Monthly Archives: July 2022

Book Notes: Immunity to Change

Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock Potential in Yourself and Your Organisation by Robert Kegan, Lisa Laskow Lahey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very interesting book and basically presents a step by step guide to identifying why we are not performing the change which we need to. This is very similar to a 5-whys technique working from why are we not changing. Very simply it can be presented in this table.

Improvement goalDoing/not doing insteadHidden competing goalBig assumption
What is it that we want to change?What are we doing or not doing right now to prevent us from the change?What is our worry and why is this preventing us from changing?What is the big assumption behind our worry?

Book Notes: Radical Focus

Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results by Christina Wodtke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book presents OKRs, the OKR part itself was fairly standard but the interesting twist was the presentation of a 2 by 2 grid along with two meetings.

Top priorities this week
(A list of critical tasks for the week)
Objective: ……
Key result: …… X/10 (the X is tracked weekly, at the start of the quarter the key result is 5/10 likely to be successful)
Next 4 weeks
(A rolling 4 week view of things which are upcoming)
(A RAG of health metrics to be aware of e.g. team health or customer satisfaction)

The two meetings are a start of week kick off – to run through the 2 by 2 grid. The second meeting is an end of week demo and celebration.

Couple of extra notes: have a small (ideally 1) objective, the key result should be 50% likely to be achieved at the start of the quarter – this means it is stretching but achievable.

Book Notes: A Seat at the Table

A Seat at the Table by Mark Schwartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The relationship between IT and the rest of the business has been defined in the same terms as that of a contractor to its customer, where the business negotiates terms with IT and then frets about its ability to control IT’s delivery and customer service.

As such businesses are missing out on the value they could be receiving from agile:

  • Learning: In Agile we learn as we go and incorporate what we learn. In a plan-driven approach, we can only learn to the extent that it doesn’t change our original plan. Which is better: To adjust as we learn, or to reject learning for the sake of the plan?
  • Nimbleness: In Agile we harness change to the company’s advantage. As a project proceeds, circumstances change. Competitors introduce new products. The government introduces new regulations. New technologies appear. Our choice is between changing the plan to accommodate new developments or ignoring new developments.
  • Course Correction: In Agile we adjust course based on feedback-from users, from a product owner, from objective measures of system performance, and from management. The alternatives are to get less feedback or to ignore feedback.
  • Delivery: In Agile we deliver quickly and frequently to users. In the plan-driven approach, delivery often comes at the end of the project. Early delivery lets the baseness get value earlier (and there is a time value of money) and checks to see whether the product actually works in an operational setting.
  • Risk: In Agile we reduce risk by testing and delivering in short increments. At any given time, we risk only the small increment being worked on. In the plan driven approach, on the other hand, risk increases until delivery-the more we do without finishing and delivering, the more is at risk from defects, operational problems, or our inability to finish.
  • Salvage Value: In Agile we can terminate a project at any time without wasting money, since all the work to date has been delivered and is in use. In a plan-driven approach with delivery at the end, terminating the project before completion generally means that nothing has been salvaged.
  • Budget Adherence: In the Agile approach, we can ensure that we work within a budget. We simply adjust scope as necessary to fit within the given resources. With the plan-driven approach, we must keep working until we complete the plan the defined scope-even if that means we run behind schedule or over budget. Or we can terminate the project without delivering anything.
  • Technical Practices: The Agile tool-set is powerful, and technical excellence is highly valued. Techniques can include zero-downtime deployments; A/B testing; and clustered, containerised micro-services for high availability. Tools such as burn-down charts give us the most accurate way to gauge the status of an initiative; task boards bring teams together with a common picture of the work in progress; cumulative flow diagrams help us pinpoint process flaws; and value stream maps help us diagnose the underlying sources of waste.

Book Notes: Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders

Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders: The Three Essential Principles You Need to Become an Extraordinary Leader by Rajeev Peshawaria
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Energising yourself – what is your purpose and values?

  1. What three to five things are most important to me?
  2. Do I want to:
    1. Lead a simple life rich with everyday small pleasures?
    2. Achieve great success in an individual endeavour?
    3. Lead others toward a better future? Or,
    4. Do something entirely different with my life?
  3. What results do I want to create?
  4. How do I want people to experience me?
  5. What values will guide my behaviour?
  6. What situations cause me to feel strong emotions?

