The Work Experience

Hey Boss — Enough with the Big, Hairy Goals – Bob Sutton – Harvard Business Review

I love Bob Sutton. After reading his book Good Boss, Bad Boss I have become a bit of an acolyte. What I like about him most is the tenacious way he demystifies and deconstructs common management practices. Like goal setting.

For most organizations in most industries, success is measured on well known and accepted yardsticks. Sure, there are differences and they do matter, but ambitious goals rarely send people in directions they didn’t realize they needed to go.

In a post for HBR he questions the value of “big, hairy, audacious goals”. Not only do they state the obvious, he writes, but they provide no practical direction for how employees can achieve them.

A good boss lays out the path to a big goal, and works with people to break it down into objectives that more clearly imply the necessary actions. Focusing attention on the little steps not only clarifies what people need to accomplish on a daily basis, it also allows people to enjoy Small Wins …

… organizations tend to be stymied by big goals that have not been broken into bite-size pieces. Faced with seemingly huge and overwhelmingly difficult challenges, people freeze up or even freak out. So the best bosses not only outline the steps, they talk and act like each is not overly difficult — which quells people’s fears and enhances their confidence that, if they just keep moving, everything will turn out fine. 

Good leaders break down lofty goals into tangible activities so employees can grasp them. In the experience I have had consulting with staff the inability to grasp a big abstract goal can apply to anyone, regardless of their seniority. So break the goal down into:

  • objectives
  • actions
  • hard actions versus easy actions
  • immediate steps
  • and finally, what needs to be accomplished daily for people to enjoy small wins.

Read the original post by Bob Sutton which includes a compelling case study and further references at

The Work Experience

Experts questioning actual busyness of workers but no disputing amount of unpaid overtime Australians are working

The internet the world

Post secret on paper, via app, not so much

In 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (New Riders Voices That Matter 2011) Susan Weinschenk, PH.D. quotes an interesting study that investigated if honesty varied according to the communication medium.

Charles Naquin (2010) from DePaul University … conducted research on honesty in people when using email versus pen and paper.

In one study, forty-eight graduate business students were each given $89 (imaginary money) to divide with their partner; they had to decide whether to tell their partner how much money was in the kitty, as well as how much of the money to share with their partner. One group communicated by email and the other group by a handwritten note. The group that wrote emails lied about the amount of money (92%) more than the group that was writing by hand (63%). The e-mail group was also less fair about sharing the money, and felt justified in not being honest or fair.

The study was repeated in a different context and scenario with managers given project funds and the results were the same. Those communicating via pen and paper were more honest than those who communicated electronically.

Weinschenk goes on to talk about “moral disengagement theory” and quotes other studies that look at truth telling on the phone, email, face to face and via instant messaging. She talks about the consequences of this for surveys, feedback and performance reviews.  Moral disengagement theory poses that greater distance is felt when the results as seen as less permanent and when less personal rapport is felt.

So is this what is happening on Post Secret? Scan the original website version of this phenomenon and you will find gut wrenching confessions written on postcards, scrawled, collaged, drawn and painted. Go to the app version and the mood changes completely. The submissions are electronically compiled from the camera roll and submitted to the collection.  The content switches from confession to proclamation, even affirmation. Where did the secrecy go? Did it vanish with the pen and paper?

The book is December’s reading for the UX Book Club. I haven’t been to one of these events before, but this time I have read the book so I will be keen to hear what others learnt from it and thought of it too.


Thank you Bec for lending me your Kindle so I could read the book and finally attend a UX Book Club with you.

Thank you Mimi for introducing me to Post Secret, and for the Friday laughs at the app submissions and cries at the web posts.

More about the book from the author herself at UXMAG.

Events Service design

Service design drinks 12 with Marc Stickdorn

Marc Stickdorn is an academic and author of This is Service Design Thinking so we were more than lucky to have him address the group. Stickdorn teaches to both design and business students.

Service design The Work Experience

The importance of making it simple for staff

Tesco, a UK supermarket chain has 3 rules for innovation:

The first is that innovation must in some way be better for customers; second is that it should ultimately prove cheaper for Tesco; and, finally, the innovation must make things simpler for staff.

Innovators within Tesco are made accountable for simplicity — and this does not mean training staff which can in fact perpetuate complexity. Nor does “usability” and “human factors” solve the problem as they evaluate but do not generate simple innovations that staff can execute. So how do Tesco deliver on their simplicity ethos? They make their people accountable for it.

Accountability means that someone has sat down with the process owner or appropriate business team leaders and asked, “What does ‘simple for staff’ mean and how do we measure it?”

Pick whatever measures of effectiveness you like — time, number of steps, rework, etc. — but doesn’t “simpler for staff” deserve respect comparable to “better for customers” and “cheaper for the firm”? After all, those get measured.

Implications for service design

Can you apply the Tesco heuristics to your concepts? Do your strategies and concepts present improvements for customers, productivity for the business and simplicity for staff?

Read the complete report at

The internet the world

Violating the terms of service of any website could soon become a federal crime, if the US Justice Department gets its way