Tag Archives: 4 Star Book

Book Notes: The New Extraordinary Leader

The New Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders by John H. Zenger and Joseph R. Folkman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are a few points the book makes – crucially that leadership can be developed and is not a fixed quantity. Leaders can have a huge impact and yet organisations provide very low levels of support and development especially early on in peoples careers. They describe the skills as a tent with 5 pillars, developing any one increases the value of the others.

  • Personal Character – principled, honest, trusting, credibility
  • Personal Capability
    • Technical/professional acumen – technical and product understanding plus being able to communicate is concisely.
    • Problem-analysis and problem-solving skills – define, analyse and recommendation for resolution
    • Innovation – ability to have a fresh outlook to problems
    • Learning agility – willingness to act on personal feedback
  • Focus on Results
    • Results driven – Setting deadlines, reinforcing the importance of hitting targets and holding others accountable
    • Stretch goals – ability to set and have accepted stretch goals
    • Initiative – sponsor initiatives or actions to push things forward
    • Making decisions – make decisions and more forward in the face of ambiguity
    • Risk taking – a willingness to take acceptable risks
  • Interpersonal Skills
    • Communicating powerfully and prolifically – communicate in an efficient and interesting way
    • Inspiring other to high performance – installing inspiration and motivation.
    • Building positive relationships – strong and positive relationships with others
    • Developing others – increasing team effectiveness and productivity and engagement
    • Collaboration and teamwork – naturally people horde and compete but collaboration and teamwork is key
    • Valuing diversity – building engagement and valuing everyone’s input
  • Leading Change
    • Develops strategic perspective – understanding distinctive advantages
    • Champions change – helping teams navigate change as opposed to resisting
    • Has customer and external focus – staying close to the customer and understanding their current and future needs

Character is key – grow it by focusing on your behaviours this will change your attitudes and improve your character.

Your niche is the combination of your competencies, passion and the organisations need.

Organisational cultures:

  • Genteel – focus on kid and consideration
  • Candor – strong feedback culture
  • Learning – innovation and self development
  • High-integrity – doing the right thing, being honest and ethical
  • Fair – strong desire to treat people fairly
  • Political – political and connections are the most critical factors
  • Bureaucratic – many norms to uphold, great adherence to processes and procedures
  • Clan/Club – nurturing and mentoring people
  • Lofty – people held to a high standard
  • Fun/Celebration – high priority on making work fun
  • Technology – technical expertise are highly regarded
  • Execution – a drive forward to achieve results on time and budget
  • Error-Avoidance – excellence, quality and conformity with errors being punished
  • Customer – a focus on satisfying the customers needs and responding to their requests
  • Commendation – individual efforts are rewarded
  • Adhocracy – fast and first with entrepreneurial spirit
  • Sales – everything revolves around sales and bussiness development
  • Process – efficiency through slavishly defining and following work processes
  • Virtual – people contribute to the same goal but work independently
  • Start-up – fast growing, ill-defined, high energy and excitement

Don’t start with your worst characteristic unless it is a fatal flaw – else focus on your strengths.

The fatal flaws:

  • Not inspiring due to a lack of energy and enthusiasm
  • Accepting mediocre performance in place of excellent results
  • Lack of clear vision and direction
  • Loss of trust stemming from perceived bad judgement and poor decisions
  • Not collaborative or a team player
  • Not a good role model (failure to walk the talk)
  • No self-development and learning from mistakes
  • Lacking interpersonal skills
    • Sins of commission – abrasive, insensitive…
    • Sins of omission – look people in the eye, learn names, listen, laugh, prise, smile…
  • Resistant to new ideas, thus did not lead change or innovate
  • Focus is on self, not the development of others

Book Notes: Good Strategy Bad Strategy

Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard P. Rumelt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A strategy is a pathway to substantially higher performance.

  • The first advantage of a good strategy is that others fail to have a strategy
  • Good strategy tends to come from insight into an organisations strengths and weakness
  • Bad strategy
    • Fluff – the illusion of thinking. True expertise and insight is making a complex subject understandable.
    • Failure to face the challenge – you need to identify the challenge or opportunities, analyse obstacles/bottlenecks to overcoming this then formulate a plan to overcome them. Good strategies are not quick – e.g. “improve underperformance” is not a challenge – underperformance is an outcome, the true challenge is the reason for the under performance. Good strategy is choosing which challenges are both worthy of pursuing and capable of being accomplished – if you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.
    • Mistaking goals for strategy – many strategies are a statement of desires rather than a series of actions or policies to overcome obstacles. Business is not simply a battle of strength and will, but also competition on insight and competencies.
    • Bad strategic objectives (subgoals) – effective senior leaders don’t choose arbitrary goals, they critically decide which goals are worthy of pursuing. Goals being overall desires and objectives being specific operational targets.
  • The kernel of good strategy
    • A diagnostic of the challenge – taking the complexity of the situation and identifying the critical aspects. Understanding “What’s going on here?”. Growth is not a strategy – growth by itself does not create value, growth is the outcome of growing demand for special, expanded or extended capabilities, the outcome of superior products or skills, reward for successful innovation, cleverness, efficiency and creativity.
    • A guiding policy – how to cope with or overcome the diagnosed challenge, using the specific sources of power:
      • Leverage
        • Anticipation – others expected behaviors, especially rivals – this is not some “high, medium, low” forecast but understanding what others would do in these situations e.g. if the price is high then others will try to enter the market
        • Pivot points – a natural or created imbalance e.g. pent up demand or competence in one field which can be applied to another
        • Concentration – rising from constraints and threshold effects e.g. the constraint on advertising budget and the threshold effect of TV advertising meaning that a small amount continuously is much less valuable than a lot in a short time.
      • Proximate objectives – a target that the organisation can reasonably hit. This resolves ambiguity, where the situation is volatile the objective must be more proximate to achieve it.
      • Chain-link systems – strengthening any link but the weakest will not strengthen the chain as a whole
      • Using design
        • Premeditation – a plan in advance, “winging it” is not a strategy
        • Anticipation – a judgement of others thoughts and behaviours
        • Design of Coordinated action – a strategy is designed with capabilities, not just making a decision. This design should provide powers derived from interacting and overlapping effects focused against a target.
      • Competitive advantage –
        • If you can produce at a lower cost than competitors or deliver more perceived value (or a mix of the two).
        • Subtlety arrives because costs vary with product and application, buyers differ in their locations, knowledge, tastes, and other characteristics – so an advantage only goes so far.
        • It must be hard for others to replicate to stay isolated.
        • Competitive advantage does not mean financial gain. An interesting advantage is one where you can increase its value on your own.
          • deepening the advantages – increase value to buyers or reduce cost (or both)
          • broadening the extent of advantages – taking the advantage to new fields
          • creating higher demand for advantaged products or services – either though more buyers or more demand from each buyer
          • strengthening the isolating mechanisms that block easy replication and imitation by competitors
      • Changes in the environment
        • Rising fixed costs – might cause the industry to consolidate
        • Deregulation – incumbents find it hard to adapt to the new world
        • Predictable bias – people tend to think there is infinite growth, but there is a peak and this is important to identify
        • Incumbent response – they are resistant and slow to change because of inertia and entropy.
          • Inertia of routine, culture and proxy (as in their current customers what what you currently sell so there is no desire to cannibalise yourself)
          • Entropy (gradual decline into disorder) e.g. product line bloat, keeping unprofitable stores etc
        • Attractor states – what is the direction of the market, you might not like it but resisting will be worse
    • A set of coherent actions – steps which together will accomplish the guiding policy

Book Notes: Product Management in Practice

Product Management in Practice by Matt Lemay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The practice of product management

  • Don’t become upset if your day-to-day work is not visionary and important-seeming, so long as it is contributing to the goals of your team.
  • Find ways to align, motivate, and inspire your team that do not require formal organisational authority.
  • Be proactive about seeking out ways that you can help contribute to the success of your product and your team.
  • Be a connector between teams and roles.
  • Get out ahead of potential miscommunications and misalignments, no matter how inconsequential they might seem in the moment.
  • Don’t get too hung up on the “typical profile” of a successful product manager. Successful product managers can come from anywhere.
  • Don’t let insecurity turn you into the caricature of a bad product manager! Resist the urge to defensively show off your knowledge or skills.

The core connective skills of product management

  • Embrace the uniqueness of the product manager role.
  • Pursue clarity over comfort to build your communication skills.
  • Seek out opportunities to solve organisational problems on the systemic level rather than the individual level. If the rules aren’t working, change them, don’t break them.
  • Don’t let the day-to-day organisational conflicts of your work pull you out of your user’s reality. Remember that what your company cares about and what your users care about are different things, and be a relentless advocate for the latter.
  • Remember that there is no work beneath you, and no work above you. Be willing to do whatever it takes to help your team and your organisation succeed.
  • Even if you don’t self-identify as a “technical” person, avoid saying things like “I’m not a technical person, so I could never understand that!” Trust in your own ability to learn and grow.

