Note to self (i.e. goodbye)

I’ll write you a letter tomorrow
Tonight I can’t hold a pen
Someone’s got a stamp that I can borrow
I promise not to blow the address again

– Walt Whitman

Warning, it’s about to get sort of meta here.

It’s hard to write these posts when you find yourself looking from the outside in. I know, that’s kind of confusing, considering I’m still Lead Link of the one circle to rule them all. Such is life.

Before I leave, I thought it would be good to reflect on what I’ve learned over the last few months since sending the teal email – a sort of note to myself, much like one would do with a diary kept safe by lock and key. The only lock and key I possess is to my heart, and I’m about to use that key right now. Maybe I’ll throw it away after this.

Dear diary,

I wonder how to best put into words some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past few months. It’s been a wild ride, an emotional roller coaster and I’m beginning to think that may not end anytime soon. I’d like it to. I’d like to return to something resembling some sense of normal; realizing that will be Zappos normal, which will always seem odd to those on the outside looking in. We’re Zappos, we’ll never conform to what others have in their mind about what and how a company should look like. I’m fine with that. I’m not fine with the feeling that a certain number of Zapponians maybe don’t trust me. So what have I learned?

  • Problems need solutions. Solutions don’t need to find problems. What problem am I trying to address with transforming to a teal organization? Have I communicated that well? If I poll the Zappos family about what problem(s) we’re trying to solve by going teal, would they answer in an even remotely unified manner? I know that the problems I’m trying to solve are sometimes kind of abstract and so far in the distance that it’s hard for others to understand them. That is my challenge then, to explain the problems we’re trying to solve, so that people can be unified in moving toward the goal rather than constantly wondering why we’re moving in that direction in the first place. Not clearly defining the problem doesn’t only impact teal, it impacts other initiatives as well. Too often, my definition of a problem is a solution. When people have trust, feel safe within their tribe, and understand the goal, it’s amazing what they can achieve.
  • It’s not the strength of the idea that matters as much as the execution of the idea. Self-organization is a fine goal. It is likely the future for many companies going forward. A command and control method of management seems foreign to those in their twenties today. Just imagine how it’ll feel to future generations. That said, change doesn’t happen overnight. Even if most people in your organization want to see massive change in the way the company is managed, it’s a long process. Not everyone you hired for the old way of working will like the new way. Some will recognize this on their own and some won’t. Some will definitely want to support self-organization but can’t get behind the way it’s being rolled out. Those people will leave, but you can only afford to lose so many of them before you find yourself without the leadership you desperately need, no matter the management system that’s in place. Teal, for all its benefits, is not magic. I wish it was magic. I was kind of hoping it was magic. Change on this scale is hard.
  • Being present is important, so is surrounding yourself with people who balance your strengths and weaknesses. I have to be more visible. I’m not always comfortable in groups of people. I’m fairly quiet in those situations and that sometimes leads Zapponians to believe that I’m distant and aloof. I care about the people at Zappos. My instinct to retract from the crowd backfires. I don’t need to tell people how to do their work, but I do need to let them know that I care enough to show up and take an interest in what they’re doing to make Zappos the awesome place to work that it is. Along with being more present, I need to make sure that the senior leadership I surround myself with counter balance my weaknesses. I’m not a super vocal guy. I’m not always good at showing empathy. Have I surrounded myself with people who communicate well and empathize?
  • Saying one thing and doing another is really easy when so much is changing so fast. I never intended for people to lose trust in me or Zappos as a whole, but I’m afraid I’ve contributed to that in ways that I don’t completely understand. I have a tendency to latch onto the next great idea, while Zapponians are left bearing the load of implementing one or more of my last great ideas. And, since I’m not an outspoken guy by nature, I have a tendency to keep my lessons learned internal, rather than expressing them to the Zappos family. During the transition to teal, I’ve allowed numerous consultants to come in without announcement of who they are and what role they’ll play in helping us during the transition. I’ve also seen former Zapponians come back as contractors and others become contractors without being clear what that is all about, which sends a strange message to those who’ve committed to staying on full time in making Zappos successful. Some of the leaders closest to me have made poor choices in communication and little to no effort to rectify that. I’ve allowed some of those leaders to come and go as they please, while (at the same time) allowing them to inject some rather poisonous elements into the Zappos culture. Conflicts of interest sometimes seem to abound and go unquestioned. That is neither transparent or open and honest communication. I’ve got to change that. It’s going to be really hard to do. Sometimes I want to go so fast, I forget that the core values I want to live up to get trampled in the process.
  • Are we a family? This is a question I need to answer. I stress happiness. We call ourselves the Zappos family. I’m also promoting a self-organization system in Holacracy that is based on some potentially antithetical ideas to that of family. Fiefdoms don’t occur simply because of the system that is in place. They occur because people have natures that are not altruistic. I need to be careful to not create a system (and by nature, a culture) that ends up being “every person for themselves”. That is the furthest thing from family.

