June 11th, 2014
progressivecities
Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

Neil Gaiman, On Criticism (via maxkirin)

Thinking a lot about product this week, and the challenges our users face acquiring, displaying, tracking, and finding licenses and licensed works.

Reblogged from Words For Pictures
June 1st, 2014
progressivecities

First day.

Photograph Fancy free by Vanessa Kay on 500px

When my daughter was born, the nurse wrapped her tightly in a swaddling blanket and handed her to me. The room was full of doctors, nurses, and specialists, along with our family doctor and his own daughter, a medical student.

As the nurse put my baby girl in my arms, I looked into her little eyes and did what every father does: I fell deeply, hopelessly in love. And then I gave our family doctor a look that he’d probably seen a thousand times. 

“Nope,” he said with a bit of smile. “She’s all yours now.”

I was a little embarrassed. He’d read the look on my face perfectly. At that moment, full of joy, I also realized what I’d signed up for, and I was wondering if someone might come and take her back. I imagined her in the skilled hands of an experienced nurse who knew how to care for a baby, unlike me and my ignorant fingers. You know, just for a bit?

But that’s not how it works. The responsibility was mine (and her mother’s, of course).

Today is my first day as CEO at Creative Commons. I seriously couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to lead this organization, but it also comes with the weight of responsibility and a reasonable amount of fear. Maybe I’m not supposed to admit that, but it’s true. The fight for the Web we love is too important to lose — we all need CC to succeed.

This is my first time as CEO. I’m certainly not untested, but I know I have a lot to learn. I used to tell my staff that if you don’t spend a little bit of each day feeling like an impostor, then you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. So right now, I think I’m pushing myself just the right amount.

During the board’s recruitment process, I had lots of time to reflect on what being a CEO means to me. 

Three things rose to the top of a long list:

Leadership
I think leadership should be about bringing people together, by building common cause from differences. As someone who is very direct in my approach, I think it’s important to show my heart — my passion for the work and my commitment to my colleagues — and to show my work — to help people understand how I arrive at conclusions, and to be accountable to them.

Strategy
This is about taking the long view — about playing out the options to make sure we get where we want to go. We need to build a program that is focused on building the world we want to see. This will mean saying “no” a lot to make sure we only do things that get us closer to our goal. Most organizations are bad at this. Finding opportunities is easy; choosing the right ones is not. 

Storytelling
Creative Commons needs a public voice — in fact, it needs lots of them, but a CEO has to step in to set the tone as a storyteller and evangelist to make the case that will bring energy, support, resources, and new leaders to the cause.

Unlike my daughter, who was all new and made up almost entirely of potential (and cuteness), Creative Commons is a fully-formed organization: a global movement, hundreds of millions of licensed works, 70 affiliates around the world, great partners, powerful stories, and a talented staff full of ideas and ambition. We stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us to build this organization, and the creators who built the commons we now enjoy.

There is so much to do before we’re done. Let’s begin.

Photo: “Fancy Free" by Vanessa Kay, CC-BY Attribution 3.0 via 500px.com

May 14th, 2014
progressivecities

Hi folks. I’m really happy to tell you that I’ve joined Creative Commons as CEO. I’ll be based right here in Toronto, beginning my work as of June 1. 

Here’s the announcement.

Here’s an article from re/code.

More later, including a post from me on why I’ve joined.

April 13th, 2014
progressivecities

Still learning.

Occasionally, the management at my daughter’s daycare will send home a short article about parenting. Last week, they sent home a piece about the way children respond to labels, and a plea to avoid assigning them, and to instead to just accept that “they’re still learning.”

I loved it, and tried it immediately. As we were on our way to visit one of our friends’ kids, who she plays with often, she worried, “he doesn’t share.” I said, “Well honey, he’s younger than you, and he’s still learning how to share. But he’s going to learn, and you can help him.” And she did.

The insight doesn’t only apply to children. It applies to all of us.

In the past few weeks, as Mozilla has been navigating the rocky waves of a community and PR crisis, what’s been hardest to see is the amount of hateful and unfiltered invective directed at Mozillians and anyone who has dared to speak up with them. Mozilla’s public newsgroups and the social media feeds of anyone who’s spoken out on either side of the issue have been the target of a lot of aggressive posts. 