Showing up curious

  • Reach to people before you need them and say, “I’m curious to learn more about the work that you do.”
  • Be just as vigilant about getting to know people outside of your immediate team, and take the time to understand their goals and motivations before you need something from them.
  • Cultivate a “growth mindset” and open yourself up to learning from people whose skills and knowledge exceed your own.
  • Resist the urge to avoid situations that test the limits of your abilities or knowledge.
  • Embrace “the gift of being wrong” by choosing the plan that best meets your organization’s goals, even if it is not your plan.
  • Shake up the work that people are doing and cross-pollinate knowledge and skills to keep your team curious and actively learning.
  • Model the value of curiosity for your team and organisation.
  • Avoid saying “I’m too busy to deal with that right now” and other things that might implicitly discourage your team from asking open and curious questions that don’t have an immediate transactional value.
  • Encourage your colleagues to learn from one another, and pair up folks who want to learn about one another’s skills.
  • Organise “demo days” and other opportunities for product teams to share and discuss their work with the organization at large.

The worst thing about “Best Practices”

  • Approach best practices as a place to start, not a prescriptive one-size-fits-all solution.
  • Ask yourself how a particular best practice might help your team deliver user value, instead of just how it will change the way you work.
  • If you’re curious about how a particular company approaches product management, try to find some people who have actually worked there and ask them.
  • When you are bringing a best practice from one organization into another organisation, acknowledge and appreciate that every organization is different.
  • Take the time to truly understand the goals and needs of your organization before rushing to implement any specific practices.
  • Use a “slow and steady” approach to implementing best practices, so that you can test and measure the impact of every incremental change.
  • Avoid the temptation to solve the problems that seem the most familiar to you, as opposed to the problems that are having the most impact on your users.
  • Utilise the “organisational halo” effect of best practices to get buy-in toward trying new things, but be prepared to continuously adjust course based on what is working and what is not working.

The art of egregious overcommunication

  • Err on the side of overcommunication. When you aren’t sure whether something is worth mentioning, mention it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask “the obvious.” In fact, the more obvious something seems, the more insistent you should be about making sure everybody is in fact on the same page.
  • Create a document like “Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager” that clearly lays out the behavioral expectations for product managers in your organisation.
  • Avoid the temptation of being a “meeting-hater.” Don’t apologise when you’re asking for somebody, but make sure that their time is well spent.
  • Ask your teammates about the most valuable and well-run meetings they’ve ever attended, and work with them to set a clear vision for what a “good” meeting should look like in your organisation.
  • Make sure that people are given a chance to voice their opinions in meetings by using “disagree and commit” or any other approach that achieves similar goals within your organisation.
    • The goal of a meeting should not be to get consensus, but rather to get commitment
    • Encourage people to share dissenting and complicating information that might prove critical in deciding upon a path forward.
    • Avoid consensus-driven compromise solutions that placate meeting participants but fail to meet underlying goals.
    • Force a clear decision, and create shared accountability around that decision.
    • Allow participants to pick their battles by committing quickly to low-stakes decisions that are often prone to disagreement (i.e., “What’s for lunch?”)
    • Interpret silence as disagreement, ask for affirmative commitment
    • Don’t completely misinterpret the entire point of this and say, “Well, it doesn’t matter if you agree because we’re doing disagree and commit!
  • Create and protect space for informal communication in your organisation, like team lunches and coffee breaks.
  • Acknowledge that distributed and remote work is simply not the same thing as colocated work, and cannot be transformed into an exact proxy for colocated work through tools and technologies.
  • Remember that people have different communication styles. Don’t write somebody off as a “bad communicator” or assume that they have bad intentions if they are not as open and extensive a communicator as you are.
  • Avoid starting sentences with phrases like “It would be great if…” or “Do you think it might be possible to…” that deflect responsibility. If you are asking for something, ask for it—and be clear about why you are asking for it.
  • Level up tactical conversations about things like design choices or development timelines to strategic conversations about goals and user needs.

Working with senior stakeholders

  • When working with senior stakeholders, don’t set out to “win.” Help empower them to make great decisions, and demonstrate that you can be a valuable and supportive thought partner.
  • Push upward for clarity around company strategy and vision, no matter how challenging it is. In the absence of this clarity, you cannot succeed.
  • Don’t try to “protect” your team from senior stakeholders by talking about how ignorant, arrogant, or out of touch these senior stakeholders are. Instead, bring your concerns directly to these senior stakeholders and help walk them through making the trade-offs that will best serve your company’s overall goals.
  • Never surprise a senior stakeholder with a big idea in an important meeting. Socialise ideas slowly and deliberately in one-on-one meetings.
  • Don’t let company politics drown out the needs of your user. Let user needs guide your decision-making, and bring the user’s perspective to life in meetings with senior leaders.
  • Make sure that business goals and user needs are not seen as at odds with each other, but are instead aligned with each other, both for specific product initiatives and within the organization’s overall vision and strategy.
  • When senior stakeholders ask you questions like, “Can this be done by Tuesday?” take their questions at face value. Let them participate in making tactical trade-offs, rather than rushing to make yourself the Product Martyr.
  • When confronted with a swoop-and-poop, don’t try to litigate the details of past conversations. Look for opportunities to diagnose and address the underlying issues so that that the swooper/pooper does not feel out of the loop moving forward.
  • If a senior stakeholder suddenly wants your team to work on something different, find out why. There might have been an important high-level conversation of which you were not aware.

Talking to users

  • Talk to your users!
  • Accept and acknowledge that talking to users is a real skill that takes time to develop.
  • Remember that talking to users and working with stakeholders are different things, and require different approaches.
  • Don’t try to impress users with your knowledge or expertise. Create as much space as you can for them to explain their reality to you, even if it feels like “playing dumb.”
  • If there are user researchers in your organisation, reach out to them and ask for their help walking you through the tools and approaches that they use.
  • When talking to users about their experiences, ask about specific instances rather than broad generalisations.
  • Don’t ask users to do your job for you! Do everything you can to understand their needs, and then think about the specific products and features that might best address those needs.
  • Use “leveling up” questions and prompts to get to core goals and motivations without an accusatory “why.”
  • Let your users lead you to what they think is important, rather than making that assumption for them with lots of detailed “zooming in” questions.


  • Recognise that a data-driven approach still means that you will have to set priorities and make decisions.
  • Avoid using the word data to generalise specific information. Say what that information is and how it was gathered.
  • Rather than hiding or erasing the assumptions that go into working with data, document those assumptions so that you and your team can address them together.
  • Have a clear and strong point of view about what metrics matter and why.
  • As a thought exercise, ask yourself to decide on the “One Metric That Matters.” If you’re having trouble focusing in, go back to your high-level goals and see if you can make them more specific and actionable.
  • Think through how you will measure a product’s success before you launch it, to avoid having to go back and add instrumentation after a product is already released.
  • Be just as curious and active about understanding metrics moving “the right way” as you are about metrics moving “the wrong way.”
  • Rather than being accountable for a number hitting a target, seek to be accountable for knowing why that number is moving toward or away from that target and having a plan for addressing whatever underlying issues are within your control.
  • Resist the siren call of scores and numbers that purport to tell you “everything that you need to know” about anything. Take the time to understand how these quantitative proxies are developed, and do the work of figuring out what specific questions they can and cannot answer based on your goals and priorities.
  • No matter how complex the data systems you’re working with, resist the pull of jargon. Keep conversations about technical decisions rooted in high-level goals that can be understood by everyone in the organization to make as much room as possible for collaboration.

Realistic roadmaps and painless prioritisation

  • Give up on being the person who “owns” the roadmap. Instead, look to facilitate the way that your entire organisation uses roadmaps.
  • Don’t make assumptions about how your organisation uses roadmaps. Ask lots of questions, and create a clear and well-documented understanding of how roadmaps are to be used within your organisation.
  • Open up the roadmap. It should be a conversation starter and a tool for alignment, not something to be closely guarded and manipulated under cover of darkness.
  • Give your colleagues the opportunity to suggest ideas for the product roadmap, but don’t let it turn into a free-for-all.
    • Product idea
    • Suggested by
    • Which of our users (current or prospective) this is for
    • How this idea will improve their experience
    • How this idea will help our business
    • How we will measure success
  • Advocate just as fiercely for ideas that are not your own, if not more so. Don’t get hung up on wanting to be the “idea person.”
  • Don’t spend so long on product specifications that you close off avenues for true collaboration.
  • If you are using a formal practice for writing product and feature specifications such as “user stories,” remember that a formally correct spec is not necessarily a good spec.
  • Make sure that everything on your roadmap is tied back to a “why” so that if that “why” changes, you can adjust the roadmap accordingly.
  • Be prepared for short-term prioritisation to be much more challenging than creating a long-term roadmap.
  • Dealing with emergencies
    • What is the issue?
    • Who reported this issue?
    • How many users is it affecting?
    • Is there revenue directly tied to this issue?
    • If so, how much?
    • What would happen if this issue were not addressed in the next two weeks?
    • What would happen if this issue were not addressed in the next six months?
    • Who is the contact person for further discussing/resolving this issue?
  • Do everything in your power to make sure that the goals against which you are prioritising are clear, well understood and actionable.
  • If you can, take your goals for a “test drive” with the senior leaders who are setting the company vision and strategy. See if the goals can serve as a stand-in for their vision, and change your goals if they aren’t giving you the guidance you need.
  • If your team is excited to build something new and shiny, don’t reflexively shoot it down for “not meeting our goals.” Find out why your team is so excited, and see what you can do to direct that excitement toward whatever solution will deliver the most value to your users and your business.
  • Remember that learning, testing, and experimenting is still valuable work, and should be treated as such. Prioritise tasks like creating prototypes and researching implementation approaches alongside the work of actually building your product.