I think that’s enough, dear diary.

Shalom.

Holacracy explained in 5 easy parts, part 5

Holacracy adoption

This is it. I finally explain Holacracy to Zapponians and the world in five easy parts. It wasn’t easy, but here we are. Part 1 covered roles, part 2 summarized circles, part 3 covered governance, part 4 got to the essence of operations, and now I’ll cover the all important (final) part – adoption of Holacracy.

Holacracy Adoption

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Happy Happy, Joy Joy

I couldn’t think of a better way to end the week than with a song I’ll soon be making the official Zappos family song, “Happy Happy Joy Joy” by Ren and Stimpy.

Hello, boys and girls
This is your old pal, Tealy Hsieh-my-name
This is a song about a whale
No, this is a song about being happy
That’s right, it’s the happy happy, joy joy song

Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy, joy

I don’t think you’re happy enough
That’s right, I’ll teach you to be happy
I’ll teach your grandmother to suck eggs
Now, boys and girls, let’s try it again

Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy, joy

If it ain’t the granddaddy of all liars
Think of the little critters of nature
They don’t know that they’re ugly
That’s very funny, a fly marrying a bumblebee
I told you, ‘I’d shoot’, but you didn’t believe me
Why didn’t you believe me?

Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, joy, joy
Happy, happy, happy, happy,
Happy, happy, happy, happy,
Happy, happy, joy, joy, joooooy

How to get a rise out of me

This CNN Money article just about does it.

How to get a raise at the new manager-free Zappos

So a company’s pay practices — how much you’ll be paid, how to get a raise — are kind of a big deal for employees.

At the popular online shoe emporium Zappos.com, however, those pay practices have become big question marks as the company attempts to go all-in on becoming a “self-managed” enterprise.

“We don’t know yet what we’re going to end up with. We may end up with several ways to set compensation,” said Darshan Bhatt, a senior developer at Zappos who is part of the group debating how to structure pay practices.

Uh huh. Keep talking Darshan. Maybe people will miss this picture of me randomly inserted into this trash posing as journalism.

Me serving cookies

I’d also like to thank the group of Zapponians who posed for this photo – in a hierarchical pyramid. Really guys?!

Zapponian pyramid

Of course, I mentioned badges this past Monday, but Darshan let the badger out of the bag several days before, to the lamestream media nonetheless!

Betting on badges: Right now the company is considering a few methods to establish pay levels.

One possibility involves “badges.” Badges would represent different skill sets and certifications. Someone’s current job likely could be broken down into a few of them.

But only some badges are going to be “compensation badges,” Bhatt said.

Those compensation badges would go through a longer approval process and must be reviewed by the compensation circle, which will be charged with setting competitive pay rates for different skills.

The skills and pay level that a compensation badge represents will be published and available for everyone at Zappos to see.

If all of this leaves you with the impression that I have no idea what’s going on inside my own company, then you are sadly mistaken. I’m a doctor and scientist rolled into one. Call me Dr. Frankenhsieh. I’ll soon unveil my (complete) creation in all its wondrous glory. Until then, back to the laboratory.

