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On the stage at Prodacity, Paul Gaffney delves into the concept of organizational black holes and their impact on transformation efforts. He explains these black holes as immense challenges or forces within organizations that can hinder change and growth. By identifying and understanding these black holes, leaders can better navigate their teams towards successful transformations.


Paul Gaffney (00:13):

Phenomenon. A black hole is a really big stinking thing, and it has an enormous gravitational force. And if you approach the event horizon of a black hole, it will suck you in and destroy you, right? That's a black hole. Do black holes go away? Cosmologists think they might eventually, but it'll take longer time than the universe has currently been alive. So they're not going to go away. And we're all here because we want to bring about change in our organizations, but you will encounter organizational black holes. You will encounter huge gravitational forces that if you get near them, they will suck you in and they will suck the life out of you. And it's actually very difficult to bring about transformation if you're having the life sucked out of you regularly. So, my goal, is to help you identify these black holes. I have found that sometimes the most important thing a leader can do is name things and make it okay for people to say, yeah, I've been feeling that this is weird, but maybe I'm the only one.


So I'm going to name these things so you can realize you're not the only one. And when you realize you're not the only one, you're going to realize everyone else in your company is in the same place. And then you can have a movement of people around you also seeing, identifying, and avoiding these black holes. And why do you have to do this? Because I think you're all here - you're bought in that the product approach is superior to the project approach. The project approach, unfortunately went first. It's been around for a long time. It's responsible for the formation of most of these black holes that I'm going to describe. You work with a lot of folks who think that this product thing is some hippie new age - folks go to conferences, then they come back. But project is tried and true. Deadlines, plans, beating the crap out of people when they're not on time, regardless of whether they should be working on it or not.


It is that project heritage that has led to these black holes. So in the cosmos, you can identify black holes because when you look at them, they don't reflect light. And unfortunately, these corporate black holes...they have the same feeling. They don't reflect your soul. They reflect everything that's bad about why we don't want to go to work. So you ready to go on a tour? I'm going to take you on a tour of seven black holes. They're in increasing degrees of devastation. I don't share this with you to scare you. I share this you to say, yes, you've seen these. You know it. Speak up. You can avoid them. The first black hole is the black hole of big teams. Big teams suck the life out of product initiatives. I arrived at Kohl's as the CTO in the summer, late summer of 2019. And I inherited a massive team. I think between full-time employees and contractors, Kohl's, which is at the time a $20 billion retailer, had a 3,300 person technology organization. One of the reasons I got hired is a lot of folks inside Kohl's thought, wow, that's actually that's a little big. And when you are big like that, you work on lots of things. Folks, you've also noticed this, right? Does anyone know how many software engineers work at JPMorgan Chase?


No one has any idea?

Audience (04:05):


Paul Gaffney (04:06):

15,000, that would be low.

Audience (04:09):


Paul Gaffney (04:09):

30,000, that would be low.

Audience (04:11):


Paul Gaffney (04:12):

80,000 is over. The price is right at 66,000. Though I'm sure that varies on any given day. 66,000! There are 50,000 people in the software organization at Citigroup. How many folks bank with Chase or Citigroup? Do you feel like you're getting a 66,000 developer experience? I mean, what's the difference in any of these banks in terms of the software interface that they deliver? So big teams, and if you remember history, you were all doing wonderful things in the fall of 2019. And then in the late winter, early spring of 2020, we realized, oh, we have a pandemic. And things had to change. And the way to avoid the black hole of big teams is to recognize you actually don't need big teams. I had a plan, over the course of my first year at Kohl's, to cut about 30% out of the headroom of the technology expense, and by doing so, improve the overall economics of the company.


One day in March of 2020, we realized we had to close all of our stores. And do you know what happens at a retailer when you close all your stores? You have no cash flow in?

Audience (05:37):

You don't sell anything

Paul Gaffney (05:37):

Yes, you don't sell anything. And what happens when you don't have cash flow in? Cash flow out still continues. You still have bills. So we realized, we had to close stores and we had to get into cash preservation mode, a mode that most people in big enterprises have never been in. And that was a magic moment for me because I understood the black hole of big teams. And avoiding the event horizon of that black hole allowed me to come in the day after we closed the stores and say, "you know, thanks to the magic of some really thoughtful contract planning, I can immediately terminate 2200 contractors." And I had to with confidence look around the executive table at a bunch of people who are now staring at me like I was a lunatic, and promise them that nothing bad was going to happen to the company.


