Matthew Duff Learning, writing, and building in the open

I admire companies who tell us who they are

An unpopular stance, but lots of clarity

At GitHub years ago, like clockwork, team members would ask the question during our Company All Hands about the contract with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The company would often give equivocating answers in the early days of the discussion. Microsoft later released a statement about how they handle military contracts (they don’t turn them down). But the questions kept coming.

Then one day the leader of GitHub answered the question something to the effect of “look, we are doing this contract, per our stated policy. It’s not changing. If you don’t like that, maybe GitHub isn’t the right place for you.” That is certainly not a direct quote, but it was the overall gist of the statement. It was a great moment because it made things much more clear. Regardless of which side of the discussion you leaned towards, you had clarity on what the future looked like and who GitHub was.

I love when companies tell us who they are. Coinbase and 37signals made public declarations about who they are and what working there would be like. Regardless of whether or not I agreed with their “no politics” stance, I loved that they were telling people, explicitly, what they were about, regardless of the blowback.

People want clarity, even at the expense of alignment

People want clarity. Your teams want clarity. Providing that clarity is better for everyone. It’s better for the people who realize the company may not be a good fit for them any longer. It’s good for the people who stay who no longer have to deal with ambiguity, or hear the same questions repeated because the answers are not clear and direct. It galvanizes the future direction of the company. Of course the decision may not be the correct one. That’s a different topic. But it sets a clear path in a clear direction.

While if those companies made the right decision is up for debate for many, my purpose is to primarily praise companies who have a clear, communicated vision. I admire that about the companies mentioned earlier. They told us who they were, and gave people the clarity to choose if that was something that brought them to the company, or pulled them away. Many companies try to walk the tightrope. I think that is the worst place to be. Having clarity is priceless.