Me in the lab

Emails from Zapponians, #9

Vitamin Water

Tony,

During all hands you invited us to email you directly. I’ve held off emailing you in hopes that someone else would bring up one of the longest standing issues at Zappos, at least since we moved downtown. AFAIK, no one has brought this to your attention so here goes…

When will there be Vitamin Water stocked in the vending machines?

Forever thirsty,

A.M.

I’d love to help you out with this flavored H2O problem, but I’m not in charge anymore. Remember, I gave up my authority and powers when I sent out that teal email. You’ll need to raise this tension with the appropriate circle. Simply go into Glassfrog, search for “Vitamin water approver”, get no results, then search for “Campus”, listen for crickets, then search for “Food service”, admire the picture of Chef Boyarbistro, then go to the nearest circle that seems like they might have something to do with the drink vending machines. They’ll be able to take care of this for you, as long as I allocate them the budget to do so. It feels good to be self-organized, doesn’t it?

Holacracy explained in 5 easy parts, part 4

Holacracy operations diagram

Holacracy tactical meeting at Zappos

As promised, I continue to explain Holacracy in 5 simple parts. Part 1 covered roles, part 2 summarized circles, part 3 covered governance, and now part 4 gets to the brass tacticals – operations.

Holacracy Operations

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A brief history of badges

Badges are the future at Zappos. They’ll dictate help determine whether a person is qualified for a role, serve an important piece of the compensation pie, and help the true tealites stand out from the posers. I’ve received some emails from Zapponians over the past few months with questions about badges. Most of these emails would be answered if I gave a brief history of how badges at Zappos came about, so here we go.

I was in grade school, about nine years old. My boys – Tim, Gerry, and Otis – were beaming with pride. They swaggered up to me like they were on the set of Goodfellas; each of them carrying a vest of some sort. Once they reached me, they unveiled their Boy Scout sashes, complete with one badge each.

bugling badge basketry badge fingerprinting badge

Tim proudly sported the bugling badge. Gerry slyly displayed his basketry badge. Otis gave a quick flash of his fingerprinting badge. He said we were all under suspicion until the results came in from fingerprinting his house. I remember standing there in awe. While I was busy trying to get my worm farm business off the ground, my buddies were collecting badges like baseball cards. As time passed, the trio had so many badges, it was hard to see the sash. Meanwhile, my worm farm biz was tanking. They had proof of their skills. I had proof of my failure in the form of dried up worms.

Got worms?

With my worm farm going under, I had a stretch where I watched TV religiously. One of my favorite shows was CHiPS. I didn’t know why I loved that cheesy cop show until one day I realized there were badges everywhere on the screen. Once I noticed this key element, it drove me insane. All I could think of were Tim, Gerry and Otis out in the world gaining respect and authority through their badges, while I was left watching Ponch and Jon chase down dumb criminals. It wasn’t until a little later that year I caught Blazing Saddles on the television and learned a phrase that helped me put the three musketeers in their place, “Badges? I don’t need no stinkin’ badges.”

CHiPS

For many years, I couldn’t look at a badge. My jealousy had overcome me. Once I got my first real job after graduating Harvard, I learned to (reluctantly) accept badges. I received my Oracle badge with great resignation. Fast forward to about a year and a half  ago where I was introduced to Open Badges and the Badge Alliance. My eyes were opened to the wonders of badges for the workplace. OK, maybe not the traditional workplace, as Open Badges is a Mozilla project, which I think is a monkey sanctuary in Japan. But, there’s no doubting the success stories of the Badge Alliance. Be prepared to be blown away by these big name case studies:

  • Chicago Summer of Learning
  • Providence After School Alliance
  • Young Adult Library Services Association
  • The UC Davis Sustainable Agriculture & Food Sys­tems (SA&FS)
  • Badges for Lifelong Learning

Wow! So many heavy hitters leading the way with badges. I knew then and there that the Zappos family needed to join this pack of thought leaders. Fortunately, Zapponians are some of the best and brightest minds around¹ and they came up with a great first badge, Teal 101. This badge will identify a Zapponian as officially teal. All they have to do is read a few books, watch a few videos, write some essays in their own blood, wear a clove garlic necklace for 30 days while consuming a steady diet of teal Kool-Aid, and a few other critical activities that I’m not at liberty of revealing at this time. Some have questioned what this badge qualifies a person for. Better question: what doesn’t this badge qualify you for?