  • Avoid ambiguous and misleading jargon around Agile—say exactly what you intend to do and why you intend to do it.
  • Understand the core values and principles of Agile before evaluating any specific practices or frameworks. If you just start implementing process without purpose, then you have no way to evaluate whether the process is working or not.
  • Socialise a North Star vision around Agile values and principles, so that everybody on your team knows why they are “doing Agile” in the first place.
  • Start with an off-the-shelf Agile methodology so that you have an impartial “referee” to resolve any specific questions about whether you’re “doing it right”—and then be fearless about changing that methodology if it is not helping you reach your North Star vision.
  • Create and protect time for your team to evaluate Agile practices against the goals you’ve set. Document process changes along with their intended goals, so that there is clarity around what people are doing and why.
  • Don’t let the operational details of doing Agile distract you from higher-level organisational goals. Remember that if you are executing against a product roadmap that delivers no value to your users or your business, it doesn’t matter how Agile your execution is—your product is still going to fail.
  • Don’t let user-centric Agile rituals serve as a stand-in for actually talking to your users.
  • Communicate the goals and rhythms of your Agile practices to people outside of your immediate team, so that they know what to expect and how to work with you.
  • Understand that “no process” is still a process, and take the time to really understand how your organization is currently building products.
  • If you feel that your organization is becoming too zealous about Agile, feel free to print out a whole bunch of blog posts by people who actually wrote the Agile Manifesto, describing how Agile zealotry and ornamentation have derailed the movement they started.

Day to day

  • Be wary of your organisation and team falling into autopilot. Actively bring new ideas and challenging perspectives to your team at all times.
  • Use time-boxed prototypes to explore alternate product directions, even when there is no immediate or obvious pressure to change course.
  • Remember that a good product organisation is not one free of conflict, but rather one in which conflict is handled openly and without personal attacks.
  • Try to bring the energy and enthusiasm from your best and most exciting moments as a product manager to every day of your work.
  • If you begin to feel like you are the only person keeping your team or your organisation from falling apart, take a step back. Make a list of the things you can’t control, delegate impactful work to your colleagues, and make sure you are protecting your team’s most valued routines and rituals.
  • Understand that the connectedness of your role carries great responsibility, but also great opportunity. Do everything in your power to protect and embody the very best things about your team and your organisation.

Book Notes: The Advantage

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The three biases:

  1. Sophistication – people think that solutions need to be complex, but in reality the solution is simple
  2. Adrenaline – people like to rush, instead you need to slow down and deal with important but not urgent issues
  3. Qualification – overly analytical leaders feel they need to quantify everything, where as the reality is that success is the compound of many small things multiplied up

Smart and Healthy

Good at:
and technology
Minimal policies,
low confusion,
high moral,
strong productivity
and low turn over amongst good employees

Being smart is permission to play, a healthy organisation will get smarter over time.

The four disciplines:

  1. Building a cohesive leadership team – the people at the top are not behaving cohesively in the five fundamental ways
  2. Create clarity – leaders must be intellectually aligned and committed to the same six critical questions
  3. Overcommunicate clarity – communicate clearly, repeatedly, enthusiastically and repeatedly
  4. Reinforce clarity – every policy, program, activity etc should be designed to reinforce what is important

Building a cohesive leadership team

  • A small group of people, over 8 is problematic and never over 12.
    • Larger groups advocate for their own case
    • Advocating is common but dangerous
    • Inquiring is rarer and more important
  • A team has collective responsibility – selflessness and shared sacrifices
  • Common Objectives – most measures should be collective
  • Behaviours
    • Building vulnerability-based trust – being completely comfortable being transparent, honest and naked with one another. Happy to say “I screwed up”, “I need help”, “your idea is better than mine”
    • Mastering conflict – when there is trust conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best answer. Conflict will be uncomfortable, and it must be leaned into to the point of constructive conflict but not beyond.
    • Achieving commitment – when leadership teams wait for consensus before taking action, they usually end up with decisions that are made too late and are mildly disagreeable to everyone. This is a recipe for mediocrity and frustration. Teams must have the discipline to review their commitments and clarify anything which is not crystal clear.
    • Embrace accountability – peer accountability is the primary and most effective source of accountability on a leadership team. Leaders need to confront difficult situations and hold people accountable so others follow suit. To hold someone accountable is to care about them enough to risk having them blame you for pointing out their deficiencies. This is especially important for behaviours.
    • Focusing on results – an organisation must meet it’s results to be a good team. To do this the team needs one score and that should be more important than individual scores.

Create Clarity

  • Why do we exist?
    • Customer – to directly serve the needs of an organisation’s customer or primary constituent.
    • Industry – to be immersed in a given industry
    • Greater cause – the company plays a role in a greater purpose
    • Community – to make a specific area better or group of people supported
    • Employees – to be a great place for people to work
    • Wealth – to make the owner wealthy
    • Two similar companies can act very differently if their reason to exist are different
  • How do we behave?
    • Core values – a very small number of traits that are fundamental and long held by the company
      • Is this trait inherent and natural for us and has it been present for a long time?
      • Would our organisation be able to credibly claim that we are more committed to this value than 99% of companies in our industry?
    • Aspirational values – characteristics the company wishes they already had
    • Permission-to-Play values – the minimum standards that are required in the organisation and usually common in the industry
    • Accidental values – these are evident but not not intentional
  • What do we do?
  • How will we succeed?
    • The company should make an exhaustive list of everything related to the bussiness. Then search for patterns within everything.
    • These need to be reviewed but the cadence is situation specific – where barriers are high and innovation low the they will last a long time, but where barriers are low and innovation is high these will likely not last very long and need regular review.
  • What is most important, right now?
    • One priority
    • Thematic Goal
      • One thing
      • Qualitative
      • Temporary
      • Shared across the leadership team
    • Defining objectives
      • These are the general categories of activities to achieve the thematic goal
    • Standard operating objectives
      • The day to day measures which people should be following
    • All the above on one page
  • Who must do what?
  • With all of the above – capture it but keep is short – one page, two at most. Then keep it to hand.

Overcommunicate clarity

  • Tell true rumours – it is the best way to get the word out
  • Consistent message
  • Timeliness of delivery, does not need to be the same time but within 24 hours
  • Live/real-time communication, not email as this is less effective
  • Ask the question “What are we going to tell our people?” to align on the key points of a message, not a wordsmithed to death script
  • Don’t get feedback if it is not going to be used.
  • Great organisations are never run by democracy.
  • Communication silos will exist as long as people want them to – how you communicate is irrelevant

Reinforce Clarity

  • An organisation has to institutionalise it’s culture without bureaucratising it
  • Your people are your culture so structured hiring is key
  • Onboarding is a memorable and impactful part of an employees life – make it count
  • Performance management, compensation and rewards – against the companies values
  • Recognition by authentic and specific expressions of appreciation
  • Keeping a relatively strong performer who is not a cultural fit sends a loud and clear message to employees that the organisation isn’t all that serious about what it says it believes

The Centrality of Great Meetings

  • “If someone were to offer me one single piece of evidence to evaluate the health of an organisation, I would want to observe the leadership team during a meeting.”
  • One meeting to cover everything – does not work. The human brain can not jump between things like this. There needs to be greater clarity and focus.
AdministrativeDaily Check-In5-10 minutes most days
TacticalWeekly Staff45-90 minutes weekly
StrategicAdhoc Topical2-4 hours as needed
DevelopmentalOff-Site Review1-2 days quarterly
  • Tactical
    • Real-Time Agenda – deciding at the start what are the pressing topics
    • How are we doing against the things we said are most important?
  • Off-Site Review
    • Step back from the bussiness to get a fresh perspective
    • Review the organisation’s strategic anchors and thematic goal
    • Assessing the performance of key employees
    • Discuss industry changes and competitive threats
    • Review the team members in regards to cohesiveness

Book Notes: It’s The Manager

It’s the Manager by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The workforce is changing and businesses need to evolve to get the most out of their people.

My PaycheckMy Purpose
My SatisfactionMy Development
My BossMy Coach
My Annual ReviewMy Ongoing Conversations
My WeaknessesMy Strengths
My JobMy Life

Why is change so hard? Humans are hard wired to distrust outsiders. This distrust can result in teams working against each other, and as such against the best interests of the company.

Leader need to bringing multiple teams together. It is easy for a leader to blame someone else – another team or manager, how connected managers feel will impact their safety and cooperation with other leaders.

Making great decisions. Know your limits, don’t have the ego to think you know it all realise you don’t and pull in other expertise to cover areas you don’t know. Apply critical thinking, identify risks and blind spots to prevent confirmation bias and groupthink. Use analytics-driven evidence, analytics when done right overrule hierarchy, politics and bias.

Culture – what is your mission, purpose and brand? Do these align with policies, programs and communications? Build culture through coaching by line managers.

Hiring stars – Hiring managers must reduce bias to choose the best people for the role.

