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Radical CEO falls on the sword after an admirable try at the impossible

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The end of Scouting Reports?

Only four days after the launch of Scouting Reports by real estate brokerage Redfin which published Realtors’ performance data on their site, the company has announced that they are permanently ending the reports.

On their blog, Kelman wrote, “Redfin just took down Scouting Report 1.0 for good. Our latest problem was that the data we used for Scouting Report had problems at the source that weren’t easy for us to fix, mostly because agents work informally in teams, or sometimes don’t formally record when an out-of-town agent represented a buyer in a deal. So we took Scouting Report down.”

Kelman also said, “I still think the folks most violently opposed to Scouting Report didn’t hate it because it was wrong but because it was right. I know that consumers loved it and now they can’t get it anywhere else. And I still believe that brokers should be the ones to tell regular folks how agents have performed in different neighborhoods, because we’re the only ones with reliable data.”

Kelman says that in retrospect, the program would have worked better if it had been done through their partners. While each market is different, many local associations offer Realtor performance data through the MLS for public consumption so long as it is through an active broker and the broker is in compliance with all of the local association’s business rules.

Kelman falls on the sword

In a letter to employees, Kelman said, “We have to account for what happened over the past week as a failure, and try to understand how we can do better,” Kelman said. “Obviously, it’s my fault. I’ve thought a lot about how hard folks worked to pull this off. I wish you’d had a better leader in me. But the lesson we should draw is to be more thoughtful about making a risk pay, not more cautious in avoiding the risk altogether.”

Sword, meet Glenn Kelman.

Kelman is known for being a rebel, a pioneer and ultimately a geek, a combination of traits that form a leader that doesn’t make excuses and is hard on himself, a leader that takes credit for ideas whether they are good or bad. I personally haven’t always been kind to Kelman, but the way he fell on the sword over this topic is not only admirable, it is a lesson for all leaders to walk away with- no issues were skirted or repackaged as PR spin, coders weren’t blamed, marketing wasn’t thrown under the bus, MLSs weren’t supposed to take the fall for how data is reported, and members weren’t blamed for being complainers. Kelman didn’t have to fall on the sword, but his doing so sure takes the wind out of his critics’ sails.

An admirable try at the impossible

After trying a national performance data report for consumers, it proved to be too complicated and rather than let it limp along and use up company resources, the plug was pulled in under a week.

After Kelman took credit for the fallen project, he reiterated to employees (and consumers as well as the industry) that risk taking is in their DNA. “There are all sorts of projects that fail at any corporation for a different and less conspicuous reason, because the risk was measured out in teaspoons and the idea was compromised beyond recognition and nobody made decisions and the thing had absolutely no personality and nobody really cared in the end whether it was good or bad — or even knew that it existed. The reason most people give up on a great company like Redfin is because it stops making decisions and stops taking risks. They give up because the company loses its gonads and its heart and then its soul.

“To which I say nuts. That wasn’t the problem here, and The Great Pumpkin willing it never will be. One of our values is to be fearless: bet big, tinker constantly, fail fast, measure results. If you see people who worked on Scouting Report don’t BS ‘em and say the first release was a triumph — man oh man it wasn’t — but maybe thank them for their fearlessness all the same. In the end it’s that spirit that makes me sure we’ll win.”

Did the Scouting Reports hurt Redfin’s bottom line?

Because Redfin is a company, not a non-profit charity for the good of the industry, the real question is how did this impact business at Redfin? Did business fall flat? Did investors threaten to pull out? Did they lose clients or did they really just put the real estate industry into a tizzy?

In response to a GeekWire.com blog on the topic stating that “the series of blunders around Scouting Report appears to be taking a toll on the online brokerage service,” Kelman said, “I certainly don’t think the feature is, as you claim, “taking its toll” on Redfin’s overall business. Had you interviewed me about this, I’d have told you the feature has had no impact yet on our revenues or profits, and it has increased traffic. Consumers like it.”