Energise the team – for each of them:

  • What is their role?
    • What is our organisation’s vision for its future?
    • What is our effective/differentiated strategy to achieve the vision?
    • Do I have a stretch but achievable goal?
    • How does my goal fit into the vision and strategy?
    • Do I have sufficient freedom and autonomy to achieve my goal?
    • Does the role fit with my values and purpose?
  • What is their environment?
    • Does my manager regularly engage with me and has a good sense of what is important to me?
    • Are my opinions on important issues sought and valued?
    • Does the organisation have a culture of collaboration rather than competition?
    • Is everyone treated with respect and dignity?
    • Does the organisation have a friendly community?
    • Am I fairly rewarded and recognised?
    • Is the environment of high performers and mediocrity is not accepted?
  • What are the prospects for growth and development?
    • Do I have challenging assignments that provide me with opportunities to learn and develop?
    • Do I receive regular coaching feedback?
    • Does my manager help me identify my strengths and develop them further?
    • Does the culture strongly emphasise entrepreneurship and innovation?
    • Does the organisation strive to upgrade its capabilities to deliver outstanding results?
    • Am I expected to come up with ideas to increase productivity or profitability?

Energising the organisation

  • Setting direction
    • Do we have a compelling vision for future success?
    • Have we got a clear differentiated strategy to achieve the vision?
    • Are vision and strategy so clear they guide resource allocation and decision making?
    • Are we clear on what our competitive advantage is?
    • Does everyone clearly and consistently articulate the client value proposition?
  • Organisation
    • Do we have top quality talent with the right skills and experience in every job?
    • Do the support structures (e.g. promotion, performance processes) encourage performance?
    • Are roles, responsibilities and decision rights as clearly defined as possible?
    • Are our people and resources deployed in the best way to support the strategy?
    • Are we strengthening our core differentiating capabilities?
  • Culture
    • Do we have a well-defined and understood cultural philosophy (e.g. values, behaviours)?
    • Is the compensation and reward aligned with the desired behaviours?
    • Do leaders act in a way to proactively create a culture of collaboration and teamwork?
    • Do we focus both on the short term success and long term capability building?
    • Do we listen, learn and constantly learn?

Book Notes: No Rules Rules

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings, Erin Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A culture of “Freedom and Responsibility” (F&R)

