Every week, we distribute an internal email about what we’ve been reading. As you’d expect, the topics are quite diverse but almost all of them have some connection to our work here. Here, we share it with you as well.
We’ve been thinking a lot lately about how top brass at companies communicate to employees and clients. Last week was a rich week to follow that. Here are three that jumped out:
1. 37 Signals, the company that makes Basecamp, which a lot of people use, and a lot of other services that not-that-many people use, has decided to stop selling those other services and is renaming itself Basecamp. It’s a one-product company now. In an open letter, company founder Jason Fried does something fascinating: he goes on and on (think Chris Christie’s recent press conference) without being overly explicit about the changes. (One can argue about how explicit the CEO of a privately held company has to be.) The best part comes in the Q&A at the end, when Fried points out the various scenarios ahead for the company as it gets rid of the programs, none of which appear to involve current customers getting screwed.
2. At the opposite extreme, you may have followed the ongoing story of AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, who late last week announced that the company was reducing its 401K contributions, using ill-chosen words about the company’s heathcare coverage and then, over the weekend, reversing course after an onslaught of negative coverage. Armstrong was in a similar mess a few months back, when he fired someone, spontaneously, in the midst of a company-wide conference call about the fate of its Patch websites. The thing is: there are arguments to be made for the company’s change in managing its 401K and for the company’s decision to abandon Patch, but the way Tim handled those two announcements really makes one wonder how good the guy’s decisions are when he’s under stress. In his communications to alleviate people’s concerns, he exacerbated those concerns and created some more.
3. Which brings us to Microsoft. Last week the Redmond giant named Satya Nadella as its new CEO. In an email to Microsoft employees, Nadella wrote:
“We are the only ones who can harness the power of software and deliver it through devices and services that truly empower every individual and every organization. We are the only company with history and continued focus in building platforms and ecosystems that create broad opportunity.”
A lot of people we respect think a lot of Nadella, and he may very well be right guy for the job, but do those sentences even mean anything? Do you think anyone at Microsoft reading that will feel more confident?
Part of what’s so heartening and useful about Jason Fried’s email regarding Basecamp’s future is that he doesn’t merely acknowledge the uncertainties — he highlights them. It makes readers believe he’s dealing in reality. As Tim Armstrong operates with a tin ear and Satya Nadella writes in content-free platitudes, the message they’re sending their employees are “we won’t acknowledge what’s really going on.” Who would you trust?Back