  • Glare factors. Disproportionate weight to visual characteristics e.g. a candidates look
  • Experience fallacy. Assume everyone the same company or university will be successful
  • Confirmation bias. Only hearing comments that confirm beliefs about a candidate
  • Overconfidence bias. Hiring managers having special ability to select applicants
  • Similarity bias. Choosing people similar to yourself
  • Stereotype bias. Unconscious stereotypes of gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity and age
  • Availability bias. Relying on memory of an interview rather than a complete perspective
  • Sunk cost fallacy. Continuing with a candidate because so much time already invested
  • Escalation of pressure. Pressured to a candidate because its taken a long time to fill a role

How to hire

  • Prior experiences & achievements. What have they already done which aligns with the role
  • Innate tendencies. Evaluate on
    • Drive for achievement (motivation)
    • Getting work done (workstyle)
    • Taking action and inspiring others to succeed (initiation)
    • Building quality partnerships (collaboration)
    • Solving problems with assimilating new information (thought process)
  • Multiple interviews. Input from multiple interviews will reduce the potential bias.
  • On-the-job observation. Internship or scenarios as close to real life to see how they act.

Seven expectations that are necessary for success in any role:

  • Build relationships. Build trust, share ideas and accomplish work
  • Develop people. Grow others through strengths, expectations and coaching
  • Lead change. Embrace change, set goals that align with a stated vision
  • Inspire others. Positivity, vision, confidence, challenges and recognition
  • Think critically. Gather and evaluate information that leads to smart decisions
  • Communicate clearly. Share information regularly and concisely
  • Create accountability. Hold yourself and others responsible for performance

When people leave – make sure they feel heard, they feel proud of what they did and are brand ambassadors

Coaching conversations

  • Role and Relationship Orientation. Get to know each individual and their strengths and align to the organization’s overall objectives. Define success and co-worker expectations.
  • Quick Connect. Ongoing conversations for employees to feel heard and to raise issues for awareness and resolution.
  • Check-In. Regular review of successes, barriers and priorities.
  • Developmental Coaching. Most effective when the manager knows the employee well. To give the employee direction, support and advice when they are exploring career, aspirational or developmental opportunities.
  • Progress Reviews. Review purpose, goals, metrics, development, strategy, teams and wellbeing

Pay – Criteria should be transparent and not political lobbying. Don’t use forced rankings. People want autonomy/performance related pay but great care needs to be taken. Financial wellbeing is an organisational responsibility.

Performance rating bias

  • Personal or idiosyncratic bias. Higher rating for people who would do things the same way as the manager
  • Halo effect. When doing things the manager views as important well can result in the manger rating other aspects more favourably
  • Spill over effect. Once managers has made a choice for an employee they need a compelling reason to modify their prior judgment in subsequent reviews.
  • The middle default. Struggle to distinguish performance among workers
  • Leniency and strictness biases. Some have a bias toward the extremes.
    • Leniency bias giving positive ratings even though employees have notable room for improvement.
    • Strictness bias when a manager is overly critical

Performance rating solution

  • Individual achievement – performance metrics, subjective manager observation and individual goals
  • Collaboration
  • Customer value

Team’s engagement

  • Connectedness to the rest of the organisation
  • Composition of team strengths
  • Experience working together
  • Team size

Book Notes: Nonviolent Communication

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nonviolent communication is a way of communicating that leads to us giving from the heart where we perceive relationships in a new light when we hear our own needs deeper and those of others. We can shine consciousness on places where we hope to find what we are seeking.

  • The four steps:
    1. Observations
    2. Feelings
    3. Needs
    4. Requests
  • Communication that blocks compassion
    • Certain ways of communicating alienate us from our natural state of compassion
    • In the world of judgements, our concern centre on “who is what”
    • Analysis of others are actually expressions of our own needs and values
    • Classifying and judging people promotes violence
    • Comparisons are a form of judgement
    • Our language obscures awareness of personal responsibility
    • We can replace language which implies lack of choice with language that acknowledges choice.
    • We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think and feel
    • We can never make people do anything
    • Thinning based on “who deserves what” blocks compassionate communication
    • Life-alienating communication has deep philosophical and political roots
  • Observe without evaluating
    • When we combine observation with evaluation, people are apt to hear criticism
  • Identifying and expressing feelings
    • Expressing out vulnerability can help resolve conflict
    • Distinguish feelings from thoughts
    • Thoughts can include
      • Words – that, like, as, as if
      • Pronouns – I, you, he, she, they, it
      • Names – Amy
      • Nouns referring to people – my boss
    • Distinguish between what we feel and what we think we are
    • What we think we are include
      • Evaluation e.g. inadequate could be the feelings e.g. disappointed, impatient, frustrated
    • Distinguish between what we feel and how we think others react or behave towards us e.g. unimportant, misunderstood, ignored
  • Taking responsibility for our feelings
    • What others do may be the stimulus of our feelings, but not the cause
    • Four options for receiving negative messages
      1. Blame ourselves
      2. Blame others
      3. Sense our own feelings and needs
      4. Sense others’ feelings and needs
    • Connect your feelings with your needs – “I feel … because …”
    • Distinguish between giving from the heart and being motivated by guilt
    • Judgements of others are alienated expressions of our own unmet needs
    • If we express our needs we have a better chance of having them met
    • Some basic human needs – Autonomy, Celebration, Integrity, Interdependence, Play, Spiritual Communion, Physical Nurturance
    • If we don’t value our needs others might not either
    • Emotional Slavery to Emotional Liberation
      1. We see ourselves as responsible for others’ feelings
      2. The obnoxious stage – we feel angry, we no longer want to be responsible for others’ feeling
      3. Emotional liberation – we take responsibility for our intentions and actions. We respond to the needs of others out of compassion, never out of fear, guilt or shame.
  • Requesting that which would enrich life
    • Use positive language when making requests
    • Making requests in clear positive, concrete action language reveals what we really want
    • Vague language contributes to internal confusion
    • Depression is the reward we get for being “good”
    • When we simply express our feelings it may not be clear to the listener what we want them to do
    • We are often not conscious of what we are requesting
    • Requests may sound like demands when unaccompanied by the speaker’s feelings and needs
    • The clearer we are about what we want the more likely we are to get it
    • To make sure the message we sent is the message that’s received ask for the listener to reflect it back
    • Express appreciation when your listener tried to meet your request for a reflection – especially when the words repeated don’t match the messages intent
    • Empathise with the listener who doesn’t want to reflect back
    • After we express ourselves vulnerable we often want to know
      1. What the listener is feeling
      2. What the listener is thinking; or
      3. whether the listener would be willing to take a particular action
    • In a group much time is wasted when the speaker does not know what response they want
    • When the other person hears a demand from us, they see two options
      1. Submit
      2. Rebel
    • To tell if it’s a demand or a request, observe what the speaker does if the request is not complied with
    • It’s a demand if the speaker then criticises or judges
    • It’s a demand if the speaker then lays a guilt trip
    • It’s a request if the speaker then shows empathy towards the other person’s needs
    • Our objective is a relationship based on honesty and empathy
  • Receiving empathically
    • There are two parts of nonviolent communication
      1. Express honestly
      2. Receive empathically
    • Empathy: emptying our mind and listening with our whole being
    • What empathy is not:
      • Advising, one-upping, educating, consoling, story-telling, shutting down, sympathising, interrogating, explaining, correcting, reassurance
    • Intellectual understanding blocks empathy
    • Listen to what people are needing rather than what they are thinking
    • When asking for information first express our own feelings and needs
    • Reflect back messages that are emotionally charged
    • Paraphrase only when it contributes to greater compassion and understanding
    • Behind intimidating messages are merely people appealing to us to meet their needs
    • A difficult message is an opportunity to enrich someone else’s life
    • Paraphrasing saves time
    • When we stay with empathy we allow speakers to touch deeper levels of themselves
    • We know a speaker has received adequate empathy when
      1. We sense a release of tension or
      2. The flow of words comes to a halt
    • We need empathy to give empathy
  • The power of empathy
    • Empathy allows us “to reperceive [our] world in a new way and to go on”
    • “Don’t just do something …”
    • It’s harder to empathise with those who appear to possess more power, status or resources
    • The more we empathise with the other party the safer we feel
    • We “say a lot” by listening for other people’s feelings and needs
    • Rather than put your “but” in the face of an angry person, empathise
    • When we listen for feelings and needs, we no longer see people as monsters
    • It may be difficult to empathise with those who are closest to us
    • Empathising with someone’s “no” protects us from taking it personally
    • To bring a conversation back to life: interrupt with empty
    • What bores the listener bores the speaker too
    • Speakers prefer that listeners interrupt rather than pretend to listen
    • Empathise with silence by listening for the feelings and needs behind it
    • Empathy lies in our ability to be present
  • Connecting compassionately with ourselves
    • The most important use may be in developing self-compassion
    • To evaluate ourselves in ways that engender growth rather than self-hatred
    • Avoid shoulding yourself!
    • Self-judgements (like all judgements) are tragic expressions of unmet needs
    • Fully connect with historical feelings unmet needs to help us get past them now
    • Self-forgiveness by connecting with the needs we were trying to meet when we took the action we now regret
    • We are compassionate with ourselves when we are able to embrace all parts of ourselves and recognise the needs and values expressed by each part
    • We want to take action out of the desire to contribute to life rather than out of fear, guilt, shame or obligation
    • With every choice you make, be conscious of what need it serves
    • Refreame as “I choose to … because I want to …”
    • Be conscious of actions motivated by the desire for money or approval, and by fear, shame or guilt. Know the price you pay for them
    • The most dangerous of all behaviours may consist of doing things “because we’re supposed to”
  • Expressing anger fully
    • Hurting people is too superficial
    • We are never angry because of what others say or do
    • Motivation by guilt mixes up stimulus and cause
    • The cause of anger lies in our thinking – in thoughts of blame and judgement
    • When we judge others we contribute to violence
    • Use anger as a wake-up call
    • Anger co-opts our energy by diverting it towards punitive actions
    • When we become aware of our needs, anger gives way to life-saving feelings
    • Violence comes from the belief that other people cause our pain and therefore deserve punishment
    • Judgement of other leads to self-fulfilling prophecies
    • Steps to expressing anger
      1. Stop, Breathe
      2. Identify our judgemental thoughts
      3. Connect with our needs
      4. Express our feelings and unmet needs
    • The more we hear them, the more they’ll hear us
    • Stay conscious of the violent thoughts that arise in our minds without judging them
    • When we hear another person’s feelings and needs, we recognise our common humanity
    • Our need is for the other person to truly hear our pain
    • People do no hear our pain when they believe they are at fault
    • Practice translating each judgement into an unmet need
    • Take your time
  • Conflict resolution and mediation
    • Creating a connection between people is the most important thing
    • The aim is not to get either side to do what the other side wants
    • Instead we work to create that quality of mutual concern and respect where each party thinks their own needs matter and they are conscious that their needs and the other person’s well being are interdependent
    • This is about mutual satisfaction, not compromise
    • When you make the connection, the problem usually solves itself
    • Conflict resolution
      1. First side expresses their own needs
      2. We search for the real needs of the second party, no matter how they are expressing themselves.
      3. Verify that we both accurately recognise the other person’s needs – if not continue seeing. Both sides need to be able to clearly express the needs of the other.
      4. Express as much empathy as needed to hear each other’s needs accurately
      5. With the clarified needs we propose strategies for resolving the conflict, framing them in positive action language
    • Avoid the use of language that implies wrongness
    • Separate needs from the strategies to fulfil them
    • Intellectual analysis is often receive as criticism
    • Learn to hear needs regardless of how people express them
    • Criticism and diagnosis get in the way of peaceful resolution of conflict
    • People often need empathy before they are able to hear what is being said
    • Use present language fosters respectful discussions “Would you be willing to …”
    • Action language requires the use of positive action verbs
    • Maintaining respect is a key element in successful conflict resolution
    • The objective is not to get the parties to do what we want them to do
    • Sometimes you need to reassure people that they will get the chance to put their side on the table
    • Keep track of unfinished topics as the conversation bounces around to ensure they are all tied off
    • Use role-play to speed up the mediation process
    • No matter what happens we all have the same needs
    • Role-play is simply putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes
    • The purpose of interrupting is to restore the process
    • We need to be well practiced at hearing the need in any message
    • Both sides need to be fully aware of their own needs as well as the others so that scarcity thinking does not take hold.
  • The protective use of force
    • The intention behind the protective use of force is only to protect, not to punish, blame or condemn
    • The corrective process is one of education, not punishment.
    • Ignorance includes
      1. Lack of awareness of the consequence of our actions
      2. An inability to see how our needs may be met without injury to others
      3. The belief that we have the right to punish or hurt others because they “deserve” it
      4. Delusional thinking that involves, for example, hearing voices that instruct killing
    • Punitive action is based on the assumption that people commit offenses because they are bad or evil and to correct the situation they need to be made to repent by
      1. Making them suffer enough to see the error of their ways
      2. Repent
      3. Change
    • In reality punitive action is likely to generate resentment and hostility and to reinforce resistance to the very behaviour we are seeking
    • Fear of corporal punishment obscures children’s awareness of the compassion underlying their parents’ demands
    • Punishment also includes judgemental labeling and the withholding of privileges
    • When we fear punishment we focus on consequences, not on our own values
    • Fear of punishment diminishes self-esteem and good will
    • Questions
      1. What do I want this person to do?
      2. What do I want the person’s reasons to be for doing it?
    • Nonviolent communication does not mean permissiveness
  • Liberating ourselves and counseling others
    • We can liberate ourselves from cultural conditioning
    • The ability to hear our own feelings and needs and empathise with them can free us from depression
    • Focus on what we want to do rather than what went wrong
    • Defuse stress by hearing our own feelings and needs
    • Defuse stress by empathising with others
    • I empathised with clients instead of interpreting them, I revealed myself instead of diagnosing them
  • Expressing appreciation in nonviolent communication
    • Compliments are often judgements – however positive – of others
    • Express appreciation to celebrate, not to manipulate
    • Use these components of appreciation
      1. The action that contributed to our well-being
      2. The need of ours that have been fulfilled
      3. The pleasure engenered by the fulfilment of those needs
    • Receive appreciation without feelings of superiority of false humility
    • “What appreciation might someone give you that would leave you jumping for joy?”
    • We tend to notice what’s wrong rather than what’s right