It would be easy to dismiss all of that as blind Internet rage, and to the credit of many, that isn’t what has happened. Many have stepped up with thoughtful responses to correct the record, and try to find resolutions. To let people be heard and to try to explain.

It would be easy to dismiss those who lash out. I much prefer to think “they’re still learning.” Learning to express their own complicated feelings. Learning to be heard. Eventually learning also to listen.

I don’t mean this in a condescending way, and it’s as much an opportunity for us than those who are “still learning.” My daughter had to let go of the idea that her friend wouldn’t share to allow herself to help him learn to do it. 

The idea that people are set in their minds and unable to engage intelligently is short-sighted. The Web has proven a powerful force for communication, but often it’s just an easy and anonymous way to throw punches. But we can do better, and I’ve seen many making the effort this week. 

We all have the capacity to learn, if we can create the space for it.

And that’s the hardest part. I learned a lot from Debbie Cohen, Mozilla’s Chief of People, during my time at Mozilla. I credit her a great deal with my approach to leadership. She wrote a beautiful post today about “staying”: resisting your reactive tendencies, finding a way to connect with people — to really hear them — and then to stay long enough to allow meaning, connection, and understanding to happen.

The idea that we’re all still learning (and the corollary, that we all have something to teach each other) might just be the first step to coming to terms with our differences and finding common cause.

April 5th, 2014
progressivecities

Get right with difference

I’ve had a caring eye on Mozilla these past weeks, and it’s been hard to watch. I had the privilege of working at Mozilla from 2010-2013, where I served as the Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer through a period of incredible growth and change. It has been painful to see my friends and former colleagues as they’ve struggled through these issues. After considerable thought about my own progressive activism and my feelings as a Mozillian, I’ve decided to weigh in.

***

Last weekend, I was at a conference for progressive policy-makers in Ottawa, Canada. On the second night, 600 of the nation’s brightest and most influential leaders convened in a hotel ballroom to hear a keynote from former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who got Internet famous for her barn-burner of a speech on misogyny in Parliament. She told us of her impressive record working to achieve progressive goals like the first carbon tax, and national disability insurance. She is a role model for women, for activists, for climate change campaigners, and progressive politicos. She received a standing ovation both on the way in, and on the way out.

And she opposes gay marriage.

Despite our admiration, many of us were conflicted and even upset at the organizers for putting her on the stage. I spoke to an old activist friend who had fought to legalize gay marriage in Canada in the ’90s. He wasn’t phased by it. He summed it up, “if I only fought alongside people who agree with everything I believe, I wouldn’t have anyone to fight with, and we wouldn’t have won.”

I wish we all saw the value of that approach, and weren’t so absolutist about the views expressed in an unfortunate donation from Mozilla’s former CEO, Brendan Eich. While his departure was the right decision, and I think he was wrong for the position (a fact he proved with his handling of the issue, not by his donation to Prop 8), he was a valuable contributor and leader within Mozilla. We do ourselves a disservice if we allow a culture where people who disagree on one issue are unwelcome to work together on another.

Why? Because bringing diverse people with opposing views together, and asking them to fight for just what they agree on while looking past what they don’t, is how movements are built, and how they succeed. Period. Not how some of them succeed, it’s how all of them succeed.

And what has the Mozilla movement done for us? Well, it saved the Web. Seriously, do any of you remember the old Web? It was lousy and getting worse. Locked down, proprietary, full of pop-ups and spam, ugly, slow, and half-broken on any browser that wasn’t built by Microsoft. Mozilla put an end to that, was David to the Corporate Goliath, and set down a foundation of open standards that allowed a thousand startups to bloom.

And they did it by focusing on a singular goal, and leaving everything else at the door. And that’s what every other movement in history has done.

***

“Mozilla is different.” You’ve heard it from everyone: Brendan Eich, Mitchell Baker, Mark Surman, Mozillians, and the tech press. But what does that mean?