And I could do that because I knew about the black hole of big teams. We cut 2200 people, permanently removed $250 million worth of cash expense. Kohl's today still runs at that much lower level. Siobhán Mc Feeney will be up here later to talk about how productive this much reduced, I think it's probably like an 800 some odd person team now, from 3,300 to 800. Big teams are a big problem and you don't need them. Small is so much better than big. How many folks out here are kind of trying to figure out what social media platform might I want to be on given all the things that are changing...Twitter, and X, and whatever? How many folks have explored Blue Sky? Couple?


Anyone want to take a guess at how many developers built the Blue Sky mobile app? Blue Sky is intended to replace Twitter. It's going to operate at Twitter scale. It launched with an app that is roughly functionally equivalent to the Twitter app, which was built by 5,500 engineers. How many engineers built the Blue Sky app? One. One engineer. Why is that? We live in these magical times. We live on the steepest part of the Moore's Law curve. We live in an era where the transformer model has finally brought neural networks to life, combined with the steep part of the Moore's Law curve we're in. You can harness, as an individual, things that a decade ago took literally a team of 20. And 30 years ago, took a team of hundreds. One competent person can literally create magic these days. First black hole, big teams destroy value. Small is better than big. When you see big try to make it small. Steve Martin did a whole really good routine on this back in the early days of Saturday Night Live when it was all still funny, called Get Small.


Ready for the second black hole?


They get more devastating. The second black hole is the quest for more. Some of you may have experienced this, like you actually started making your organization more productive. You shortened the deployment window from two years to two months. Or you might've shortened it from two months to two weeks, or you might actually be able to ship things continuously. And inevitably, there are people hanging around you who are saying, "yes, yes! Now I get more - I have this thing that I've been submitting to the annual Project pageant for the last 11 years. I keep the template in a binder. You've finally gotten fast enough, you can get to my 11-year backlog." Have you seen this black hole? Unfortunately, I keep meeting these people. Everywhere I go, I meet somebody who says, "oh, thank God you could come here and make the technology organization faster so we can finally implement all of my ideas."


This happened when...they weren't Meta at the time, when Facebook acquired Instagram. Does anyone remember the early days of Instagram? It was actually a photo app. Its first collection of features were filters to make your photos look better. It was not what it is now, though it's still centered around the photo. And, when, and everyone knows because Facebook very publicly went through a vast cleansing recently of some of their teams that had gotten too big - some of their sense of maybe we're convincing ourselves that too many ideas are good, and if we cut some of our appetite for every good idea, magically things actually get better. That's the answer to this quest for more is the infamous "ya ain't gonna to need it." And when you see this desire for more, understand what happened when Facebook took over Instagram. So Facebook buys Instagram, Instagram, small scrappy company, Facebook at the time, more bloated than they are now.


Love every idea that they have. Huge culture. The coin of the realm at Facebook was product management. And the product management folks at Facebook all of a sudden had all kinds of ideas for Instagram. But the Instagram team knew what their end users wanted. The Instagram team had great instrumentation around what makes Instagram healthier. They had great signals, and they kept doing experiments to try and improve their signals. And the only thing that improved the signals was make Instagram faster. So they'd come in every week and people would have a list of, "but what if we did this? And what if we did this?" And this enormous quest for more. And the discipline team at Instagram, they must have had YAGNI tattooed on some things and basically said, no, we're still getting signals that all we need to do is make Instagram faster. And the story is that for basically two years, the Instagram team did not ship a single new visible feature.


They just made Instagram faster, relentlessly. And every time they made it faster, they got deeper user engagement. Deeper user engagement leads to more ad sales on Instagram. That's the coin of the realm in Instagram's business. Deeper user engagement, make it faster; deeper user engagement, make it faster...very hard for a new feature to say, yeah, I can trump that. So second black hole, this insatiable quest for more. It's kind of hardwired in us. Plato writes about this in the Republic when he describes the emergence of the state. It's a fabulous read. Go back and read it. It's in book seven of the Republic. He describes how the state emerges, how we get along with each other. And one person makes shoes and another person makes food and's a Socratic dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon. And Glaucon's the stooge, right? But in the middle of...and the stooge in a Socratic dialogue is, Socrates says something profound, and the stooge says, "of course." And this goes on for a couple pages until Socrates gets to the point where he's defined the perfect way we might live with each other, and Glaucon essentially says, but they're going to want more.