Book Notes: Making Every Meeting Matter

HBR Guide to Making Every Meeting Matter by Harvard Business Review
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Do you even need to hold a meeting?

  • Have you through it through? No – schedule time to think strategically
  • Do you need outside input to make progress? No – schedule time to do the work
  • Do you need a real-time conversation? No – send an email
  • Does it need to be face-to-face? No – send a chat or have a video call
  • If yes to all of the above schedule the meeting and prepare for it

Be consistent on what a meeting actually means

  • Gatherings of two people are simply conversations
  • Sessions where people are collaborating on a task are group work sessions
  • Idea generation sessions are brainstormings
  • Information dissemination sessions for convenience are generally a bad idea
  • Information dissemination sessions for alignment a meeting may or may not be valuable
  • Meetings out of habit or tradition are formality meetings, check if these are valuable
  • Where connecting is the key their social meetings, likely a team building more suitable
  • Decision-supporting meetings to aid a leader in making a decision either seeking input or asking for approval

Understanding the meetings goals by having a clear answer to:

  • What do you want to have debated, decided or discovered at the end of this session that you and the team haven’t already debated, decided or discovered?
  • What do you want attendees to say when their team members ask, “What happened at the big meeting?”

Shorter meetings

25 or 50 minute meetings allows for people to better get from one meeting to the next without a cascading problem. Instead of an hour try 25/30 min meetings as the short meeting will push for the more important content to be discussed, more preparation, people arriving on time, etc.

Consider having a timer which prevents people speaking for too long to help people focus on the point they want to make and keeps the meeting moving quicker.

Smaller meetings

For active discussions 8 people is about the limit, for brainstorming with variety of input 18 beyond that it needs to be more of a presentation/cascade format as it is harder for people to contribute.

Ground rules such as

  • Silence Denotes Agreement – So people feel compelled to speak up in the moment.
  • Commitment to start and end on time
  • Ask for participation and openness to ideas
  • Agree to listen and to limit interruptions
  • Clarify how decisions will be made
  • Rule out the myth of multitasking

Decision making methods

Group consensus


  • Allows all participants to share their expertise to arrive at the best decision
  • Results in all participants understanding the decision and implications
  • Greatly enhances the chance of buy-in


  • May think they all need to agree to and believe in the final decision which means it can go round in circles
  • May take more time than other decision making methods
  • May require a second decision making method if consensus can not be reached
  • Leaders can feel obliged to follow the decision and abdicate responsibility

Majority Vote


  • Speed in decision making
  • Group perceives the decision is fair
  • You hear from everyone, even people who are usually quiet


  • Open voting requires taking a public stand on an issue
  • Can be perceived as a winner and loser
  • People may not feel comfortable voting according to their true feeling or voice reservations
  • Losers often feel that their voice has not been heard
  • Not everyone buys into the decision
  • May or may not arrive at the best decision
  • Leaders can feel obliged to follow the decision and abdicate responsibility

Leaders Choice


  • It’s the fastest approach to decision making and may be the best approach when time is short or in a crisis
  • If participants respect the leader then they are more likely to buy into the decision.
  • Leaders are completely accountable for the decision and its implications


  • Participants may feel that they are not heard, especially if they have not been given the opportunity to voice their opinions
  • Implementation may be more challenging as people don’t feel ownership or buy-in to the result

Not attending a meeting

  • What is the value of the meeting? No – speak to the organiser to improve its chances of success or getting it cancelled
  • Am I the right person to attend? No – can you recommend someone else to attend in you place
  • Is the meeting a priority for me right now? No – can you contribute in advance or attend only part of the meeting


  • Check for completeness – before moving on check that everyone had said everything they need to, if you move on too quickly people will likely re-open the topic again later.
  • Check for alignment – “Is everyone ok with where we ended up?” to see if people can’t live with the decision
  • Agree on next steps – Get firm, clear commitments
  • Reflect on the value – Be verbal and concrete about the benefits from the discussion
  • Check for acknowledgements – Acknowledge if people made special contributions
  • Gather feedback – How did it go? How could we be even better next time?

Book Notes: Empowered

Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products by Marty Cagan with Chris Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The key message behind the book is that for companies to build products which are valuable to the customer they need empowered product teams where technology is seen as a core competency and partner. Where teams are given meaningful ownership of problems to solve, not tasks to complete, with data as a cornerstone. To achieve this there is a need for a higher quality of leadership.