Teal 101 badger

Today, we have many Zapponians creating and earning new badges in mass. My only concern at the moment is that they’ll earn so many badges that I won’t be able to keep these highly coveted Zapponians. The competition will see all those badges and want to scoop up my decihumans left and right. It’s a risk I’m willing to take.

The ultimate Zapponian

The ultimate Zapponian

¹In the 89101 zip code.

Reader feedback, #2

I’m happy to provide the second round of feedback from some of you, dear readers. Where possible, I’ll provide my tealest of teal thoughts.

Teal from the rich and give to the poor.

Amen.

Robinhood - tealing from the rich

tony, curious why your head of mktg isn’t on the “offer” list. we know his “contract” position was meant to simulate the severance but in the interest of tealness and llamas, why not just come clean?

What is this “head of marketing” you speak of? I only know of Lead Links, Rep Links, Cross Links, and Sausage Links.

Would it be possible to get the Kool-aid in powder form? I’ve heard some people express the desire to just snort it and get the effects faster.

A very popular request. I wouldn’t know about snorting it, but I’ll take your word for it.

I am not going to lie. I love your satire. It is amazing. I am also extremely disappointed in your comment around Akrop. It is rather bullsh*t how Tony, Fred and Arun have treated him. He is the only voice of reason fighting for the company and in doing so has garnered a ton of dislike from Arun and Tony. You can probably tell by Arun announcing Mike is leaving without Mike even knowing it. That’s pretty f*cked up in my opinion.

Wait, this is satire? I’m 100% teal. Cut me open and see the color of my blood. It seems like you have a tension you want to process. Tell you what, bring this up at your next Holacracy circle meeting. If you’re a few circles down from the GCC circle, raise it and let your Rep Link carry it up the chain. They’ll take it to the next circle up. The Rep Link there will then take it to the next circle. Rinse and repeat until it finally reaches me in the GCC. From there I’ll press my publisher to crank out more copies of the Where’s Waldo Special Edition books to help us find your friend. Until then, ciao.

You’re a huge fan of Jim Collins. He wrote a book called, “How the Mighty Fall.” In that book there are 5 stages to failure. I have heard rumblings that Zappos is in stage 4 right now. What are your thoughts on that?

Is this like the five stages of grief? If so, we’re depressed, which is impossible because we’re the HAPPIEST COMPANY IN THE GALAXY.

There is a rumor going around that Teal + Holacracy under your regime is similar to a form of communism. Everyone is told they are equal and they can create their own path, yet the “Friends of Tony” are rumored to have seen rather large increases in their salary and promotions and title changes like crazy. This is very similar to communism. With that being said, who would win in a Fight, Putin or you?

No communism here, just good old apple pie and Holacracy. No despotism at work here either. I’m too busy delivering happiness for any of that. As for your last (great) question: I’d win, without a doubt. But first we’d go horseback riding…

Putin an dme

Zach…

Don’t forget Zach…

Oh, I haven’t. I’m still holding out hope that he and Kelly get back together.

Zack and Kelly

Can someone explain what a people point is? All I can imagine it is would be people pointing at one another, just as they will be once it’s time to decide who adds value in a circle and how much money they should make as a result. Wait, that sounds like the Hunger Games. Is it?

I need to convince the Buncher to guest post here some day soon to explain the brilliance of people points. I’m thinking it’ll be less Hunger Games and more like a good old Survivor style tribunal. And, yes, I may record all of these events to be televised. Jeffrey keeps pestering me to keep getting them checks. Every little bit helps.

