Failure Fetish

It’s hip to fail. Fail fast, fail smart, learn to fail…failure is all over the business and self-help literature these days. It’s as if we have developed a fetish for failure. I’ve been puzzling over why this is, and I think I have one answer: we are reacting to the fetish we have made of... Continue Reading →

The Moral Hazard of Budgets

Budgets are boring, right? Excel spreadsheets, numbers, formulas. Overheads, supplies, travel. But thinking of budgets as nothing but numbers and line items skates over the real-world implications they have. If we assume that the work we do matters (which I believe it does) then how we allocate our money matters to health outcomes, and that... Continue Reading →

Dear Everyone

My kid came home from the first day of 5th grade convinced his new teacher hates him. Apparently she is a fire breathing dragon, and will soon fry and consume him in her wrath. Or something like that. Last night I asked for more details in this epic tale of fiery woe, beyond “she’s really... Continue Reading →


When writing plans and proposals I am forever asking (and forever being asked), “what is the strategy?” “Can you send me the strategy document?” “Do you have a strong strategy?” What exactly does this mean, though? What the heck, really, is a “strategy?” A strategy can be a plan to achieve world peace – or... Continue Reading →

The Specs

My dad taught me how to build bookshelves when I was a little girl. He was forever building them because the flow of books into my parents' house was always in, and never out. I grew up thinking “library” was a home décor style, like baroque or shabby chic. So Dad built bookshelves. The fanciest... Continue Reading →

Power Differential

Simple requests are not simple where there is a power differential between requester and requestee. We understand that intuitively when we think about relationships with clear differences in power: parent/child, professor/undergrad, president/intern. But in an egalitarian, non-hierarchical organization like mine we can pretend that power differentials don’t exist. Anyone at all is welcome to sit... Continue Reading →

Corporate Values

If you glance at a dozen organizations’ corporate values statements you will see a lot of the same words: integrity, honesty, passion, creativity, excellence, caring. They are fine words, all of them. Who can argue against integrity, or take a stand against passion? But they are just ink on a 3 x 5 card handed... Continue Reading →


When I left for my vacation in Maine a couple of weeks ago I left a note on the white board outside my office: "On vacation in the woods. No wifi. So sorry." I didn't add "sorry not sorry," but I could have. I wasn't truly sorry at all, and if you accidentally on purpose... Continue Reading →


The skills-building workshop will be facilitated to enhance effective capacity strengthening and leverage existing resources to implement evidence-based initiatives. Have you read sentences like that before? Bet you have, and if you are anything like me you have probably written a few of them, too. This is awful writing, and not just because it is... Continue Reading →

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