  • First
    • Build up talent density by creating a workforce of high performers
      • Your number one goal as a leader is to develop a work environment consisting exclusively of stunning colleagues
      • Stunning colleagues accomplish significant amounts of important work and are exceptionally creative and passionate
      • Jerks sackers, sweet people with non-stellar performance or pessimists left on the team will bring down the performance of everyone
    • Introduce candour by encouraging loads of feedback
      • With candour, high performers become outstanding performers. Frequent candid feedback exponentially magnifies the speed and effectiveness of your team or workforce.
      • Set the stage for candour by building feedback moments into your regular meetings
      • Coach your employees to give and receive feedback effectively, following the 4A guideline
        • Give
          • Aim to assist
          • Actionable
        • Receive
          • Appreciate
          • Accept or discard
      • As the leader, solicit feedback frequently and respond with belonging cues when you receive it.
      • Get rid of jerks as you instil a culture of candour
    • Remove controls such as vacation, travel and expenses policies
      • Vacation
        • Explain there is no need to ask for prior approval and that neither the employees themselves nor their managers are expected to keep track of their days away from the office
        • It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off work
        • Leaders need to fill the hole of the policy with context on how employees should approach it
        • Leaders modelling the behaviour they expect is key – a leader never taking a holiday will result in an organisation that never does either.
      • Travel and expenses
        • When removing the policy set context and then check some receipts at the end – if people overspend set more context.
        • With no policy the finance department will need to audit a portion of receipts annually
        • When you find people abusing the system fire them and speak about it openly. This is needed so others understand the ramifications.
        • Some expenses may increase with freedom, but the costs from overspending are not nearly as high as the gains that freedom provides
        • With expenses freedom, employees will be able to make quick decisions to spend money in ways that help the business
        • Without the time and administrative costs associated with purchase orders and procurement processes, you will waste fewer resources
        • Many employees will respond to their new freedom by spending less than they would in a system with rules. when you tell people you trust them, they will show you how trustworthy they are.
  • Second
    • Strengthen talent density by paying top of market
      • The method used by most companies to compensate employees are not idea for a creative, high-talent-density workforce.
      • Divide your workforce into creative and operational employees. Pay the creative workers top of the market. This may mean hiring one exceptional individual instead of ten or more adequate people.
      • Don’t pay performance-based bonuses. Put these resources into salary instead.
      • Teach employees to develop their network and to invest in getting to know their own (and their teams) market value on an ongoing basis. This might mean taking calls from recruiters or even going to interviews at other companies. Adjust salaries accordingly.
    • Increase candour by emphasising organisational transparency
      • To instigate a culture of transparency, consider what symbolic messages you send. Get rid of closed offices, assistants who act as guards, and locked spaces.
      • Open up the books to your employees. Teach them how to read the P&L. Share sensitive financial and strategic information with everyone in the company.
      • When making decisions that will impact your employees’ well-being, like reorganisations or layoffs, open up to the workforce early, before things are solidified. This will cause some anxiety and distraction, but the trust you build will outweigh the disadvantages.
      • When transparency is in tension with an individual’s privacy, follow this guideline: If the information is about something that happened at work, choose transparency and speak candidly about the incident. If the information is about an employee’s personal life, tell people it’s not your place to share and they can ask the person concerned directly if they choose.
      • As long as you’ve already shown yourself to be competent, talking openly and extensively about your own mistakes-and encouraging all your leaders to do the same-will increase trust, goodwill, and innovation throughout the organisation.
    • Release more controls such as decision-making approvals
      • In a fast and innovative company, ownership of critical, big-ticket decisions should be dispersed across the workforce at all different levels, not allocated according to hierarchical status.
      • In order for this to work the leader must teach her staff the Netflix principle, “Don’t seek to please your boss.”
      • When new employees join the company, tell them they have a handful of metaphorical chips that they can make bets with. Some gambles will succeed, and some will fail. A worker’s performance will be judged on the collective outcome of his bets, not on the results from one single instance.
      • To help your workforce make good bets, encourage them to farm for dissent, socialise the idea, and for big bets, test it out.
      • Teach your employees that when a bet fails, they should sunshine it openly.
  • Third
    • Max-up talent density by implementing the Keeper Test
      • In order to encourage your managers to be tough on performance, teach them to use the Keeper Test: “Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving for a similar job at another company, would fight hard to keep?”
      • Avoid stack-ranking systems, as they create internal competition and discourage collaboration.
      • For a high-performance culture, a professional sports team is a better metaphor than a family. Coach your managers to create strong feelings of commitment, cohesion, and camaraderie on the team, while continually making tough decisions to ensure the best player is manning each post.
      • When you realise you need to let someone go, instead of putting him on some type of PIP, which is humiliating and organisationally costly, take all that money and give it to the employee in the form of a generous severance payment.
      • The downside to a high-performance culture is the fear employees may feel that their jobs are on the line. To reduce fear, encourage employees to use the Keeper Test Prompt with their managers: “How hard would you work to change my mind if were thinking of leaving?”
      • When an employee is let go, speak openly about what happened with your staff and answer their questions candidly. This will diminish their fear of being next and increase their trust in the company and its managers.
    • Max-up candour by creating circles of feedback
      • Candour is like going to the dentist. Even if you encourage everyone to brush daily, some won’t do it. Those who do may still miss the uncomfortable spots. A thorough session every six to twelve months ensures clean teeth and clear feedback.
      • Performance reviews are not the best mechanism for a candid work environment, primarily because the feedback usually goes only one way (down) and comes from only one person (the boss).
      • A 360 written report is a good mechanism for annual feedback. But avoid anonymity and numeric ratings, don’t link results to raises or promotions, and open up comments to anyone who is ready to give them.
      • Live 360 dinners are another effective process. Set aside several hours away from the office. Give clear instructions, follow the 4A feedback guidelines, and use the Start, Stop, Continue method with roughly 25 percent positive, 75 percent developmental-all actionable and no fluff.
  • Eliminate most controls by leading with context not control
    • In order to lead with context, you need to have high talent density, your goal needs to be innovation (not error prevention), and you need to be operating in a loosely coupled system.
    • Once these elements are in place, instead of telling people what to do, get in lockstep alignment by providing and debating all the context that will allow them to make good decisions.
    • When one of your people does something dumb, don’t blame that person. Instead, ask yourself what context you failed to set. Are you articulate and inspiring enough in expressing your goals and strategy? Have you clearly explained all the assumptions and risks that will help your team to make good decisions? Are you and your employees highly aligned on vision and objectives?
    • A loosely coupled organisation should resemble a tree rather than a pyramid. The boss is at the roots, holding up the trunk of senior managers who support the outer branches where decisions are made.
    • You know you’re successfully leading with context when your people are moving the team in the desired direction by using the information they’ve received from you and those around you to make great decisions themselves.

Map out your corporate culture and compare it to the cultures of the countries you are expanding into. For a culture of F&R, candour will need extra attention.

In less direct countries, implement more formal feedback mechanisms and put feedback on the agenda more frequently, because informal exchanges will happen less often.

With more direct cultures, talk about the cultural differences openly so the feedback is understood as intended.

Make ADAPTABILITY the fifth A of your candour model. Discuss openly what candour means in different parts of the world. Work together to discover how both sides can adapt to bring this value to life.