Mozilla is a non-profit, trying to keep the Web open for opportunity, innovation, and user choice. It is led by a mission (and a manifesto), and not by profits. It has no quarterly sales goals, and no plans for an IPO. 

Its currency is relevance, and its quarterly target is a better Web for you and me. 

Mozilla execs are constantly asked about market share for its products. And they never have an answer that makes sense to business analysts. Because the right answer for Mozilla isn’t “as much as possible” or even “more than our leading competitor.” The right answer is “enough market share that our products will shape and influence the Web.” 

The right answer is always the thing that helps the movement to fight for the Web and its users. 

Mozilla is open. Its code, its planning, everything. The strategic plan is public. Its products are available free as nightly builds if you want them. Its source code is free and open. When Mozilla ships a great new feature and all the other browser makers copy it, they celebrate, because that’s the point: a better Web for everyone. 

No one — I’m serious — no one else in technology thinks this way. That’s why they’re weird, and it’s why they’re absolutely essential. There aren’t that many organizations like this fighting for the open Web: Wikipedia, Creative Commons, EFF, a few foundations like MacArthur and Knight, and Mozilla.

The metaphor for the fight to keep the Web open is democracy. Nothing else. And democracy thrives on difference, not homogeny. And it expects violent disagreement.

Mozilla’s recent CEO troubles are the least interesting thing to come out of the organization in the last 15 years. Any one of its most recent accomplishments would be enough to impress, and all of them are making the Web better for you and me: A new mobile OS. Do not track. Collusion (now Lightbeam). Teaching the world how to make the Web with Webmaker. The Unreal Engine running at 60 frames per second in the browser. All delivered with 1/80th the staff of Apple. 

If we think the Web matters — the most powerful and transformative medium of communication since the printing press, and the first one to combine broadcast, two-way communication, collaboration, and commerce — then we need Mozilla to get back on track with our support. And we need to figure out to allow people to disagree and still work together at common purpose.

*** 

Earlier this week, in the midst of the most public and painful fight Mozilla has had in years, one which ended with its intellectual leader stepping down and possibly leaving the organization for good, I listened in on a Mozilla town hall meeting to let contributors ask questions and get straight answers. After the questions of leadership were answered, the next question from the group was, “Will we still be able to ship the next version of Firefox on time?” 

Why? Because that’s what Mozillians get up every day to do. To make the Web better for all of us. They’re a strange group, and they don’t agree with each other on everything. And they don’t need to. Because they agree with each other on this one thing.

And the ship date? Mozilla’s VP of Firefox: “You’re damn right we’re shipping on time.”

They’re getting back to work. Let’s help them.

March 29th, 2014
progressivecities

On working as a remotie

In the past few weeks, I’ve fielded a number of questions about remote working. And I was reminded of a post I wrote a year ago on the topic, for a now-defunct weekly tech opinion panel after Yahoo! decided to cancel its policies allowing off-site workers.

TL;DR: remote workers open up a world of talent, allow an organization to become truly global, and require a real investment of infrastructure, practice, and some resources.

Adding remote workers to your culture can feel like a leap, but before you dismiss it, contemplate your regular workday for just a moment: How often do you actually see your senior management team? How many times a day do you see each of your colleagues? I recall times where I would go a week without seeing a particular colleague in person, but would talk to them constantly via e-mail and chat. That’s not meant to diminish the challenges of remote working, but it underscores the new reality of a digital work environment.

What follows is a bit on the long side. But I think it’s valuable information for everyone working with (or as) a remotie today.

My home office, complete with boom mic and mixer for voiceovers.

Learning to be a “remotie”

When I joined Mozilla in 2010, I stepped into one of the best remote working organizations in the world, and one that had benefited greatly as a result of its investment. The ability to hire the brightest, most engaged, passionate employees wherever you find them in a global community is the envy of many an HR manager and CEO. And it’s helped to engage a global volunteer community that builds Mozilla’s products, which in turn drives better recruiting.

As Chief Operating Officer, I recruited and managed a team in five time zones. I led weekly meetings, and daily group or one-on-one check-ins. I contributed to all-staff webcasts, recruited and even hired staff remotely. And I was often a remotie myself, spending up to a quarter of my time on the road, in one of our offices, or working from home one or two days a week.