Kelman alluded to the data inaccuracies having the potential to hurt Redfin’s credibility in the long run. We suspect that no traditional real estate brokerage has the time or ability to ensure accuracy and police a system like this without developing an entire division devoted to it. Does Redfin have the wherewithal to do this? Sure. Will they? The concept could be reformed and rise from the ashes like a phoenix, especially given that he refers to the pulled project as “Scouting Reports 1.0” with the quiet implication that there could be a 2.0 or a 3.0… we do not believe the reports are permanently gone from their ecosystem, especially in light of supporters urging Kelman to forge ahead.

Kelman’s not down and their wallets didn’t empty. The company took a chance at doing something on a national scale that had only been tried locally, but this isn’t their first rodeo at trying new things. They got a lot of press about the Scouting Reports and in some circles, any press is good press. We believe that Kelman has learned from their over-enthusiastic past that they will get further if they work with the industry rather than against it (which they did with the Scouting Reports), he learned from making boisterous claims in the past to tone things down just slightly while keeping them exciting for their like-minded consumers (which he did with his letter to employees that he made public), and ultimately, as a geek, Kelman is a risk taker and tinkerer… we don’t think this is the last we’ve heard of Scouting Reports.

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42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. Joe Loomer

    October 5, 2011 at 6:24 am

    I know that consumers loved it and now they can’t get it anywhere else.

    • Joe Loomer

      October 5, 2011 at 6:26 am

      Meant to put that in quotes and say how the heck would they know after FOUR days? We all know consumers are happy to share their opinions about different merchants and products. Social Media has made that easier than ever to accomplish. I think they realized the service wasn't wanted or needed.

      Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. Matt Fuller

    October 5, 2011 at 11:17 am

    While Redfin retools, associations have a chance to do this on their own. But will they…

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Opinion Editorials

Before you quit your job, ask yourself these 5 questions

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Frustrated at work? Here are 5 ideas utilizing design thinking and exploration tactics to assess if you really are ready to quit your job.

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Man reclining on beanbag with laptop, thoughtful. Considering tactics before you quit your job.

We have all been there. We are in a job that just doesn’t feel right for us. Maybe we strongly dislike our manager or even our day to day work responsibilities. We find it easy to blame everyone else for everything we dislike. We question life and ask “Is this what life is all about? Shouldn’t I be spending my time doing something I am more passionate about?” But, we probably like the regular paycheck… Thus, we stay there and possibly become more miserable by the day. Some of us may even start to feel physical symptoms of headaches, stomach aches, and possibly depression. We also may go to the internet like this person seeking answers and hoping someone else can tell us what to do:

“I feel conflicted but I want to quit my job. What should I do?

I was thinking of quitting my job because I dislike what I do, and I feel I am underpaid.

However last week my colleague tendered her resignation too. Needless to say, if I leave too, my whole department will fall into a larger mess and that causes some feelings of conflict within me.

Should my colleague quitting affect when I want to leave too? How do I go about quitting now?”

We can definitely empathize with this – it’s really uncomfortable, sometimes sad, and hard to be in a position where we feel we are underpaid and we aren’t happy.

So, how can you navigate a situation like this? How do you figure out if you should just quit your job? How can you be an adult about this?

Here are some exploratory questions, ideas, and some design thinking activities to help you answer this question for yourself.

  • Before you up and quit, assuming you don’t yet have your next opportunity lined up, have you considered asking for a raise – or better yet, figure out how you add value to the organization? Would your supervisor be willing to move you in to a new role or offer additional compensation?
  • If you don’t have a job lined up, do you have the recommended AT LEAST six months of living expenses in your savings account? Some would recommend that you have even more during a global pandemic where unemployment is at an all-time high – it may take longer to find a new position.
  • Do you have a safety net of family or friends that are willing and able to help you with your bills if you don’t have your regular paycheck? Would you be willing to put that burden on them so you can quit your job?
  • Why aren’t you job searching if you are unhappy? Is it because the task seems daunting and the idea of interviewing right now makes you want to puke?
  • What would your ideal job be and what would it take for you to go for it?