And it is the beginning of the quest for not just the economical way to live amongst each other, but the luxurious way to live amongst each other. We're kind of hardwired to create this black hole of always wanting more. It takes real leadership skill to see that black hole and say, "no, no, we probably don't need that."


Third black hole.


The need for speed...gotta go faster. How many of you have been asked're proud of your roadmap, you have a good sense of the next bucket of delivery, and someone says, could we get that faster? I mean, have you ever heard that? There's always one jerk. They're always going to ask that question. I found it impossible to purge. But there are so many examples of why the defense against this black hole, which is alleged to be a mantra of the Navy Seals, is that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Gene Kim and Steve Spear have a new book coming out called Wiring the Winning Organization. They've studied organizations that not only create great economic value, but the people inside the organizations thrive. And the hallmark of what they find in leadership, in those winning organizations, winning organizations create great economic results, and people inside them thrive. The general principle is that the leadership in those organizations figures out how to create the conditions in which people thrive. And it's actually those conditions that lead to great economic results. In Steve Spear and Gene Kim's assessment, those leaders do three things. And the first of those, is they slow things down.


They've labeled this "slowification" because they couldn't find an English word for it. Gene's got a great piece out there about how they came on that word, but the story that I knew before I met Gene and Steve, is the story of how Royal Air Force pilots are trained to act in crisis. Do we have any pilots in here? It is afternoon now. So they're up. We have some Air Force people in here. A Royal Air Force, a retired Royal Air Force trained pilot, found himself in a desperate situation over the skies of North Florida. He'd lost not only engine, he'd lost hydraulics. He'd basically lost any ability to control his plane. And he's kind of in desperate straits. But he remembered his training. And the Royal Air Force trains that the first action to do when you're an aviator in crisis is to synchronize your wristwatch to the clock on the cockpit dash. Why do that? It's not so that the time of death is not in dispute. I mean that's an interesting byproduct, but it's a trigger to slow down. It's a trigger to remember, "don't act too quickly." Your instincts when laden with the emotion of crisis might feel fast, but they could be disastrous. So...


these Britney Spears things are, she's much better at wearing them. Great admiration for Taylor Swift - does the same thing, they never fall off...


that act of synchronizing the watch is a trigger that "I'm in a crisis, and I have to slow down, so that I can go fast. I have to slow down, so that I can remember my training. I have to slow down so that I can go through the troubleshooting checklist." Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast. Organizations that get close to that black hole of "we have to go faster," they start creating terrible conditions in which people don't thrive. In which people feel like they have to rush. And in those conditions, you generally get bad results.


The fourth black hole.


Again, we're going in increasing devastation.


The plan.


I hate a lot of things about corporate existence. The annual performance evaluation cycle contends for the top of my list because it's often based on these fictitious things called performance goals, which generally have nothing to do with the performance of the firm. They have more to do with the compliance of the HR process. And so they're structured in a very particular way. And you've met folks who give you advice on how to write these goals. But I've encountered people who you see a situation, you examine what the folks are working on, and then I'll ask, "why are you working on this?" And I'll even do a little bit more, I'll say, "because the context has changed, and it's become clear now that what the situation needs from us is this. And you're actually stealing some resources from this because you're working on this thing that has proven now to be woefully irrelevant to our actual facts and circumstances."


But they're working on it because it's in their performance goals. And their performance goals are a reflection of this black hole called The Plan. And there are a lot of corporate creatures, and you go through the same universe that I do, and you meet people who they've spent their whole lives, and they're actually not affiliated with the economic outcomes of the firm, or with the customer outcomes of the firm, or with the value delivery of the firm. They're affiliated with advancing their career, and advancing their career comes from executing The Plan and getting a good performance evaluation based on the goals that were in their performance plan at the beginning of the year when everyone was just making shit up and...the black hole is strong. I got my written performance goals and you're some crazy person who thinks you understand what's actually going on now. But this is written down.


And that's actually have to think about what's going on now. But you're all smarter than this and you can avoid this black hole. Now, this is a more devastating one, so your leadership task is harder. You have to start working on - why do we try to predict goals that might lock someone into this kind of behavior? How might we bake the ability to actually sense and respond into the process of performance management? How might we think about a formal reset monthly...quarterly? So nobody gets stuck in the, "yeah, I know we should be doing that, but this is The Plan." Yeah, I'm sure you've found another version of this...there's a version of this in organizations that are very tightly financially controlled, and they establish the budget parameters for a particular exercise and then that gets interpreted as, if it's not inside those parameters, you can't work on it.


