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Mar 16th, 2023 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Der Fisch Stinkt Vom Kopf

The Germans have a saying, “Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf.” It translates into (somewhat nonsensically) “the fish rots from the head” and refers to the idea that (good) leadership starts at the top of an organization. In the US, we like to say “the buck stops here” (going back to former president Truman), making reference to the necessity to take responsibility and not pass it on (and of course, we say things like “Believe.” or “Football is life,” though those are probably more AFC Richmond sayings).

As I sit here, sipping a decent espresso and scrolling through LinkedIn (I know, I know – time well spent, right?), I am inundated with news about the “tech layoffs.” Just yesterday, Meta announced another 10,000 jobs being lost – meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg remarked in the very memo he sent announcing the layoffs:

“Since we reduced our workforce last year, one surprising result is that many things have gone faster. In retrospect, I underestimated the indirect costs of lower priority projects.”

Newsflash! This is called the “mythical man-month”, a concept first introduced by Fred Brooks in 1975 (9 years before Zuckerberg was born) in his classic book by the same title.

It’s funny and sad that we seem to forget a lot of what came before us. There is a reason why the saying “standing on the shoulders of giants” exists. We all stand on the enormous shoulders of those who came before us — we ought to make use of their wisdom, avoid their mistakes, and, in the process, make sure we are the leaders our organizations deserve to have.

Now pardon me, I have some Clayton Christensen reading to do.

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