The “All-Hands” Meeting Video…

… at Zappos.

February 10, 2011

Zappos was founded in 1999.
In 2009, Amazon bought Zappos for almost one billion dollars.

_____

Two “all hands” meetings in 2011.
One is at Zappos. One is at NGS.
Can you tell which is which?

Moral: Corporate culture matters.

  • Anonymous

    “Moral: Corporate culture matters.” Yes, it does.

    And thankfully it led to your termination.

    Just as you are immortalizing your anger and bitterness toward NGS here in the daily rants of your blog, you emblazoned the same sentiments in the memories of many of your co-workers at The Geographic.

    Many of the commenters here have asked you to take a step back to reflect and see what the outside does, which is a man spiraling into hatred.

    Let us help you.

    Stop being bitter. Back away from the ledge of xenophobia. Quit rewriting the textured history of NGS to fit your quaint ideals.

    And please, stop harassing people that are trying to do the right things for an organization we all love–you may disagree with their approach, but the least you should do is respect them. There is a reason that people fear you “showing” up to HQ.

    Again, we understand you might not believe this because in your mind you truly care about the place you devoted much of your life to (and we know you do care), but appreciate that most see you as the hyper-caricature of a disgruntled on the edge ex-employee.

    Now here is how we help.

    Stop taking yourself so serious. Embrace life and move on.

    If you feel compelled to continue to share your thoughts about “our society”, take time to have a conversation about the good, not just your view of the bad of the organization. In all of your posts, there is only one or two that could be considered positive.

    It is this constant churn of negativity that demeans the hard work of the majority of employees that devote each of their days to an organization that they love. Respect them by shining the light on the good work that is being done.

    And maybe, you’ll see similar respect in return.

    Because it’s easy to criticize.

    It’s much harder to show restraint and balance, while understanding a 123 year old institution will not change overnight, even if the leadership wants it to. It will always be a work in progress and sometimes they will get it right and sometimes they won’t.

    However, without celebrating the best, you’ll never be able to root out the worse.

    • Hi Jessie – Thanks, as always, for stopping by. And my apologies if yesterday’s attempt to live blog the “all hands” meeting meant it wasn’t webcast in-house. That certainly was not my intention. As you know, I believe the more open & honest conversation & communication, the better. Without dialogue, our Society (and society) will wither away. Which is one reason I let you call me unflattering names here but don’t require that you provide your real name. (BTW: Why don’t you take responsibility for what you say here? Why the mask? Or is it “easy to criticize” when you don’t show your face? Just curious….)

      A couple of quick responses: You’re right that I don’t spend much time here celebrating the great things that NGS does — and our Society does much that’s worth celebrating. Why don’t you launch a fanzine, and we can cross-post items? Then we’ll have the best of both worlds.

      You should read Dennis Dimick’s Twitter feed (@ddimick:twitter ). As you probably know, Dennis is NGM’s Executive Editor for the Environment, and he posts one dark, brooding headline after another in a relentless stream of bad news about the state of the planet. Now, you might say: Why is Dennis so angry? Why the “constant churn of negativity”? Why doesn’t he leaven his links with some happy news? I’d say it’s because Dennis has identified threats he fears others are ignoring. He wants us to pay attention to what matters most to him. And I say: More power to him.

      Put another way: Why does Amnesty International spend so much time harping on China’s treatment of political dissidents? Why doesn’t AI focus on the enormous strides China has made in combatting poverty? Because that’s not the story that Amnesty International is trying to tell.

      But here’s where you & I really part company. You write: “It’s much harder to show restraint and balance, while understanding a 123 year old institution will not change overnight, even if the leadership wants it to. It will always be a work in progress and sometimes they will get it right and sometimes they won’t.”

      During the past 15 years, National Geographic, under John Fahey’s leadership, has changed dramatically. What concerns me is not the lack of change, or the speed of change, but the direction of change. John’s definition of “getting it right” is not the same as mine. Exhibit A: He once told me that the word “society” didn’t matter in “National Geographic Society.” I respectfully disagreed, and told him it mattered a lot, but only if we could provide a coherent & inspiring definition of what makes us a Society. And so, after I left NGS, I launched Society Matters.

      Re: the reactions of your NGS friends to what I’m doing here, I have no doubt they share your way of thinking. That’s why they’re your friends. But just the other day, I received yet another message from someone inside NGS who expressed gratitude for what I’m trying to do here, as did a bunch of his/her friends. They were amazed they had only just discovered this site. Which doesn’t mean you’re wrong, Jessie. But it does suggest that playing the “bitter former employee” card is not a fair characterization of what this site is all about.

      National Geographic’s best days might still be ahead. But it’ll be tough to reach any Promised Land if the Q&A portion of a 90-minute “all hands” meeting lasts, what, about 90 seconds? (It was breathtakingly short, don’t you think?)

      NGS is a wonderful organization, and I’m proud to be an alum & a member. But our Society does itself no favors by shutting off discussion & debate with people who care about its future, and who want to “join the conversation.”

