from the desk of the coo – feb 1st, 2023
captains log (01:01:2023)
that’s it. one of 12 is already done and in the bag for 2023! if this one was an indicator of what’s to come… i’m actually heartened.
facts are facts – there has been quite a few late nights, an overall faster pace than even i’m particularly accustom to, and rapid fire solutions to just as many rapid fire challenges. i’m wildly aware.
the side of that that a lot of you don’t see, however… oh man…
this is a team of humility and talent. that combo is rare, folks. exceptionally rare. watching remarkably gifted people operating at the top of their game who are also willing to put a hand up and say “i could use some help here” – then watching a dozen people run toward them at full speed excited for the chance to learn from, support and stand in the gap for a teammate they appreciate and admire… oof… hits me in the feels every time.
working hard isn’t about burning midnight oils – sometimes that’s a part of it, yes, but how “busy” you are is not an indicator of how hard you work. we all have tasks to manage, some of us have expectations and personalities to manage, others have media, shots and files to manage. some have budgets, hiring, construction, workflows, contracts, and of course deadlines to manage. some have all of the above to navigate, but we should also manage boundaries well.
ramy often mentions my background in change management, and i could honestly talk about that for days. it’s been nearly 20yrs of my career – something that is different for every team, every organization, every audience. what remains the same though is making expectations and boundaries (and defining the challenges to either) very clear. identifying hurdles, contextualizing data, and engendering trust from each other that everyone has a say in these shifts. being on a team means making choices and decisions that are in service to the whole – to neither the detriment nor accolade of any single person.
gratitude, appreciation, shout outs – that’s real. celebrating as a whole for the leg of the journey any one of us carried, 100% yes. same for suffering the blows, we do that together, too.
so when i say we’re going through another cycle in this moment, it’s less of an announcement and more of an ask. it’s context and communication for the direction i’m calling us toward and asking you to join in that.
those four cycles of a healthy business can change at any given time – and they’re neither rigid and structured like a ladder, nor seasonably predictable, but suddenly abrupt, like the weather.
mind you, i said a healthy business. there is a lot i could say about the landscape outside of our walls right now; within our industry , adjacent to ours, and well outside of it, but you can read some of that here. my focus in this newsletter is us and our place in this moment.
many of you were here in a cycle of survivability back in 2019. we had lost some shows, some teammates, and frankly some morale. it was a privilege to be in those trenches with so many of you – as a 20 year old business we rediscovered and redefined what would become so much of who we are today, and where we’re headed together. while a pandemic both delayed and accelerated our next cycle, scalability came at us fast and hard. some of you joined us gently in a weird and isolating landscape of near fully remote work, but by 2022 we had practically doubled in 3 years. that “season” came in like a lamb and went out like a lion. we said hello and goodbye to a few teammates in that cycle – some struggled to fit a dft culture that is so far from our industry’s “norm,” while others found and accepted roles that were, in part, thanks to the new skills they’d acquired because of their time here. we are thankful for and root for all of them as we head into this next cycle in part because of their contributions here.
sustainability is far to often conflated with scalability. one means to adapt and be grounded for long term endurance, while the other means to increase and decrease in size with relative ease, based on need and/or opportunity. let me tell you – and hear me on this – scalability, increasing and decreasing a team, is not easy. none of these cycles are, but scalability can be brutal in an environment like ours. hiring talented, kind people who both meet a specific set of skills while also being humble and ready to act in the best interest of the whole is hard. saying goodbye to those same people is much, much harder. i believe we weathered it well, but i’m ready for the sweet, sweet nuance of sustainability – where together we recommit to learning one another, who we are when we’re acting as a whole, and learning our clients, who we are in response to their teams and what we can achieve in tandem with their goals.
we’ll document and detail the obstacles that hold us back, as well as the strengths that power us forward. we’ll establish and refine systems that serve us, better the ones born from necessity and thank the ones we’ve outgrown. we’ll get really good at being curious while noticing ever more the hindrances of assumptions. we’ll remember better that having fun at work actually helps the work. we’ll begin to look around and think… this feels like… stability…
this is actually tricky… stability can feel like safety, and safety can be strangely dangerous. stable can have many positive intonations. we all want stable finances, stable residences, stabe health – predictable and resistant to change, able to resist disruption. for a business, reading that back can sound scary. that’s when “we’ve always done it this way” can creep in. complacency or taking wins for granted become a bit more prevalent. it’s the job of everyone who helped achieve stability in the positive ways to be cognizant of how the scarier sides of it can risk the whole.
so yeah, i’m a pretty big fan of the sustainability cycle we find ourselves in now. with a team that may yet expand a bit (looking at you vancouvs), but overall it’s time to dig in and really know one another. as individuals with strength and areas of opportunity. as departments who flesh out how each person is a critical piece of the lattice that provides coverage. as a whole and how we support one another in goals that might feel a little too big for any single team to tackle on their own.
the new org structure document’s layout defines who and how we operate today. this isn’t some chain of command or hierarchal document outlining who’s fancy – it’s been a labor of love to try and define how this remarkably interdisciplinary and interdependent team operates as fast as we do and as efficiently as we do. y’all are pretty impressive!
as we approach our yearly feedback sessions, this is something i hope y’all will look over and think about how you best see yourself growing where you are and in what areas you’d like to grow. this place shifts and evolves in some really subtle ways that, over time, become bedrock to our foundation. ask all the questions, meet all the people, be bold. dft is the place for that and now is most certainly the time.
you are deeply appreciated. i am insanely proud of you. i am humbled by, and thankful for this team every single day.
here’s to the next 11.