In a remote work environment, timezone conversion becomes second nature. My daily workday was built around the hours of work in Mountain View, Toronto, New York, and London. The most coveted hour of the day was from 11 a.m. and noon EST, because the PST, EST, and GMT workdays align, facilitating group meet ups across continents.

Mozilla’s story isn’t unique, at least not anymore. There is scarcely a company today that aspires to global reach and influence that doesn’t have multiple offices or outpost workers. Today I work in the Toronto office of Vision Critical, a SaaS company with offices in North America, Europe, and Asia. While there are over 75 people in the Toronto office (and hundreds around the world), I often have to work as a remote employee with my colleagues in Vancouver, New York, or London (not to mention clients in every part of North America). The skills I learned at Mozilla are essential.

Managing a successful team with remote workers requires some adaptation in three areas: infrastructure, business processes, and leadership approach.

Infrastructure
There is a short list of lightweight tools that I have used for quick and easy collaboration and communication. It’s a bit of a Lego toy box, and I bet most people already use a few of these tools. I’ve used the paid and free versions of many of them, but my only paid services here are a topped up Skype-out account (for calls from Skype to a real phone number) and the premium version of Dropbox. The other services you can get for free at adequate levels of service and reliability.

Video
I use Skype. At home, I have a Logitech dedicated Skype camera connected to my home theatre, which makes longer conference calls much more bearable by putting things on the big screen and adding high quality audio. On the road or in an office, headphones with a microphone are a must-have (available for less than $30 each). For multi-user video, you’ll need either a premium Skype account, or a dedicated solution like Vidyo.

Chat
My instant messenger is how I know when my team is at work. They show up online, and I know I can get their attention for a quick conversation or to pull them into a meeting. It’s way less cumbersome than e-mail, and with some tools can also facilitate mobile and group interaction. I’ve used IRC, Microsoft Lync, Skype chat, and Whatsapp all to varying effect. I’ll admit that it’s old school, but I still love IRC best.

Creating collaboratively
My go-to applications are Google docs for collaborative editing, and Dropbox for shared files. The ability to collaborate on multiple screens with multiple authors on the same document is amazing. I ran a collaborative planning session with colleagues from a US foundation who are leaders in digital learning, and when we went out for dinner afterwards, they just couldn’t get over how much that kind of collaborative live creation changed the dynamic and enhanced our productivity.

Groups
The ability to narrowcast to groups by interest or affiliation is really valuable. I like good old mailing lists, Google Groups (great for archiving and asynchronous participation), FB groups aren’t terrible, and Yammer is alright if you have to work in a closed environment.

Master phone book
Finally, all this connectivity only works if everyone can find everyone else all the time. A simple master phone book, including photos and all the contacts — mobile, home, work, Skype, IRC, Twitter, etc. — means everyone can find everyone else whenever they need them. I still enjoy watching my former director of fundraising hunt down the Executive Director at parties over Twitter, turning their networks into a search party. In the end, people go to what works, and find the path most likely to give them what they need. The result: low friction, high activity, and quick results.

Business processes
Both at Mozilla and at Vision Critical, I’ve learned a variety of best practices for minimizing the distance between teams and facilitating the kind of rhythm and flow of the office environment.

Schedule more, not less
With direct reports, and with functional teams, schedule weekly check-ins. With those who are operationally vital or need more attention (say in the lead-up to a major event, or in a crisis), schedule daily check-ins (I only had those with my assistant, and they were more organic, but essential). The key is that no matter where you are, you should always keep up your regular meetings. It creates a rhythm of interaction that, when combined with all the organic ways you’ll interact in a week, makes it all feel normal and connected.

Take your own notes so you remember what you talked about and agreed to do for each other. Keep a file for each person. Think of it more as a notepad than meeting minutes. I end my weeklies with “what am I responsible for to you, and what are you responsible for to me”? I open the next meeting with what we agreed to do last time.