Many people claim they don’t like their job but they don’t know what to do next or even worse, don’t know what they WANT to do. To offer a little bit of tough love here: Well, then, that’s your job to figure it out. You can go on Reddit all you want, but no one else can tell you what is right for you.

Here are some ways to explore what may be an exciting career move for you or help you identify some areas that you need to learn more about in order to figure out where work will align with your skills, interests, and passions.

  1. Consider ordering the Design Your Life Workbook that provides writing prompts to help you figure out what it is that you are looking for in a job/career. You may also like the book Designing Your Work Life which is about “How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work”.
  2. Utilize design thinking to answer some of your questions. Make a diamond shape and in each of the four corners, write out the “Who” you want to be working with, “What” you’d like to be doing, “Where” you’d like to be, and “Why” you want to be there or doing that kind of work.
  3. Conduct informational interviews with people doing work that you think you might be interested in. Usually these conversations give you lots of interesting insights and either a green light to pursue something or validation that maybe that role isn’t right for you either.
  4. Get your resume updated. Sometimes just dusting off your resume, updating it, and making it ready gives you a feeling of relief that if you did really want to pursue a new job, you are almost ready. Consider updating your LinkedIn profile as well.
  5. Explore what you can do differently. A lot of what we can be frustrated about can be related to things out of our control. Consider exploring ways to work better with your team or how to grow to become invaluable. Tune in to Lindsey Pollak’s podcast, The Work Remix, where she gives great ideas on how to navigate working in current times where there are five generations in the workplace. There may be ways you need to adjust your communication style or tune in to emotional intelligence on how to better work with your supervisor or employees. Again, focus on what is within your control.

You may decide that you need to quit your job to be able to focus your energy on finding a better fit for you. But at the same time, be realistic. Most of us have to work to live. Everyone has bills, so you may continue working while you sort out some of the other factors to help you find a more exciting prospect. Either way, wishing you all the best on this journey, and the time and patience to allow you to figure it out.

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Opinion Editorials

New USPS duck-shaped truck design has mixed reactions

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) The USPS is getting a fleet of electronic delivery vehicles. We’re wondering if the actual design got lost in the mail.

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New USPS truck in a fictional neighborhood delivering mail.

So the USPS is getting new trucks and they look like ducks and maybe that sucks… or maybe it wucks. Like “works,” if a duck said it. Just give me this one please.

Anyway.

I don’t know how mean I can be here – there has to be something said for objective journalistic integrity – but I have a feeling most people are going to have a rather sarcastic reaction to the new design. I’m not so sure I can blame them – it has a kind of stubby little nose with a shortened hood and a boxy frame and super tall windshield, which gives the wheels a disproportionately large look compared to the rest of the silhouette. It’s sort of like a Nissan Cube but less millennial cool, which A) is discontinued (so maybe not so cool), and B) is not the car that had those giant hiphop hamsters running around, but I’m still going to link to it anyway.

Elon Musk must be breathing a sigh of relief right now.

The contract was awarded to Oshkosh Defense (which I was thrilled to find out is NOT the adorable kid’s clothing company, even though I personally think that would be hilarious if there was a factory making overalls for tiny humans alongside tactical defense trucks) and officially announced on February 23rd, 2021 to the tune of $482 million. Seriously though, someone is going to mix those up for the rest of all time and eternity; I’d never not think about my own baby pictures if some contractor from Oshkosh Defense showed up.

The release mentions that, “The historic investment is part of a soon-to-be-released plan the Postal Service has developed to transform its financial performance and customer service over the next 10 years through significant investments in people, technology and infrastructure as it seeks to become the preferred delivery service provider for the American public.” It’s called the NGDV – Next Generation Delivery Vehicle, which I happen to adore, and will pronounce as Nugduv, and you can’t stop me anyway. The old one was called the Grumman, by the way.

Some credit this as a radical change, and keeping in mind that radical doesn’t necessarily denote positive or negative, it seems like the perfect word to use here. Then there are those who correctly identify “a mixed bag of responses,” sort of like when you get a bag of candy at Halloween that has at least one thing no one likes. Some call it strange, while others defend it as something every new big vehicle should look like (this is where – as one of many – I found it called a “duck” which oh man do I love, quack quack).

