Your company is not a sports team

I don’t remember how it crossed my field of view, but I recently read a blog post from the CEO of Carta. In it, he talks about their company culture and how new employees get introduced to it. Since I have had a few conversations on this general topic with my colleagues who are in charge of such things at my employer, I read it with great interest.

Until I got to the sports team analogy.

Most companies find role models in other companies (e.g. Facebook, Google, GE). They aspire to be like “Company X”. I propose an alternative model for Carta. We don’t model ourselves after companies. We model ourselves after professional sports teams. My question for you is, “What is the difference between a company and professional sports team?”

What?

There are many similarities between Carta and a professional sports team. For starters, our entire company meets everyday at 8:30am to begin the day together. Everyone — engineering, sales, services, office management. Nobody is exempt. In sports, even the goalie, who may have a completely different practice schedule from the rest of the team, still meets at the same time to warm up.

[…]

Most people think it’s crazy that we make everyone be in the office at 8:30am every morning. We think it is crazy not to. The New England Patriots would never tell players, “Show up for practice when it is convenient.” If you want to be the best in the world at what you do, start every day together.

This is bad. It is so bad. What I read when I see this is “if you’re a parent, we don’t want you.” Or any other number of reasons why being in the office regularly at 8:30 might not work.

Now don’t misunderstand me: it’s important to be a reliable coworker. But the idea that the entire company needs to start the day together is ridiculously exclusionary. Sports teams practice together because they need to work closely together in split-second situations. They need to develop an almost telepathic understanding of what their teammates will do. They also get paid millions of dollars a year.

Your office manager does not get paid millions of dollars a year. The success of your company does not depend on the perfect, split-second timing of your lead developer and East Coast sales representative. You should develop team rapport and trust but in a way that makes sense for the work they do. Not exclusionary Valley Bro crap.

There are some really good ideas in the post: the full-day culture orientation, the idea of not taking too much capital in an attempt to grow as fast as possible, the idea that everyone contributes to customer success. But the shadow of the crappy sports analogy is deep enough to overwhelm the good parts.

Book review: Startup

The best books are the ones that leave you mad that they’re over too soon. Doree Shafrir’s Startup did just that. Startup focuses on the rise and potential fall of a fake-but-plausible New York City tech startup, and the people involved. Were it not for the unresolved ending, this could easily be seen as a documentary work.

The journalistic feel makes sense, since Shafrir’s day job is as a technology journalist. But instead of giving the book a sense of dryness, it has the feel of a well-crafted story. The characters are fully-developed human beings, but there are no extraneous details.

The plot isn’t immediately evident. I was probably about halfway through before I was convinced that I knew the general direction it was taking. But it didn’t matter because I had long ago committed to following the story wherever Shafrir decided to lead me.

Some will undoubtedly criticize the book for its “social justice warrior” undertones (or overtones in a few places). They’re certainly right that it has those, but that’s only because the industry has so many injustices. None of the characters exist to advance an agenda. Some of the are certainly more likeable than others, but they’re all real people with real complexities.

I would love to see a sequel that follows the story through to “completion”, but I suspect it remains better left unresolved. At any rate, I hope Doree Shafrir continues to write fiction.

My friend Emily Chapman recommended this book in her “Shit from the Internet” newsletter. I’m glad she did, and encourage you to subscribe.