The Role of Technology

Technology is a core function, not just an expense. To achieve amazing output technology and product needs to be first class citizens, not an expense to be reduced. Providing teams of missionaries with problems is going to actually help reduce costs compared to providing tasks to mercenaries. At strong product and tech companies technology is not there to serve the business it is the business. Technology is not just there to improve efficiency, it is a key enabler to reimagine the future of the business.

Develop People Is Job #1

For teams to achieve requires competent and capable people who can achieve the best results. This is not to just hire the best and leave them to it, this is by coaching people so that they can get better every day. These people need space to own outcomes, not just tasks.

Insecure managers have a large challenge in empowering teams as they feel a need to be recognised for their contributions and see their team as a threat to this which causes them to undermine it. This can result in a lack of diverse viewpoints which diminishes the teams value or hide mistakes which is both harmful and prevents growth and learning.

The leads need to produce a safe and trusting tram for diverse viewpoints to be heard and for mistakes to be discussed and seek to teach or push people to achieve their potential – especially when not realised by the individual.

The book provides a ways to assess product people in product, process and people to produce a gap analysis that can feed into a coaching plan. This can then be worked on and reviewed in 1:1 sessions. Key areas are for people to be dependable, to work in the companies best interests and to be accountable.

There are a set of anti-pattern to watch out for:

  • Manager Doesn’t Care – this is when leaders don’t like or see developing people as a key responsibility.
  • Manager Reverts to Micromanaging – Micromanaging is easy but it won’t help people develop.
  • Manager Spends Time Talking and Not Listening – The session is primarily for your subordinate and not you, it is too easy to talk for the whole session. Also different people learn in different ways so you need to be sensitive to this.
  • Manager Doesn’t Provide Difficult Feedback – People need to hear the hard news so that they can learn to grow and improve.
  • Manager Is Insecure and/or Incompetent – If you are insecure or incompetent then you are letting your team down as they will be unable to grow (law of the lid).
  • Manager Doesn’t Cut Losses – Not everything works out, sometimes you need to cut your losses and let someone go if they are not growing sufficiently.

Three critical characteristics of strong product teams

  1. Tackle risks early
  2. Solve problems collaboratively
  3. Be accountable for results

Collaboration anti-patterns

  • One decider – This is not collaboration, this is a dictator model.
  • Consensus – It is not unusual for there to be difference of opinion, sometimes there needs to be a judgement call or a test to resolve differences.
  • Artifacts – Documents such as “requirements” these shut down discussions and collaboration.
  • Compromise – aka vote for your favorite. This can result in mediocre results which is not good for anyone.
  • Doing what the customer said – Product is to innovate on behalf of the customer, not for the customer to produce requirements.

What we want are solutions which are

  • Valuable – for people to buy or choose it
  • Usable – so people can experience the value
  • Feasible – something that we can build to deliver the value
  • Viable – Something that is able to sell or support and it is net positive
  • Ethical – Even if we can and we could make money, should we

To achieve this we need to collaborate to identify what we don’t know and to experiment to see if these can be overcome. We need decisions and collaboration to be transparent so people understand the why and background behind them. Disagree and commit:

  1. If you see a snake (important decision to be made), kill it
  2. Don’t play with dead snakes (important decision you have made)
  3. All opportunities start out looking like snakes


The best product companies hire competent people of character, and then coach and develop them into members of extraordinary teams.

Staffing does not mean hiring – this is a much bigger topic and one that the responsibility lies with the manager, not with HR – HR are there to help/partner but they are not responsible.

Of the two phases: discovery and delivery, co-location is magic for discovery. During the discovery phase the product manager, designer and tech lead should be working together – not via artifacts passed between them.

The book highlights the important difference between an individual contributor role to a people management position where the latter is not a more-senior position but a fundamentally different job requiring different skills and talents.

We should build a product vision which is compelling and share it, not create a roadmap of features and share that else this ties our hands too much. We should be stubborn on vision and flexible on details.

Producing principles compliment the vision by sharing the values and beliefs which should help guide decision making and ensure that the product remains ethical.

In the team topology there are two types of teams – platform teams which manage services so they can be leveraged by other teams and experience teams which are responsible for how the products value is exposed to users and customers. Experience teams are sub-divided again into customer-facing teams which focuses on the experience the customer receives and customer-enabling which are teams which are internal users both work best with end-to-end responsibilities. These teams need to be autonomous such that they are regularly able to deliver value without dependencies on other teams, it is quite common for products to have two sides (e.g. buyers and sellers) here it is empowering to organise the teams by the side of the marketplace.

Product Strategy

How do we decide which problems the teams should solve? The answer is the product strategy. This requires:

  • Tough choices on what is really important to provide focus
  • Generating, identifying and leveraging insights
  • Converting insights into actions by giving teams problems to solve
  • Active (not micro) management identifying, tracking and resolving obstacles

With regards to objectives there should be just team objectives. The results must be defined in terms of business results which the team need to own and are brought into by setting the target – but the measure needs to be meaningful not a substitute because it is easier to measure. We should be clear with the team if we are looking for a roof shot or a moon shot so they can determine the aptitude for risk. To note the manager is the one assigning the problem to the team and deciding on the acceptable level of risk for the team to take. Companies that avoid shared or common objectives in the name of autonomy or communication often limit their ability to solve the toughest and most important problems.

High-integrity commitments do happen but they should be the exception else this will still be a delivery team not an empowered product team.

Effective objectives:

  • Assigning problems and giving team space to solve them
  • If a team volunteers this should be taken into account but volunteering does not mean they are the right team for the job
  • Leaders decide which teams work on which objective but the key results need to come from the team.
  • A back and forth on deciding the objectives is very normal
  • There is nothing wrong with assigning the same objective to multiple teams
  • There is nothing wrong with asking multiple teams to collaborate on the same objective
  • Clarity on the level of ambition you want from the team.
  • Keeping the lights on activities are also important and should not be neglected but this should also not become a back door to get work done by the team
  • Quarterly gives space to the team to focus but adaptability to the business

Book Notes: One Mission

One Mission: How Leaders Build A Team Of Teams by Chris Fussell with Charles Goodyear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The aim of the book is to highlight ways to improve the speed of getting things done – as more and more work is done in cynefin defined complex environments the solutions for the complicated and obvious domains, e.g. bureaucracy, are no longer suitable to solve the problems.

  1. The traditional organisational structure is the usual way to support decision making, however it is slow with each level working at a slower cadence than the one below.
  2. Additionally people lean on the organisational structure so that they don’t need to take full accountability for their actions e.g. “well I escalated the issue” etc.
  3. Finally with the cascading of goals you get two problems –
    • Firstly that at each layer in the organisation there is a different focus or interpretation meaning that as the goals cascade they diverge.
    • Secondly that although the goals might be aligned the timing might not meaning that different parts of the organisation get out of synch of the other.

The issue with goal cascade and speed is overcome using (in their case) a daily meeting which is open to anyone who wants to attend – this is not for hierarchical reports, this is for collaborative problem solving. It is during this session that a reminder can also be given about the priorities so that everyone hears the exact same message – bringing shared consciousness. This session depends on good interpersonal relationships and psychological safety for it to work, as such people were addressed by first names and used video so people to build trust and asked for their thoughts not just raw data. It is important for senior people in these forums to be honest such as highlighting what they don’t know – here not knowing was acceptable; not thinking wasn’t. The frequency of the meetings set the temp for the organisation – ensuring that they could maximise the value of information before it became out of date and worthless.

Its goal was collective learning to drive autonomous action, not grading one another on completed efforts. It was a forward-looking forum, not a hindsight review.

Between these meetings teams have empowered execution through the use of rules which clearly bound what they are allowed to do and in which cases they need to seek approval. The challenge with empowered execution is that people want autonomy without accountability – they can commonly be hesitant. This is the quickest way for the decentralised approach to fail.

The other is deviance – where people step outside of the norms, there are two forms of this, positive and negative. The positive form is where people outstep the norms within their approved space, this could be a different way or working or approaching a problem. The negative deviance is where people push things overstepping their boundaries which can not be tolerated.

Organisations tend to produce complex solutions to complex problems – instead producing simpler rules is vastly more effective in both getting the desired result but also in keeping the speed of the organisation high.

To build a quick decision making organisation relationships are key – these are valuable both within your organisation but also with other organisations you work with. In the past a liason that you might put into another team might have been more of a spy for you or a junior individual for this to be valuable these liaisons need to be well networked, achieved and respected internally – they should add value by building relationships with people in both organisations and help the speed of information flow in both directions.

The book concludes with this definition of leaders in organisations

I understand the complexity of the environment. I understand that you must move faster than our structures allow for and that you understand your problems better than I ever could. I will create space for you to organically communicate and share information. I will empower you to make decisions and execute. I can help guide us on the path, but only you can win the war. I trust you to do that.

In response members must fulfill their equally important part

We understand that you’re building us the space to thrive but that it is ultimately our journey to take. We see you humbling yourself to the reality of the complex fight. We trust you to protect our ability to move with speed and adaptability. We will rise to the challenge and hold ourselves accountable to the outcome.