We can also hit up the ever fair public opinion of Twitter, because why wouldn’t we?

JavaScript is not available.

This is how I would draw a car. That is not a plus for this design

I really can’t get over that last one. But I mean, whoa. That’s quite the spectrum. There’s less disagreement on pizza toppings I think. But luckily I think we’re safe there – Domino’s makes people drive their personal cars.

Taking a step back and putting snide commentary away for a moment, there’s some areas that should be discussed. First – and what should probably be obvious – there was a laundry list of requirements and restrictions from the USPS, which made Nir Kahn – design director from custom carmaker Plasan – offer up his own tweets that give some insight on dimensions and design:

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I was involved in an early proposal for the USPS truck so I know the requirements well. They pretty much dictated the proportions – this package sketch shows that to meet the ergonomic and size requirements, there wasn’t much freedom 1/2 #USPS pic.twitter.com/Fk35g98Z83

Kahn mentions that “there wasn’t much freedom,” but also that “it could have looked much better,” and this sort of underlines the entire discussion I think – there were goals in place, and possibly some more aesthetically pleasing ways to meet them, but the constraints won out and drove (hehe) the design more than style did.

Certainly, there are other concerns – the ability for USPS drivers to reach a mailbox while seated is paramount. Others have pointed out that this design – with its large windshield and shortened front – should help with safety around small children (all the better if they are wearing Oshkosh B’gosh, because that implies they are tiny and may not be at all concerned with the dangers of streets). The open field-of-vision will aid in making sure drivers can navigate places that might be frequented by any number of pedestrians, so that’s a plus.

Further, if you get struck by one of these, you’ll basically “just” get kneecapped versus taking it square to the torso. The duck article is the one making this call, and I think there’s some merit there (though it makes me question how the USPS fleet is going to do against the SUVs and big trucks out in the wild). It then goes on to point out that this design has more cargo space, fitting into the idea of “rightsizing,” where the form and function of the vehicle meet in a way that is downsized, but still punches above its weight.

“From smaller fire engines to nimbler garbage trucks, making vehicles better scaled to urban tasks can make a huge difference, not only for keeping other cars moving on narrow streets, but also to ensure that humans on those same streets can access the bike lanes, sidewalks, and curb cuts they need to get around.”

I didn’t try too hard to find stats on crashes in mail trucks, but seems like something that should be addressed.

Maybe the biggest point here is that we sort of have to get new trucks – they are outliving their 24 year expectancy and catching on fire. On FIRE. I mean a mail truck might be the worst place for a fire. I’m not even sure I can’t think up a better answer… Ok maybe toilets would be worse.

The new vehicles can be either petrol or electric powered, have 360 cameras, airbags, and automatic braking. Oh, and air conditioning, which the old vehicles did not have. So yes, literally the worst place to have a fire. But due to the taller vehicles, someone can stand in them now! So escape is even easier! Hooray!

A series of delays pushed back the introduction of new vehicles from their 2018 projected date, with poor initial prototypes and the pandemic being major setbacks. Aggressive bidding led to extended deadlines, which had been narrowed down to a small list of candidates that included Workhorse (who unfortunately suffered a large stock plunge following the announcement). It’s been in the works for at least six years.

In the end, I don’t think we can discount all the advantages here – more efficient vehicles that are safer and provide drivers with modern amenities. That’s a LOT of good. I think once the initial goofy shock is over, the design will be accepted. Everyone thought Nintendo’s Wii was a hilarious name (still pretty much is regardless of being in the public book of acceptable nomenclature), and Cybertruck sales are brisk, so I think we can set a lot of this aside. The Edsel these are not.

So hey, new USPS vehicles in 2023, like an exceedingly late birthday present. All I want to see is a bunch of baby ducks following one of them around oh please let that happen. The USPS kind of has an identity crisis in the modern era, so maybe a funny little cute silly boxmobile is just the right way to get some attention.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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decluttering

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, or an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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