Be available or unavailable
Don’t use the “away from my desk” or “sent from my mobile” option in your mobile e-mail signature. Instead match your desktop e-mail signature. Just be available or unavailable. It eliminates the impression that the quality of your engagement will be reduced while away from your desk. Either give the question or task the attention it deserves, or don’t. This sounds small, but makes a huge difference for those working with you remotely. They forget where you are, and just focus on the interaction and the task at hand.

Use timezones to your advantage
For a while I wore a watch with two faces, but in the end I never really looked at it and instead did conversions in my head. If one of the principles is maintaining a workflow for staff throughout the organization, then navigating timezones is key for regular interactions. Book regular meetings so they don’t get canceled when you shift timezones. The ideal window is between noon and 5 p.m. EST (9 a.m. - 2 p.m. PST. If you want to include Europe, then 11 a.m. to noon EST is all you get. Otherwise someone is up very early, or staying at work very late.

The difficult reality for folks on the West Coast who are on PST is that they are perpetually out of sync with all of Europe. It’s not impossible, but it can really create challenges if you’re trying to build strong communities outside of North America.

My last point about timezones relates to travel. No matter where I am, I stay on the timezone of my team. If they all work in the Valley, I stay available during west coast working hours at a minimum (I like the quiet hours that come before they start their workday, and because I have a three-year-old, I often do a “second shift” after my daughter goes to bed, but you get the picture).

Invest in face time
After all this virtual connecting, my last point is the most important: See people regularly. In person. Go shake their hands, have a coffee or a meal, and spend time being in their space. For a remote office with direct reports, my minimum is a week a month. If you have multiple staff spread out, invest in travel as much as is reasonable to put people face-to-face. It makes an enormous difference in productivity long-term.

Leadership
My thoughts in this section are as much about my own management style as they are about how to manage people remotely. At a high level, it’s about inspiring, building trust, and empowering action.

Show your work, and show your heart
I am a very direct person. Faced with a problem, I question, listen, analyze, and then get straight to the point. I’m often last to weigh in (I like to listen and process first), but my comments have a tendency to redirect the discussion by cutting through to the core of the problem. Over the years, I’ve learned that while this is an effective approach to identify issues and move to solutions, it can also create a bit of discomfort.

People who have come to know my process also know that I’m not just there to point out the problem: I’m there to dig in and fix it together. But that trust comes over time and with experience. A friend and former colleague once helped me identify two simple things that allow everyone around me ease into the valuable chaos of problem-solving: I need to show my work, and show my heart.

I use this strategy in my interactions with staff and colleagues now, to make sure they understand not just my analysis, but how I arrived at it. And most importantly, they understand that I care deeply about the issue and about them. For many managers, this is hard, but knowing that criticism comes from a caring collaborator, not a critical judge makes a huge difference in the way people contribute and respond. Especially when you don’t buy into the whole “sandwich” theory of criticism (“one nice thing, the real thing you want to say, then another nice thing”). Working across distance, this approach is even more important.

Ask for deadlines
Maybe this is the consultant in me, but I like deadlines and deliverables. When you don’t have the opportunity to lean over the cubicle or accidentally run into someone in the elevator and ask about that project they’re working on, you need to work a little harder to keep things on track. I ask my teams to be held to account, and to hold me to account. My inside sales rep is constantly reminding me of our shared deadlines, not because I don’t meet them, but because she’s amazing and knows that there are lots of competing demands on us. We end conversations with “When do you need this?” or “What do you think is a reasonable deadline?”. No surprise, we rarely miss those deadlines.

Foster independent leadership
Leaders bring solutions, not problems. I help my teams to adopt this practice, and push them to always come with a solution, even when their solution is “a process to getting to a solution.” I resist the urge to see every problem as a chance to tell them what to do, and instead an opportunity to work with them to figure out what to do. Over time, you build their autonomy and confidence, and expand trust in your team.

Building investment and inspiration
For me, inspiration and personal investment comes from knowing the end goal, and feeling involved in the strategy — both creating it and implementing it. Teams need lots of visibility here. Sharing board slides, draft strategies, planning docs, and more as they evolve makes a big difference in their level of investment when they become final. That means inviting them into the process, showing them your work as you go, and making it easy for people to figure out what’s going on and where they fit. 