Book Notes: Principles

Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are many key points made in the book but these are the key ones which I felt were the most significant.
The machine is made what links goals to outcome through people. The machine needs to be designed and people with the risk skills put into it. Principles help the culture of the people to operate.
Principles can enable you to be more effective and multiply your effort.
Believability (personally I would prefer the term Experienced) is important, you should not treat all opinions equally.
Responsible parties is the person who is responsible for making a decision. If they use we or they then they are not taking ownership for the decision and are abdicating responsibility.

Life principles

  1. Embrace Reality and Deal with It
    1. Be a hyperrealist.
      1. Dreams + Reality + Determination = A Successful Life.
    2. An accurate understanding of reality (truth) is the essential foundation for any good outcome.
    3. Be radically open-minded and radically transparent.
      1. Radical open-mindedness and radical transparency are invaluable for rapid learning and effective change.
      2. Don’t let fears of what others think of you stand in your way.
      3. Embracing radical truth and radical transparency will bring more meaningful work and more meaningful relationships.
    4. Look to nature to learn how reality works.
      1. Don’t get hung up on your views of how things “should” be because you will miss out on learning how they really are.
      2. To be “good,” something must operate consistently with the laws of reality and contribute to the evolution of the whole.
      3. Evolution is the single greatest force in the universe; it is the only thing that is permanent and it drives everything.
      4. Evolve or die.
    5. Evolving is life’s greatest accomplishment and its greatest reward.
      1. The individual’s incentives must be aligned with the group’s goals.
      2. Reality is optimizing for the whole—not for you.
      3. Adaptation through rapid trial and error is invaluable.
      4. Realize that you are simultaneously everything and nothing—and decide what you want to be.
      5. What you will be will depend on the perspective you have.
    6. Understand nature’s practical lessons.
      1. Maximize your evolution.
      2. Remember “no pain, no gain.”
      3. It is a fundamental law of nature that in order to gain strength one has to push one’s limits, which is painful.
    7. Pain + Reflection = Progress.
      1. Go to the pain rather than avoid it.
      2. Embrace tough love so people can grow the skills they need.
    8. Weigh second- and third-order consequences – these are more important than the short term ones.
    9. Own your outcomes – Making your decisions well instead of complaining about things being beyond your control.
    10. Look at the machine from the higher level.
      1. Think of yourself as a machine operating within a machine and know that you have the ability to alter your machines to produce better outcomes.
      2. By comparing your outcomes with your goals, you can determine how to modify your machine.
      3. Distinguish between you as the designer of your machine and you as a worker with your machine.
      4. The biggest mistake most people make is to not see themselves and others objectively, which leads them to bump into their own and others’ weaknesses again and again.
      5. Successful people are those who can go above themselves to see things objectively and manage those things to shape change.
      6. Asking others who are strong in areas where you are weak to help you is a great skill that you should develop no matter what, as it will help you develop guardrails that will prevent you from doing what you shouldn’t be doing.
      7. Because it is difficult to see oneself objectively, you need to rely on the input of others and the whole body of evidence.
      8. If you are open-minded enough and determined, you can get virtually anything you want.
  2. Use the 5-Step Process to Get What You Want Out of Life
    1. Have clear goals.
      1. Prioritize: While you can have virtually anything you want, you can’t have everything you want.
      2. Don’t confuse goals with desires.
      3. Decide what you really want in life by reconciling your goals and your desires.
      4. Don’t mistake the trappings of success (expensive things) for success itself.
      5. Never rule out a goal because you think it’s unattainable.
      6. Remember that great expectations create great capabilities.
      7. Almost nothing can stop you from succeeding if you have a) flexibility and b) self-accountability.
      8. Knowing how to deal well with your setbacks is as important as knowing how to move forward.
    2. Identify and don’t tolerate problems.
      1. View painful problems as potential improvements that are screaming at you.
      2. Don’t avoid confronting problems because they are rooted in harsh realities that are unpleasant to look at.
      3. Be specific in identifying your problems.
      4. Don’t mistake a cause of a problem with the real problem.
      5. Distinguish big problems from small ones.
      6. Once you identify a problem, don’t tolerate it.
    3. Diagnose problems to get at their root causes.
      1. Focus on the “what is” before deciding “what to do about it.”
      2. Distinguish proximate causes from root causes.
      3. Recognize that knowing what someone (including you) is like will tell you what you can expect from them.
    4. Design a plan.
      1. Go back before you go forward.
      2. Think about your problem as a set of outcomes produced by a machine.
      3. Remember that there are typically many paths to achieving your goals.
      4. Think of your plan as being like a movie script in that you visualize who will do what through time.
      5. Write down your plan for everyone to see and to measure your progress against.
      6. Recognize that it doesn’t take a lot of time to design a good plan.
    5. Push through to completion.
      1. Great planners who don’t execute their plans go nowhere.
      2. Good work habits are vastly underrated.
      3. Establish clear metrics to make certain that you are following your plan.
    6. Remember that weaknesses don’t matter if you find solutions.
      1. Look at the patterns of your mistakes and identify at which step in the 5-Step Process you typically fail.
      2. Everyone has at least one big thing that stands in the way of their success; find yours and deal with it.
    7. Understand your own and others’ mental maps and humility.
  3. Be Radically Open-Minded
    1. Recognize your two barriers.
      1. Understand your ego barrier – your defense mechanism against mistakes and weaknesses.
      2. Your two “yous” fight to control you.
      3. Understand your blind spot barrier.
    2. Practice radical open-mindedness.
      1. Sincerely believe that you might not know the best possible path and recognize that your ability to deal well with “not knowing” is more important than whatever it is you do know.
      2. Recognize that decision making is a two-step process:
        1. Take in all the relevant information.
        2. Decide.
      3. Don’t worry about looking good; worry about achieving your goal.
      4. Realize that you can’t put out (convey their thinking and be productive) without taking in (learn).
      5. Recognize that to gain the perspective that comes from seeing things through another’s eyes, you must suspend judgment for a time—only by empathizing can you properly evaluate another point of view.
      6. Remember that you’re looking for the best answer, not simply the best answer that you can come up with yourself.
      7. Be clear on whether you are arguing or seeking to understand, and think about which is most appropriate based on your and others’ believability.
    3. Appreciate the art of thoughtful disagreement.
    4. Triangulate your view with believable people who are willing to disagree.
      1. Plan for the worst-case scenario to make it as good as possible.
    5. Recognize the signs of closed-mindedness and open-mindedness that you should watch out for. Closed-minded people:
      1. Don’t want their ideas challenged.
      2. More likely to make statements than ask questions.
      3. Focus on being understood than understanding others.
      4. Block others from speaking.
      5. Have trouble holding two thoughts simultaneously.
      6. Lack a deep sense of humility.
    6. Understand how you can become radically open-minded.
      1. Regularly use pain as your guide toward quality reflection.
      2. Make being open-minded a habit.
      3. Get to know your blind spots.
      4. If a number of different believable people say you are doing something wrong and you are the only one who doesn’t see it that way, assume that you are probably biased.
      5. Meditate.
      6. Be evidence-based and encourage others to be the same.
      7. Do everything in your power to help others also be open-minded.
      8. Use evidence-based decision-making tools.
      9. Know when it’s best to stop fighting and have faith in your decision-making process.
  4. Understand That People Are Wired Very Differently
    1. Understand the power that comes from knowing how you and others are wired.
      1. We are born with attributes that can both help us and hurt us, depending on their application.
    2. Meaningful work and meaningful relationships aren’t just nice things we choose for ourselves—they are genetically programmed into us.
    3. Understand the great brain battles and how to control them to get what “you” want.
      1. Realise that the conscious mind is in a battle with the subconscious mind.
      2. Know that the most constant struggle is between feeling and thinking.
      3. Reconcile your feelings and your thinking.
      4. Choose your habits well.
      5. Train your “lower-level you” with kindness and persistence to build the right habits.
      6. Understand the differences between right-brained and left-brained thinking.
      7. Understand how much the brain can and cannot change.
    4. Find out what you and others are like.
      1. Introversion vs. extroversion, Intuiting vs. sensing, Thinking vs. feeling, Planning vs. perceiving.
      2. Creators vs. refiners vs. advancers vs. executors vs. flexors.
      3. Focusing on tasks vs. focusing on goals.
      4. Workplace Personality Inventory.
      5. Shapers are people who can go from visualization to actualization.
    5. Getting the right people in the right roles in support of your goal is the key to succeeding at whatever you choose to accomplish.
      1. Manage yourself and orchestrate others to get what you want.
  5. Learn How to Make Decisions Effectively
    1. Recognise that:
      1. The biggest threat to good decision making is harmful emotions
      2. Decision making is a two-step process (first learning and then deciding).
    2. Synthesize the situation at hand.
      1. One of the most important decisions you can make is who you ask questions of.
      2. Don’t believe everything you hear.
      3. Everything looks bigger up close.
      4. New is overvalued relative to great.
      5. Don’t over squeeze dots (a piece of data is just that).
    3. Synthesize the situation through time.
      1. Keep in mind both the rates of change and the levels of things, and the relationships between them.
      2. Be imprecise.
      3. Remember the 80/20 Rule and know what the key 20 percent is.
      4. Be an imperfectionist.
    4. Navigate levels effectively.
      1. Use the terms “above the line” and “below the line” to establish which level a conversation is on.
      2. Remember that decisions need to be made at the appropriate level, but they should also be consistent across levels.
    5. Logic, reason, and common sense are your best tools for synthesizing reality and understanding what to do about it.
    6. Make your decisions as expected value calculations.
      1. Raising the probability of being right is valuable no matter what your probability of being right already is.
      2. Knowing when not to bet is as important as knowing what bets are probably worth making.
      3. The best choices are the ones that have more pros than cons, not those that don’t have any cons at all.
    7. Prioritise by weighing the value of additional information against the cost of not deciding.
      1. All of your “must-dos” must be above the bar before you do your “like-todos.”
      2. Chances are you won’t have time to deal with the unimportant things, which is better than not having time to deal with the important things.
      3. Don’t mistake possibilities for probabilities.
    8. Simplify!
    9. Use principles.
    10. Believability weight your decision making.
    11. Convert your principles into algorithms and have the computer make decisions alongside you.
    12. Be cautious about trusting AI without having deep understanding.

