This July, it’s been hot, hot, hot here in Philadelphia.

So for this installment in my ongoing series of posts, the “Paradox of the Week[*], I thought a look at Scott Berkun’s management book The Year Without Pants (2013) might be appropriate.


According to the book’s jacket, Berkun is a former Microsoft manager and “old-school management guru” who “leaves the books and lectures behind” to spend a year working for Automattic, the web development company responsible for WordPress, the open-source blogging software. The result is supposedly “an amazing and entertaining book about the future of work.”

Possibly. But it’s certainly not without its share of contradiction and paradox either, as the following examples illustrate:

  • On page 45 of his text, Berkun argues that when it comes to managing/leading, “Trust is everything.” However, he then later admits to deliberately misleading his own team (p. 216): “The one mandatory topic [at team meetings] was deciding what project to work on. This decision was something of a ruse since I always knew well before we arrived what the project would be. I used the suspense to draw people out…”
  • On page p. 54, Berkun writes “What good is something that scales well if it sucks? Why is size the ultimate goal or even a goal at all?” And yet Berkun later points to growth as evidence of his own managerial aptitude, bragging on page 211 that under his command “Our team…doubled in size.” And on page 235, he lauds the growth of Automattic as well: “The company continues to grow as does WordPress itself.”
  • And finally, on the very first page of The Year Without Pants, Berkun sets up the premise of his text by wondering “If I were a manager again, would I follow my own advice? I wanted to know.” But on page 74, he can be found questioning the utility of any advice: “No one can ever follow it all. This is the advice paradox [Berkun’s emphasis]: no matter how much advice you have, you must still decide intuitively what to use and what to avoid. Even if you seek meta-advice, advice on which advice to take, the paradox still applies as you make the same choice about that advice too.”

So why bother writing a management advice book in the first place?


See you next week.


Blogger’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I use the WordPress open-source blogging software for this blog.


[*] An instance in which a business or management “expert”/author/advice-giver/guru offers contradictory, or otherwise paradoxical advice, typically without any apparent awareness of having done so. For more examples of this phenomena, click here. For more on why this happens, please see my post “Why you can throw out that management advice book (Parts 1, 2, & 3).”