      Thanks again for stopping by….

    • P.S. to my earlier reply: After the formal presentations at the “all hands” meeting, the floor was open, and the staff was encouraged to comment and/or ask questions. But I’m told John was asked only one: What are the names of the ducks that visit the NGS courtyard?

      Question for you, Jessie: Is this funny? tragic? something else?

      • Anonymous

        Again you displayed why so many dismiss you.

        You want a dialogue, but instead of listening (an important piece of a real dialogue), you once again spent your entire response trying to justify your behavior.

        In passing you say there is much to celebrate, but don’t provide examples and then go on to diminish positive representations as being little more than a “fanzine.”

        Way to further belittle the hard work of your former colleagues.

        I’m not sure why it’s so difficult for you to acknowledge the positives. By reading your missives we know what you hate about the Geographic, but we have no idea what you revere about it.

        What are the things being done that should be mimicked, amplified?

        And I hope I misread your response, and that you didn’t try to compare your blog rants to the well-researched and balanced work being done by Amnesty International. I’ll chalk it up to over-caffeinated emotions.

        By the way, Amnesty International report cards do report positives along with negatives.

        * * * * *

        Actually, there was another question.

        Much more important, but why would your “spies” share positive moments?

        The question was: “If we have ideas, how can we share them?” To which Mr. Fahey answered, find the person in charge [or whom may be help] and share it with them. Collaborate.

        The staffer was a young person. Whereas, the duck question came from a staffer of your generation.

        Her question reflects an undertow of enthusiasm and desire to change that I see daily at the Society. Unfortunately, more often than not their voices are stifled by middle managers and employees that have been at the institution for 10 years or longer.

        Collaboration is one of the cultural transformations Mr. Fahey is trying to lead and discussed at the State of the Society. Though it is one of the most difficult to confront.

        The fact is that there are many employees, many of them wonderful people, who should no longer be stewards of the brand because they have abdicated their responsibility to the organization. Or quite frankly, they are no longer experts / leaders in their field.

        Combine this with the fact that their identities are intertwined with this reality, it becomes increasingly challenging for them to let go of “control” when it amounts to a manifestation of “who they are.”

        Many have become gatekeepers. And it is this perceived power associated with the responsibilities of their desk that prevent them from collaborating for the greater good. They believe if they don’t control it, they are no longer needed.

        And this is where we most differ.

        I think it’s as much the responsibility of the employees to change and advance an institution, as it is the leadership.

        Stop longing for the past, but rather honor it moving forward by working together for the best of everyone–our members, the legacy of those before us and for those yet to come.

        The world around the Society has changed and the institution needs to evolve as well, which includes its workforce. If they want a better National Geographic, make a better National Geographic.

        That’s what the young staffer wants to do.

        But I guess forwarding you internal emails is as much of an effort that “your friends” are willing to put out.

        • Hi Jessie,

          No time for a long response today, but a few quick thoughts:

          – I’m listening. I read everything you write, and I try to respond thoughtfully.

          – I agree with you: I don’t balance my critique with my commendations. Why? Because I’m trying to highlight what I perceive to be a central problem with the globalization of NGS during the past 15 years. And “fanzine” wasn’t intended to be dismissive, though it’s worthwhile considering why you think it is.

          – Amnesty International: I think you’re splitting hairs. Look at the focus today of amnesty.org: Libya, Syria, China…. They have a story, and they’re sticking to it.

          – Re: questions at John’s “all hands” update: Okay, you’ve got me. I was wrong. There were two questions, not just one: What are the names of the ducks? (from an older staffer) AND “If we have ideas, how can we share them?” (from a younger staffer).

          I assume that young staffers have TONS of great ideas about what NGS should be doing. I’d be shocked if they didn’t. And I am absolutely certain there’s an “undertow of enthusiasm and desire to change.” To which I say: Bravo! And keep up the good work. Please let me know when you discover the mechanisms for such change. Or, if you prefer, just imagine what they might be. Write me a few paragraphs — fictional, but based on your understanding of NGS — and describe the change you imagine AND how it might be implemented. I’d be happy to post your vision here, in a separate post.

          FWIW: The “cultural transformation [that] Mr. Fahey is trying to lead” has been underway ever since John took over in the mid-1990s. That’s 15 years. The organization he has built in that time has promoted older staffers who are not afraid to stand up in public and ask questions like “What are the names of the ducks?” These are precisely the questions Mr. Fahey likes to answer. And if you think that’s my hyperbole, or bitterness, I offer the following question that was submitted years ago to InsideNGS as the Question of the Day — and which is a perfect example of all the other questions that the Communications office deemed appropriate for public discussion on the intranet:

          Q: Is it possible to get a frozen yogurt machine in the Geoasis store?
          A: From Bernard Wood, Sodexo – Based on frozen yogurt usage in the cafeteria, as well as the amount of customer traffic inGeoasis, there is not enough demand to offer it in the store. Geoasis does have a smoothie machine, which is in operation three seasons of the year. (There is not enough demand to operate it during the winter months.)