Have you ever had the experience of ,you go into an organization, or you're in an organization, and you find people have gone into some of the ugliest recesses of the code base, and there are these chronic problems? It'd be kind of like walking into this room and there's like a fire over in the corner there, and there's someone bleeding profusely here, but the person walks in the room and delivers a bottle of water to the person sitting in the front row and then walks out. And you say, "well, what about the fire and the person bleeding profusely?" "Yeah, I know, I saw those problems, and we should do something about that, but I wasn't budgeted to do that. I didn't have approval to work on any of those things, and my goal was to deliver that water to that person in the front row. Can I please get a good performance review?"


Have you ever seen anything like this? It's devastating. This is a super strong, super strong black hole. And the answer is to constantly help people understand we live in way too complicated a world. We live in a world where things are rapidly changing, probably more rapidly than they ever have, and they're going to change more rapidly tomorrow than they did yesterday. And like the great philosopher Mike Tyson reminds us, a plan is a great thing until you get punched in the mouth. And we're all getting punched in the mouth with a lot more frequency. And we talk all the time about iterative, but we get sometimes stuck in the, "well, we should be iterative because iterative is better." No, no, iterative is better because we're not that smart. Iterative is better because deciding in advance that the thing to do, despite there being a fire and someone bleeding profusely, is to still deliver the water to the person in the front row. It's actually not that hard. It just requires accepting, we're not that smart. The world is more dynamic than we could possibly predict.


Black hole number five. These now start to get really hard. Black hole number five is hierarchy. And this is an issue in corporate America. I suspect it's even more of an issue in the places that most of you spend your time - in government, DOD - because some of you actually work in places where there is formal hierarchy. People are known by their like, "O" whatever. Or in many of the settings, they actually wear their rank on their outfit.


Talk about reinforcing a black hole. But we all know, especially those of you who have worked in environments that are more dynamic, and have worked in parts of the government or parts of the branches of the Service where they recognize that collaboration is actually dramatically more important than power, particularly in the phase of things where you're deciding what to work on, where you're trying to motivate for "what should we be doing?" And again, your role here is to label these things so you see them and say, "oh, yeah, yeah, I see what's going on. We're getting stuck in the power black hole." But then to be willing to speak about it. Because when you speak about it, others might feel like, "oh yeah, I really don't like coming to work because it's all power dynamics. I'd rather be participating in a more stripes off conversation."


I suspect that anyone who's honest about real good progression among the officer ranks, the folks who do really well and are admired, are the ones who cultivate more of a collaborative stripes off environment and are not the ones who are acting in a power down way. Now, that's not to say that they're not side by side with people who are acting in a power down way. It must be really tempting to have four stars on here and just wield that authority over others. But you get a lot more followers when you don't act that way. And this goes way back, right? This is Patton versus Bradley. There's lots to commend the anti-black hole here. The way to avoid the event horizon of the hierarchy, because what happens in the hierarchy? Well, in the hierarchy, people disaffiliate themselves from the consequences of their decisions because they're just doing what they were told.


And you try to understand, why can't we bring more brainpower to bear on these complicated situations that are presenting themselves to us that we didn't anticipate? We can't bring any brainpower to bear because everyone's waiting for someone above them to tell them what to do. And organizations that stay stuck in that if you believe me, and I think there's evidence to support my thesis, that the world is getting more complicated, organizations that conduct in a way that make them more capable of dealing with increasing complexity, they will win. Organizations that continue to rely on old patterns, that are based on the faulty belief that you could actually predict things, they will lose. It might not happen overnight. In some parts of the government, it may not happen at all because the existence of the org is tethered to something other than its usefulness. But in the private sector, and in many parts of the government, your ability to continue to exist as an organization is actually tied to your usefulness. You become a much more useful organization when you lead with collaboration. Then with power.


Black hole number six. This one's the easiest to see, but I suspect that like me, you may all help make this black hole stronger. And this black hole is the conference room.


And it's the actual conference room. Because some of us used to go to actual conference rooms. Or it's the virtual conference room, the Zoom or Teams. Teams is ascendant, right? In a shitty [sic] economy, Microsoft wins. I mean, what a strategy. Sell to the lowest level folks. Lock them into something. And then, when they realize that Zoom's too expensive, Teams is there waiting. Why is the conference room a black hole?


