping can offer an incomplete yet still valid rest, so too can be the “break” with a teeny check in here and there. In my case, the little red bubble will not be too scary when I return.

Does this sort of “semi break” take the place of a real, honest to goodness, vacation? Heck no – no more than that 20 minute beanbag loll takes the place of 8 hours of sleep. But it can give you the respite you need to keep going until you can get to the *real* break. Just remember to actually take that real break. I’m scheduling mine shortly… you know, while on this one.

To Link or Not to Link, That…

… is really a decision that gets made on an individual basis, if I’m being honest.

Having ranted about What LinkedIn Is Not For, let’s talk about what LinkedIn *is* for, at least as I understand it:

  • To create connections between yourself and people you have worked with,
  • To create (potentially) connections between yourself and people you have worked withs’ connections, to expand your network (e.g., in order to reconnoiter on employment prospects, places of work, specific candidates, etc.),
  • To identify potential candidates for your open role (if you’re a recruiter or hiring manager),
  • To share your work/discipline achievements with your peers and potential recruiters/hiring managers,
  • To share news/media/thought leadership/anecdotes around your area of occupation or expertise,
  • To find candidates or indicate interest in candidacy for nonprofit or volunteer positions (board or otherwise),
  • To vet skills and/or educational achievements

It also gets used by consultants and service providers to find potential provide-ees, which I find questionable, but I’d totally roll with (if there were an option to opt out, see previous). With that, here’s my criteria for linkage.

  • We worked together, either in the same group or in the same company on a given project or product
  • We served board or volunteer time together (yes even PTSA)
  • You have provided goods/services in a professional capacity (the very best traffic lawyer in Washington is one of my links, you’re welcome)
  • You reach out and identify how we are linked (“I see you worked with Princess Buttercup, I did too back before she started working at Dread Pirate, Inc.”) AND you identify how a link would help either or both of us (“I’m looking to transition into program management from engineering; do you have time to talk about your experience?”/”I see there’s an open role in your organization that I think would be a perfect fit for me…”)
  • You reach out and do not identify how we are linked and/or aren’t really specific about why we should be linked (e.g., I can see from the tooling that you’re linked to Inigo Montoya, and I remember working with Inigo Montoya on that project for Vizzini, so I can infer that that’s how you found me; but I’m not really sure if you’re just clicking “link” to have a bigger network count or because you want something from me or what.)
  • You are “cold mailing” me out of nowhere (as part of your mail you don’t share how you found me/why you think the linkage is worthwhile),
  • You are using InMail to sell me stuff, and want to link me so you can sell my links stuff,
  • You are one of those aforementioned service providers with whom I haven’t actually transacted any business,
  • You are just trying to expand your network via searching for keywords/key organizations and clicking “link all”
  • You do things that make me question your judgement, either on LinkedIn or at work. This includes conspiracy theories, derogatory comments about others, grind shaming, self-care shaming, or just generally being a d*ck.