          If you have examples of questions that are more, um, probing, then please share them. But trust me when I say that asking questions that cut much deeper than smoothie machines will not be good for your career.

          That said, I encourage you to keep “collaborating” and working for change. Our Society needs you, your enthusiasm, your ideas, your idealism, AND your willingness to shout “bullshit” at people like me. I welcome it — and some of your criticism of me are on the mark. Specifically: Will my relentless critique actually get me & NGS where we potentially could go? (I really do listen to you, Jessie, and think about your comments.)

          But the big question remains: Can you shout “bullshit” (or, preferably, a more civil equivalent) under your own name, in public, at work — or even here? (Think about it: You offer a passionate defense of NGS, yet you still post here anonymously. Why?)

          Finally, on the subject you say we “most differ” — I’d say it’s the subject where we most agree. You write: “I think it’s as much the responsibility of the employees to change and advance an institution, as it is the leadership.” Amen. I’d only add that it would be worthwhile to widen that circle — to Society members and to all the people who care about the future of NGS and all the good it can still do in the world.

          That’s why I got so excited about the open Livestream channel for the “all hands” meeting. And why I was so disappointed that Betty Hudson shut it off hours before the meeting began.

          Thanks, as always, for stopping by… for your comments… and for your honesty.

        • Hi Jessie,

          No time for a long response today, but a few quick thoughts:

          – I’m listening. I read everything you write, and I try to respond thoughtfully.

          – I agree with you: I don’t balance my critique with my commendations. Why? Because I’m trying to highlight what I perceive to be a central problem with the globalization of NGS during the past 15 years. And “fanzine” wasn’t intended to be dismissive, though it’s worthwhile considering why you think it is.

          – Amnesty International: I think you’re splitting hairs. Look at the focus today of amnesty.org: Libya, Syria, China…. They have a story, and they’re sticking to it.

          – Re: questions at John’s “all hands” update: Okay, you’ve got me. I was wrong. There were two questions, not just one: What are the names of the ducks? (from an older staffer) AND “If we have ideas, how can we share them?” (from a younger staffer).

          I assume that young staffers have TONS of great ideas about what NGS should be doing. I’d be shocked if they didn’t. And I am absolutely certain there’s an “undertow of enthusiasm and desire to change.” To which I say: Bravo! And keep up the good work. Please let me know when you discover the mechanisms for such change. Or, if you prefer, just imagine what they might be. Write me a few paragraphs — fictional, but based on your understanding of NGS — and describe the change you imagine AND how it might be implemented. I’d be happy to post your vision here, in a separate post.

          FWIW: The “cultural transformation [that] Mr. Fahey is trying to lead” has been underway ever since John took over in the mid-1990s. That’s 15 years. The organization he has built in that time has promoted older staffers who are not afraid to stand up in public and ask questions like “What are the names of the ducks?” These are precisely the questions Mr. Fahey likes to answer. And if you think that’s my hyperbole, or bitterness, I offer the following question that was submitted years ago to InsideNGS as the Question of the Day — and which is a perfect example of all the other questions that the Communications office deemed appropriate for public discussion on the intranet:

          Q: Is it possible to get a frozen yogurt machine in the Geoasis store?
          A: From Bernard Wood, Sodexo – Based on frozen yogurt usage in the cafeteria, as well as the amount of customer traffic inGeoasis, there is not enough demand to offer it in the store. Geoasis does have a smoothie machine, which is in operation three seasons of the year. (There is not enough demand to operate it during the winter months.)

          If you have examples of questions that are more, um, probing, then please share them. But trust me when I say that asking questions that cut much deeper than smoothie machines will not be good for your career.

          That said, I encourage you to keep “collaborating” and working for change. Our Society needs you, your enthusiasm, your ideas, your idealism, AND your willingness to shout “bullshit” at people like me. I welcome it — and some of your criticism of me are on the mark. Specifically: Will my relentless critique actually get me & NGS where we potentially could go? (I really do listen to you, Jessie, and think about your comments.)

          But the big question remains: Can you shout “bullshit” (or, preferably, a more civil equivalent) under your own name, in public, at work — or even here? (Think about it: You offer a passionate defense of NGS, yet you still post here anonymously. Why?)

          Finally, on the subject you say we “most differ” — I’d say it’s the subject where we most agree. You write: “I think it’s as much the responsibility of the employees to change and advance an institution, as it is the leadership.” Amen. I’d only add that it would be worthwhile to widen that circle — to Society members and to all the people who care about the future of NGS and all the good it can still do in the world.

          That’s why I got so excited about the open Livestream channel for the “all hands” meeting. And why I was so disappointed that Betty Hudson shut it off hours before the meeting began.

          Thanks, as always, for stopping by… for your comments… and for your honesty.

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