Inspiring this kind of personal investment in the organization and mission with a remote team means taking advantage of the tools I outlined above, and being more clear and direct in your communications. Things can get lost when you don’t see people’s non-verbal cues, or when it seems there isn’t time to dig in because things are only structured in meetings. Still, deploying all the various touch points, tools, and tactics outlined in this post — many of which I’d argue are just good management tactics — augmented by real and regular face time will make it work.

This is the future
One of the things that surprised me as I wrote this post was how much of these insights I have taken as given. For me, it’s not about the barriers to remote workers. I know this is a difficult concept for some, and it is especially ingrained in the Silicon Valley tech community, but it is the future of business, non-profits, and social change. If you work in an organization that wants to tap into a global community, it’s essential. The benefits of collaborative remote working are many, and while it requires a deliberate approach, it is worth the investment. The real barriers today are about connecting communities — across languages, cultures, and timezones. The future is most certainly distributed.

November 8th, 2013
progressivecities

Multiply your work

Being a good manager is different from being a good leader and a good strategist. But if you care about implementing the future you dream and plan for (which you obviously do), then making good management decisions is table stakes.

Of all the things I learned leading organizations and advising non-profits and governments, the most important was this: Always do the thing that multiplies your work first.

In growing organizations, that often means hiring or contracting. As you build out your team, it will trend more towards delegation and sometimes making that tough call to fire and hire.

This isn’t a small thing. In my experience, refocusing someone on the task that multiplies their work has an incredible and immediate effect. The daily issues always get in the way of these things, but unblocking them creates space to move things ahead more quickly.

The period of time from, “Hey dudes, we should hire someone to fulfil that important task!” to, “Wow, Sam is really doing a great job in her new role, isn’t she?” is likely 6 months or more. If you’re the bottleneck — scoping, posting, interviewing, making the offer, training, etc., then you’re not getting that value — and more than likely, you’re doing the job that person is meant to fill. 

Everyone makes this mistake at some point. Everyone. From executive directors to front-line staff, we always feel pressure to deal with the thing in front of us without delay. It’s not wrong, it’s just not strategic.

October 18th, 2013
progressivecities

"Ooh, Navy SEALs!"

In “SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper”, Howard Wasdin, a SEAL Team Six sniper, describes the reason the US government established the Navy SEALs, the now-famous and elite covert fighting force. These are the men (and one elite dog) who hunted and killed Osama bin Laden.

The US needed a team of elite fighters who could accomplish incredible tasks — hostage rescues, enemy reconnaissance, even killing select targets. But they were not looking for talented men with good luck. They needed teams able to execute their missions under any circumstances. Wasdin quotes US General Garisson, who told them: “I don’t care what you can do some of the time. I want to know what you can do every time anywhere in the world under any conditions.”

I love this concept. And I mention it often when doing strategy or designing products and programs.

Too often we design for fringe cases, or accept high failure rates in our products.

“Oh they just don’t get it.”

And all too often we squeak out a victory and call it a strategic win, when we know we got lucky.

In software design, if satisfaction and joy come only to the elite users, you’re doing it wrong. The top of the curve for utility and delight (both are important) should skew to the average user. The everyday person who sees the value of what you’re offering, and can easily get what they need from it. If they don’t, your product will fail.

You want to develop strategies (and contingencies) that work every time under every condition.

First, try to understand the reality of that user and build around it. Spend a lot of time here. What do they know? What do they need? What do they expect? What do they care about? How do they see themselves? What do they say they’re like, and then what are they really like?

You then plan for the eventualities that will allow those plans to fail. Be really hard on yourself and challenge the assumptions you have about what people will understand, accept, pursue, or attempt. Then build around those.

Finally, test and make sure you were right. Many times, you won’t be. Hopefully, you’ll have enough humility to know that’s a likely outcome, that it’s normal for that to happen, and that you have to adapt.

Winning is much more satisfying than being right.

Every single time under every condition.

October 10th, 2013
progressivecities

Why break stuff? To make stuff.

