Unfucking Work with Matt Ballantine
Matt is a sociologist and technologist who has worked managing and leading technology teams in organisations across the public and private sectors for the last 30 years, including the BBC, Microsoft and Reuters.
Since June 2022 he has been an Engagement Manager at Equal Experts. He usually also has at least a couple of side projects on the go at any given time.
1. What is the one thing you would do to unilaterally unfuck work?
I'd ban appraisal systems that use any form of measurement.
There's a commonly held misbelief that to do anything well you need to measure it. It's complete nonsense. There are some things that you can naturally measure (temperature, weight, distance... Physics-y stuff). Sometimes those natural measures are useful (should I wear a coat today, and which one should I wear?).
But too often the obsession with the M in SMART leads to bad proxies used as goals. Then peoole game the system to hit their targets, but the bonuses are all awarded on the basis of the subjective view of who has gone above and beyond their targets.
It can all get in the sea. It's a pointless merry-go-round that's only there to make HR people feel better about themselves, and to give the corporate psychopaths another tool to screw people.
2. What is the best example of unfucking work you’ve seen in the wild?
Without sounding like I'm blowing smoke, my current employer Equal Experts is doing some wonderful things to make working for them a delight.
The mission of the two founders is to create a haven where our employees, associates and customers can do good work to produce good things. The things are usually computer software of some description.
How we go about it includes not having any line management, not having performance management processes, having a company-wide profit share but no individual targeted bonuses, and in 2025 we'll be moving to being an employee-owned business.
It's by no means perfect, but I've never experienced an organisation where so many people are so keen to make it work even better.
3. Who is your unfucking work icon? The ultimate Work Pirate?)
Twenty years ago I attended a training course to learn the art of consultancy, working as I was as an internal consultant at the BBC.
It was run by a wonderful Scot called Brian Prytz. Brian was funny, insightful, experienced and he and I got along amazingly.
I put a bunch of my team through that course and others, and in 2004 Brian offered me the chance to work with him. It allowed me to break out of my IT career path and spend a couple of years working with clients helping them to develop their own consulting, management and leadership skills. It was an amazing crash course for me into the world of work, and gave me skills and experiences that I rely on to this day.
Brian sadly died of cancer in 2010. I know he'd be pleased with the path he gave me. And he'd have worn an eye patch like the best of them.
Find out more about Brian - https://mmitii.mattballantine.com/2010/05/06/brian-prytz/
Find Matt on Linkedin - https://www.linkedin.com/in/mattballantine/
Find and purchase StampCards - http://stamplondon.co.uk/
Find out more about Equal Experts - https://www.equalexperts.com/
Listen to Matt's podcast with us on Spotify (of course, available at all the other places) - https://open.spotify.com/episode/0SNJPjMGflTCREWnIDTmKO?si=dfce6d330d9f4e6f