Avoiding Negative Value

Leadership Moment: Chasing a Non-Story

Daniel Rosney, BBCNews reporter, was assigned to report on the death of Lil Tay. Except Lil Tay wasn’t dead. While numerous outlets took a single Instagram post and ran with it, Daniel spent the day trying to verify the story. He spent a lot of energy – over ten hours by his account – to, ultimately, produce no work output. It’s the sort of work that often gets overlooked in organizations, because in the months that come, it’ll fade into memory. No awards will be given for not reporting on non-news. No extra traffic will be driven to the non-existent article on the BBCNews website.

Sometimes, the value you’re creating is in not creating negative value.

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One Minute Pro Tip: Validating Maintenance

If your team is doing hidden work (maintenance, risk reduction, etc), it can be challenging when your peers or management don’t see the value. One way to make sure you’re justifying that work is to advertise near-misses. Keep track of the ways that your organization would be at risk if it didn’t do the work your team was doing, and look for instances of those events happening to peer companies, or almost happening to yours.

When you have examples, casually drop them into conversations. “Oh, did you see the incident that $COMPETITOR just had? Thank goodness we did $PROJECT last year to keep that from happening to us.” You aren’t trying to use one incident to change someone’s opinions; a lot of little pieces of evidence are more effective than one big argument.



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Chapter Cameo: Values

I revisit chapter 41 of 1% Leadership (“Values are the trail markers that keep you from going the wrong way, even when the wrong path looks more attractive”) on a regular basis. Too many organizations don’t learn how to focus and limit themselves away from doing things that will be ultimately harmful to them. In small teams, there is often a natural limiter – you have to focus on a small number of things, simply because you are constrained on people – but as an organization becomes successful and grows, having a values-based limiter to keep you from pursuing any revenue, no matter the cost, becomes increasingly relevant.

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Leadership Q&A: Notable Non-Outages

Leader M writes, I would sometimes send my boss notes about “notable non-outages”, events where a failure occurred (such as losing a 10gig card in a core router) and nothing “bad” happened because we had successfully pre-engineered for that failure. If we hadn’t done that right, there would have been an outage and my staff would have fixed it quickly and everyone would appreciate their hard work…but without my note about the success no one outside my group would know…or appreciate the work, talent, and budget that went into it. How do you foster that attitude as a leader?

Thanks, M, and I think you’re noticeably down the path on this one.

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