I’m a strategist. I make people do things for a living.

By my own definition, strategy is the development and implementation of tactics and contingencies to cause a measurable action or set of actions.

Like most things worth doing well, it’s difficult, both in process and in execution. And getting it wrong has real implications. Our product fails. Our new policy does more harm than good. We miss our revenue targets. People lose their jobs. I don’t want to be hyperbolic, but I will say that good strategy executed well can make a better world.

Strategy is about creating change. For me, it’s about breaking something that needs to be broken, and making something great from the pieces.

I’ve been writing and facilitating strategy for over a decade: in political campaigns, marketing campaigns, policy-making, public consultation, sales, social marketing for non-profits, product development, and convincing my 3-year-old to eat her dinner.

The victories are measured in dollars raised, users acquired, citizens affected, (occasionally) awards won, and broccoli eaten.

I love this work. It feels important and is incredibly powerful and impactful when you get it right. It’s outrageously fun and inspiring. I’m never happier than when I’m knee-deep in a problem (Any problem. Seriously. Stop me on the street and I’ll geek out on your problem).

It’s easy to spot a strategist. We are perpetually analyzing and criticizing every strategy we see. Nothing (and no one) is safe. I see good and bad strategy (or what feels like no strategy at all) everywhere I go: in ad campaigns, public policy, new products, apps, the grocery store, on public transit, even the dish I ordered in a restaurant last week (more on that in a later post). Each time, someone made a deliberate effort to get a specific group of people to take a specific action. Sometimes masterfully. Often badly.

The results are always worth talking about, hence the blog.

Strategy is about predicting and influencing cause and effect in a world with multiple actors, all designed to affect a particular future. It’s never simple. It’s both complex and complicated. People often compare it to chess, but I disagree. Chess is too linear and turn-based.

Strategy is harder than chess, because all the pieces move at once, and they move by themselves. Often they will move and you won’t know that they did (as in the case of public opinion or behavioural attitudes). There are always more than two sides and there’s never a single opponent. It’s rarely a fair fight or an even match, and many of the most important pieces don’t even show up on the board.

And sometimes there’s no opponent at all, just human nature, ego, wants and needs, and behaviour.

I’m going to have a go at writing here about strategy. I’ll write about what I know, what I’ve seen and what I’m seeing all around me. While I take the work seriously, I don’t take myself too seriously, so expect me to make a joke here and there, or a few jabs at the worst offenders. And I’ll take a page from Pascal Finette’s wonderful Heretic blog and keep it short in favour of writing more frequently. I welcome your comments and responses. And thank you for reading.

September 16th, 2013
progressivecities

Vote today for CIRA board

Today the online polls open for the new slate of CIRA board members, governing Canada’s .CA domain. I have been selected by the board as a nominee (one of nine) for one of three available seats. If you’re a member of CIRA, today is the day to vote.

I’m really honoured to have the endorsement from three colleagues and friends for the position:

Angus Reid
Vision Critical, Angus Reid Public Affairs
"I’m proud to give my support to Ryan in his candidacy for the CIRA board. Ryan recently joined our team at Vision Critical, and the same skills that made him a good fit for us — a deep knowledge of the Web, a strategic mind, and his long experience in the government and non-profit sectors — will make him an asset to the board of CIRA."

Michael Tippett
HootSuite, GrowLabs, NowPublic
"The web was built on values of innovation, entrepreneurship, and open technology — where anyone can build, create and tell their story online. I’m endorsing Ryan Merkley as a nominee for the CIRA board because I believe he’ll be a strong supporter of these values, and will help govern the board well on behalf of Canadians."

Pascal Finette
Mozilla
"During my time at Mozilla, Ryan Merkley became both a friend and a colleague. He combines an incredible ability to see the "big picture" with an unparalleled ability to get things done and inspire those around him to follow suit. I can not recommend Ryan highly enough and strongly believe he would make an amazing addition to the CIRA board."


To vote, go to vote.cira.ca (you’ll need the PIN and ID sent to your e-mail this afternoon). To read more about why I’d like to be a member of the board, read my candidate statement.

Loading tweets...

@ryanmerkley