Hah, I live in Vegas and love it. Thought you might like this: http://assert1.com/tony-hsieh-2015-05

First one to click that link is a Nigerian Prince’s dream come true. Not gonna be able to do it.

Keep sending your tips, tricks, words of praise, and teal trinkets my way.

Doggy daycare

Zapponians have told me loud and clear that onsite doggy daycare would make them even happier than they already are. I’m all for it, especially since even the killjoy of all killjoys, Jeffrey, allows canines to roam the halls of his offices. This fact reminds me of my first encounter with a dog inside Amazon. I was meeting Jeffrey and friends in one of their Seattle locations. I entered the conference room and was greeted by a doberman pinscher. The doberman sat next to Jeffrey, ears pointing like radars; giving me a look that said, “one false move and you’re my next meal.” This was only my second visit to Amazon at the time and I wanted to impress my new master.

Not Jeffrey's dog

I asked Jeffrey, “Does your dog bite?”

Jeffrey shook his head and replied, “No.”

I mustered up every ounce of courage in me and attempted to pet the silky smooth attack dog. I didn’t quite make it to his head before he barked and bit my hand.

“I thought you said your dog did not bite!” I yelled out in pain.

“That is not my dog.” Jeffrey said nonchalantly and then returned to reading a one-pager.

Regardless of my terrifying experience with dogs in the workplace, I’m now considering the possibility of allowing pooches into the headquarters of the happiest company on earth. There’s a catch though. We don’t really have the space for doggy daycare. Sure, one could argue that some of the floors in our downtown Las Vegas building look like they’re inhabited by dogs and every other creature except humans. And, one might also argue that there’s enough room for dogs since “the offer“. Despite these arguments, the truth is we don’t have the space. Unless…

There’s a large space in the Zappos ecosystem that holds no shortage of controversy. It’s where many Zapponians are fed up to three square meals a day. And, once the body builds up tolerance to extreme attacks on the bowel system, many Zapponians feel great after eating those meals. That’s right, the Bistro is a prime candidate for a doggy daycare location. Some have argued that the Bistro is the perfect fit, since it seems like Chef Boyarbistro is already serving a mix of Alpo and Kibbles ‘n Bits. I’m revolutionary, but even I don’t think I can pull off combining doggy daycare and a cafeteria. I’ll admit, it could be pretty awesome mixing dogs with the Bistro. I can imagine a new age of obedience training where our four legged friends are taught basic food service skills. Imagine a poodle working the grill, an afghan hound as a sandwich artist, and a boston terrier running the register. The possibilities are endless. That said, I’ve been told the health department frowns on such radical ideas – something about decihuman health or other such nonsense.

I’m not sure how to break the news to Chef that his cooking lair may soon be turned over to the dogs. He’s not exactly a reasonable man. He once sliced the ear off one of his assistants because she refused to defeather and cook the pigeons Chef lassoed up that morning. Boyarbistro was all psyched that day. He had written on the menu, “Catch of the day.” He told me he had the perfect sauce to compliment the rats with wings. Alas, the sliced ear incident required some damage control, which meant the pigeons were tossed in the nearest bin. No, I’m not sure which of the three bins it was – recycled, compost, scrap. No one knows which of those bins to use. I’m a Lead Link, not a waste engineer.

If you, dear readers, have any ideas on how to best break this news to Chef Boyarbistro, please send them my way. I’m getting desperate. I don’t want to go the way of Van Gogh. Gracias.

Van Gogh

Emails from Zapponians, #8

Hey Tony,

I know I don’t need your permission to do anything now that we’re teal, but I wanted to get your thoughts on a proposal I’m about to make for the Couture/Luxury circle. I want to rename the circle to “The Bling Ring”. Get it? Zappos is Nordstrom, 6PM is Big Lots, and Couture is all about the bling; thumbing our noses at the rest of the peons toiling in the muck that is hocking mid-to-low end wares. I know, not very humble, but definitely open and honest.

Ta-ta,

V

I like it, but something tells me we may run into some problems…