"Disconnected" I think I heard. Anyone ever seen a customer in a conference room? It's super rare. You can actually do some things that...this black hole is very strong. Corporate creatures love meetings. They love going to meetings, they love prepping for the meetings. Some folks describe this as playing office. They love to pull the PowerPoint together and have a dry run. And when the black hole is really, really, really powerful, there might be several, sequential dry runs. And there are folks who actually believe that the words that you put on the PowerPoint matter. Oh, I think there might be some people in here who believe that...that landed kind of dead.


But the conference room is pretty much the furthest place from the real people whose problems we're solving. But it's a performance setting. Bryon tries to make this a no theater conference. The conference room is like the height of theater. It's the office play. It's the playing office, like, "hey, how'd your presentation go?" I mean, I can't believe that's a question that people care...The questions are, "did we make customers' lives better today?" Not, "how did your presentation go?" And what you can do, is to find your own way to get the real people in, and even better, to push the meetings to the places where the real people are. And everyone has the opportunity to do this. And paradoxically, the virtual conference room makes it easier.


This black hole is losing some of its own power because we've democratized the boundaries of the conference room. It was very rare in a retailer to get someone from a warehouse, or someone from a store, to be at the table in a physical conference room. But now, if you tell someone, "hey, I'd like your next three meetings to involve actual people from the store, or from the hospital, or from the distribution center, or from the truck drivers," it's really hard for someone to say, "I don't know how to do that." What do you mean you don't know how to do that? They don't have computers? What do you think they did during the pandemic? How do you think they communicated with their family? They might not know how to use Teams because it's really hard, but they'll figure it out.


And we come to the last black hole.


And this one is the most personal. For me, I think for all of you, for everyone you work with, this one's deep. Those others are all, we can all laugh at them. This one's actually tough to laugh at because we're kind of conditioned that as we get deeper in our career and as we accumulate more seniority, or experience, or success, we're tempted to come to believe that we know things: "we don't have to study this. I know, and I'm in charge of X, Y, Z, and I'm in charge of X, Y, Z because I'm an expert in X, Y, Z." Some folks have heard me talk about two paradigmatic corporate creatures, Dana and Chris. And Dana knows things.


Dana is often the head of marketing strategy or the loyalty program. And Dana knows exactly what levers to pull and is not interested in discovering new things. They know. There are a bunch of people who knew what CNN should do. Does anyone remember CNN+? This isn't that long ago, but we live in these volatile times, so this is at risk of just disappearing into the ether ,yet it's one of the biggest gifts that the universe has given to us. Like triple whammy here, McKinsey was involved, and it could have been any one of them. It could have been...the big corporate strategy firms, they traffic in feeding this "you can know." They have great deck. They're masters of the conference room.


CNN+...CNN was struggling and they were trying to figure out, but they're a business and they know they want to make more money, so they're trying to figure out how can we make more money? And several of them looked around and said, "ah, yeah, sell subscriptions." And then of course, because of all of these other black holes, a lot of folks said, "yeah, yeah, sell subscriptions. I can put that in my goals, but what do we gotta do to sell subscriptions?"" Well, first of all, we need a big team, right? We've got to build a lot of things." Are you recognizing these black holes? Like we're at the mother black hole now, it spawned all these other ones. "We need a big team. We need a lot of things. We need to go fast." And so what did they do? They built a lot of things. They built this massive infrastructure. They started recruiting talent. They built a machine for selling subscriptions. They invested $300 million in preparing CNN+ for launch.


They launched CNN+, and in the first week, they needed a run rate of something like half a million subscribers. In week one, and usually when you launch a big entertainment thing, week one's the big week, they got like 10,000 subscribers. And the second week, they got 9,000. This is not going well. And in the third week, they canceled CNN+, and they wrote off $300 million. Now, I guarantee that there are some performance self-evaluations that said "I did a fabulous job, creating my part of CNN+; it's not my fault that it failed." Actually, most of those would not acknowledge that it failed, because they accomplished their goals. Do you suspect that there's at least one person inside CNN who might've stuck their hand up at one point and said, "hey, before we build any of this, can we actually try and sell a thousand subscriptions and just see how many people buy 'em? I mean, we are in the marketing business after all, right? We could lie about what's going to be in CNN+. As a matter of fact, we don't have to lie. We've drawn up the plan, but before we start executing the plan, do you think maybe we could just try selling 1000 subscriptions to the plan even though we don't have the plan yet?" And it's not like this has never been done before. Do you think one person stuck their hand up? Probably. I don't know about you. I've not met a lot of idiots who work. Most people are pretty smart.


