Articles & Cases
Here is a partial list of our articles and posts that have implications for organizational friction.
How Do You End a Meeting? My LinkedIn piece is based on an interview with Patty McCord, a key architect of the Netflix culture. McCord explains the two questions she asks at the end of every meeting to help spare people from unnecessary confusion and frustration.
Dropbox’s Secret for Saving Time in Meetings. This INC piece by Rebecca Hinds and me describes a radical strategy used by Dropbox to pressure employees to think about the meetings they call and attended, to schedule fewer meetings and shorter meetings, to have meetings with smaller group, and to walk out of meetings that aren’t a good use of their time
Better Service, Faster. This Harvard Business Review piece that I wrote with David Hoyt describes an intervention that a pair of Stanford students in one of my classes made in a social service agency to serve clients in ways that were less frustrating, more dignified, and more efficient. The students used multiple methods to breakdown silos in the organization to help employees develop more empathy for their clients—which included an experiment where the students rented a Winnebago and brought employees into the community to serve clients. . (If you have trouble with the pay wall, you can read the story here.)
Rule Nazi’s and Other Petty Tyrants. This Linkedin piece draws on ideas from the Friction Podcast and The Asshole Survival Guide about people in organizations who take sick satisfaction from wielding power or interpreting rules and policies in narrow ways that undermine progress and drive their colleagues and customers crazy.
Why Your Job is Becoming Impossible to Do. This LinkedIn piece considers why, in many organizations, there are many intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for people to add organizational friction and few incentives for removing friction.
To Scale Up Fast, Sometimes You’ve Got to Slow Down. This LinkedIn piece describes how Waze CEO Noam Bardin—despite pressures from investors to go in a hiring spree and to accelerate product development, instead instituted a hiring freeze and paused product development for six weeks so his people could figure out why most people who downloaded this navigation software soon stopped using it. This is an interesting example of using temporary and constructive friction that forces people to stop and think about what is going wrong and how they can fix it.
We wrote the above friction pieces, but not this one. We include it because it illustrates constructive friction so well.
Huggy Rao and I write articles and case studies (often with colleagues) to learn about friction, develop our point of view, and share our emerging ideas so that others can think about, use, and critique them.
We have completed and are working on case studies that provide insights into what friction looks like and feels like, when it is good and bad, and the mans that leaders and their teams use to remove and inject friction into organizations. Most of these cases are produced with support from skilled case writers at the Stanford Business School including at Julie Makinen, Davina Drabkin, and David Hoyt. Four cases are especially pertinent.
In 2010, Huggy and I worked with Professor Charles O’Reilly and case writer David Hoyt on the case JetBlue Airways, A New Beginning, which describes how the fast-growing airline failed to develop adequate systems and practices for dealing with storms and other system disruptions. These technical, organizational, and cultural flaws ultimately led a fiasco on February 14th, 2007 at Kennedy Airport in New York where thousands of passengers were stranded on planes that were “glued” to the tarmac by the ice and to over 1000 flight cancelations. in a six -day period. The case describes how, after other efforts to repair the airline’s systems failed, executive and pilot Bonnie Simi led a change effort that recruited over 200 employees to identify and fix hundreds of flawed practices, communications problems, and bottlenecks.
In 2016, Huggy, Professor Sarah Soule, and I worked with Davina Drabkin to write a case on the 100,000 Homes Campaign. A national effort between 2010 and 2014 that found homes for over 100,000 homeless Americans. This Linkedin article provides key lessons that we learned and a link to the complete case. For example, one friction-fighting move that campaign manager Becky Margiotta used was to avoid wasting time with communities where the leaders were “Hollow Eastern Bunnies.” These enthusiastic people loved having long conversations and coaching sessions with Margiotta’s team—but who never actually did anything to find homes for homeless people.
In 2017, Julie Makinen and Huggy Rao documented how AstraZeneca scaled simplification. This case traces how the small team that ran the Simplification Center of Excellence worked with scientists, manufacturing managers, and sales rep to reduce friction in the company.
Huggy and I are currently working with Julie Makinen a case on the short-term advantages and long-term problems created by decentralization and silos in a fast-growing large technology company--and the solutions that executives and managers are using to reduce the friction, overload, frustration, and fatigue that emerged as the company became larger and more complex.