And I've not met a lot of people who are evil, but I've met a lot of people who are caught up in punishing paradigms and they're caught up in the "no, no, no, no, the hierarchy has decided; some really important person, advised by the really important strategy consultant, they have decided that this is what we're going to do. And the way this works is they decide, and I do." I don't know about you, there aren't a lot of companies that can afford to just vaporize $300 million. CNN is not doing particularly well. I'm not sure if they've revisited...I'm not sure they had the retro on "how might CNN+ have gone better?" I mean, I don't mean to pick on them, but they really did stick their jaw out, and their plan didn't survive getting punched in the face.


Anyone been around one of these? The answer to this black hole is the humbling reality that discovering is much better than knowing. Even if you think you know, and I talked about Dana and Chris, Dana knows. And it turns out Dana almost never actually has any credibility they just have a lot of confidence. Chris is the opposite character. Chris actually does know, but conducts their life in a way that starts with, "you know, I probably don't know."


Dana starts life with, "I know," Chris starts life with, "I probably don't know. I probably need to go explore." And imagine how CNN Plus might have gone differently if, even if they had the beautiful deck that described their nirvana where they would have 500,000 subscriptions, and they would make a lot of money, and then they could build all of these wonderful things that paid off what those people wanted to subscribe to...imagine how differently that would've gone.




Imagine how differently that would've gone, had the institution been more aware of these black holes. And these black holes were blaring, right? The big team black hole, was blaring. The plan black hole, was blaring. The conference room. Oh, the meetings on this thing must have been amazing. "What'd you do today?" "I designed a new feature for CNN+." "How'd it go?" "I got a team. I got a big team, and they're actually building it. I'm investing $15 million." And then the kid says, "hey mom, no one's going to subscribe to that." "Oh, no, no, they are. McKinsey told us." You have probably bumped into all of these. And though I've walked through this tour of these black holes, these institutional black holes, though I've walked through them in the order of increasing devastation, I actually think the way to avoid them all is to attack them in the reverse order. And to start with this one.


To start with role modeling yourself, that you don't know, that it's not about your ideas, that you're not actually looking for who had the idea. It's another sign of this black hole is, something goes well and some powerful person says, "whose idea was that?" And the healthy answer is, "well, we have a process and here's how we went through discovery, and here's how the process revealed this thing." And the unhealthy answer is, "Sally."


"Excellent. She's going to get whatever she wants next time around." That's a culture of power. The culture of trying to identify who was the source of something so that you can give them some more power because they were right, and they're right because they must know. But it was just a freaking accident. Because the best organizations figure out there's a lot of entropy. And the more experiments I can conduct and the less affiliated I can be with each of the experiments, the more I affiliated I can be with learning versus knowing, discovering versus predicting, sensing and responding versus planning and executing. That starts to take some of the power away from this black hole, this root of all of these black holes, this deep-seated sense that, "yeah, no, we, we don't have to do the test. We don't have to actually ask the customers," other than in the cockamamie survey designed to get exactly the results that we want. "We don't have to ask them in a real way. We don't have to ask them in a skin in the game way, we know. "


So I'll leave you with the toolkit for combating these black holes. Get small. That should probably be #GetSmall, and all props to Steve Martin on that one. Do less. Slow down. Not to the extreme of the flash character in Zootopia, but that's actually a useful role model because we've got a lot of those rabbits around most of our companies. Sense and respond, as an alternative to plan and execute. Push power to your teams so that they feel comfortable asking about, "why are we building all this stuff with no evidence?" Go to your users. Get out of the conference room. Test all of your assumptions. Be Chris, not Dana. Dana believes their assumptions. Chris recognizes that they have assumptions, and need to test them. Have any of you encountered any other forces that you wonder about? Do you have any questions about these black holes?


Well, if you do, you can reach me at It's been a pleasure to be with you. Avoid black holes because you're going to get punched in the mouth. And when you are ready to respond to that, you're a better leader than the one who said "the plan didn't include getting punched in the mouth." Thank you.