Fundamentals of work

  1. An organization is a machine consisting of two major parts: culture and people.
    1. A great organization has both great people and a great culture.
    2. Great people have both great character and great capabilities.
    3. Great cultures bring problems and disagreements to the surface and solve them well, and they love imagining and building great things that haven’t been built before.
  2. Tough love is effective for achieving both great work and great relationships.
    1. In order to be great, one can’t compromise the uncompromisable.
  3. A believability-weighted idea meritocracy is the best system for making effective decisions.
  4. Make your passion and your work one and the same and do it with people you want to be with.


  1. Trust in Radical Truth and Radical Transparency
    1. Realize that you have nothing to fear from knowing the truth.
    2. Have integrity and demand it from others.
      1. Never say anything about someone that you wouldn’t say to them directly and don’t try people without accusing them to their faces.
      2. Don’t let loyalty to people stand in the way of truth and the well-being of the organization.
    3. Create an environment in which everyone has the right to understand what makes sense and no one has the right to hold a critical opinion without speaking up.
      1. Speak up, own it, or get out.
      2. Be extremely open.
      3. Don’t be naive about dishonesty.
    4. Be radically transparent.
      1. Use transparency to help enforce justice.
      2. Share the things that are hardest to share.
      3. Keep exceptions to radical transparency very rare.
      4. Make sure those who are given radical transparency recognize their responsibilities to handle it well and to weigh things intelligently.
      5. Provide transparency to people who handle it well and either deny it to people who don’t handle it well or remove those people from the organization.
      6. Don’t share sensitive information with the organization’s enemies.
    5. Meaningful relationships and meaningful work are mutually reinforcing, especially when supported by radical truth and radical transparency.
  2. Cultivate Meaningful Work and Meaningful Relationships
    1. Be loyal to the common mission and not to anyone who is not operating consistently with it.
    2. Be crystal clear on what the deal is.
      1. Make sure people give more consideration to others than they demand for themselves.
      2. Make sure that people understand the difference between fairness and generosity.
      3. Know where the line is and be on the far side of fair.
      4. Pay for work.
    3. Recognize that the size of the organization can pose a threat to meaningful relationships.
    4. Remember that most people will pretend to operate in your interest while operating in their own.
    5. Treasure honorable people who are capable and will treat you well even when you’re not looking.
  3. Create a Culture in Which It Is Okay to Make Mistakes and Unacceptable Not to Learn from Them
    1. Recognize that mistakes are a natural part of the evolutionary process.
      1. Fail well.
      2. Don’t feel bad about your mistakes or those of others. Love them!
    2. Don’t worry about looking good—worry about achieving your goals.
      1. Get over “blame” and “credit” and get on with “accurate” and “inaccurate.”
    3. Observe the patterns of mistakes to see if they are products of weaknesses.
    4. Remember to reflect when you experience pain.
      1. Be self-reflective and make sure your people are self-reflective.
      2. Know that nobody can see themselves objectively.
      3. Teach and reinforce the merits of mistake-based learning.
    5. Know what types of mistakes are acceptable and what types are unacceptable, and don’t allow the people who work for you to make the unacceptable ones.
  4. Get and Stay in Sync
    1. Recognize that conflicts are essential for great relationships because they are how people determine whether their principles are aligned and resolve their differences.
      1. Spend lavishly on the time and energy you devote to getting in sync, because it’s the best investment you can make.
    2. Know how to get in sync and disagree well.
      1. Surface areas of possible out-of-syncness.
      2. Distinguish between idle complaints and complaints meant to lead to improvement.
      3. Remember that every story has another side.
    3. Be open-minded and assertive at the same time.
      1. Distinguish open-minded people from closed-minded people.
      2. Don’t have anything to do with closed-minded people.
      3. Watch out for people who think it’s embarrassing not to know.
      4. Make sure that those in charge are open-minded about the questions and comments of others.
      5. Recognize that getting in sync is a two-way responsibility.
      6. Worry more about substance than style.
      7. Be reasonable and expect others to be reasonable.
      8. Making suggestions and questioning are not the same as criticising, so don’t treat them as if they are.
    4. If it is your meeting to run, manage the conversation.
      1. Make it clear who is directing the meeting and whom it is meant to serve.
      2. Be precise in what you’re talking about to avoid confusion.
      3. Make clear what type of communication you are going to have in light of the objectives and priorities.
      4. Lead the discussion by being assertive and open-minded.
      5. Navigate between the different levels of the conversation.
      6. Watch out for “topic slip.”
      7. Enforce the logic of conversations.
      8. Be careful not to lose personal responsibility via group decision making.
      9. Utilize the “two-minute rule” to avoid persistent interruptions.
      10. Watch out for assertive “fast talkers.”
      11. Achieve completion in conversations.
      12. Leverage your communication.
    5. Great collaboration feels like playing jazz.
      1. 1+1=3 collaboration is better than working alone.
      2. 3 to 5 is more than 20 but adding too many diminishes extra value.
    6. When you have alignment, cherish it.
    7. If you find you can’t reconcile major differences—especially in values—consider whether the relationship is worth preserving.
  5. Believability Weight Your Decision Making
    1. Recognize that having an effective idea meritocracy requires that you understand the merit of each person’s ideas.
      1. If you can’t successfully do something, don’t think you can tell others how it should be done.
      2. Remember that everyone has opinions and they are often bad.
    2. Find the most believable people possible who disagree with you and try to understand their reasoning.
      1. Think about people’s believability in order to assess the likelihood that their opinions are good.
      2. Remember that believable opinions are most likely to come from people:
        1. Who have successfully accomplished the thing in question at least three times
        2. Who have great explanations of the cause-effect relationships that lead them to their conclusions.
      3. If someone hasn’t done something but has a theory that seems logical and can be stress-tested, then by all means test it.
      4. Don’t pay as much attention to people’s conclusions as to the reasoning that led them to their conclusions.
      5. Inexperienced people can have great ideas too, sometimes far better ones than more experienced people.
      6. Everyone should be up-front in expressing how confident they are in their thoughts.
    3. Think about whether you are playing the role of a teacher, a student, or a peer and whether you should be teaching, asking questions, or debating.
      1. It’s more important that the student understand the teacher than that the teacher understand the student, though both are important.
      2. Recognize that while everyone has the right and responsibility to try to make sense of important things, they must do so with humility and radical open mindedness.
    4. Understand how people came by their opinions.
      1. If you ask someone a question, they will probably give you an answer, so think through to whom you should address your questions.
      2. Having everyone randomly probe everyone else is an unproductive waste of time.
      3. Beware of statements that begin with “I think that . . .”
      4. Assess believability by systematically capturing people’s track records over time.
    5. Disagreeing must be done efficiently.
      1. Know when to stop debating and move on to agreeing about what should be done.
      2. Use believability weighting as a tool rather than a substitute for decision making by Responsible Parties.
      3. Since you don’t have the time to thoroughly examine everyone’s thinking yourself, choose your believable people wisely.
      4. When you’re responsible for a decision, compare the believability-weighted decision making of the crowd to what you believe.
    6. Recognize that everyone has the right and responsibility to try to make sense of important things.
      1. Communications aimed at getting the best answer should involve the most relevant people.
      2. Communication aimed at educating or boosting cohesion should involve a broader set of people than would be needed if the aim were just getting the best answer.
      3. Recognise that you don’t need to make judgments about everything.
    7. Pay more attention to whether the decision-making system is fair than whether you get your way.
  6. Recognize How to Get Beyond Disagreements
    1. Remember: Principles can’t be ignored by mutual agreement.
      1. The same standards of behavior apply to everyone.
    2. Make sure people don’t confuse the right to complain, give advice, and openly debate with the right to make decisions.
      1. When challenging a decision and/or a decision maker, consider the broader context.
    3. Don’t leave important conflicts unresolved.
      1. Don’t let the little things divide you when your agreement on the big things should bind you.
      2. Don’t get stuck in disagreement—escalate or vote!
    4. Once a decision is made, everyone should get behind it even though individuals may still disagree.
      1. See things from the higher level.
      2. Never allow the idea meritocracy to slip into anarchy through arguing and nitpicking.
      3. Don’t allow lynch mobs or mob rule.
    5. Remember that if the idea meritocracy comes into conflict with the well-being of the organization, it will inevitably suffer.
      1. Declare “martial law” only in rare or extreme circumstances when the principles need to be suspended.
      2. Be wary of people who argue for the suspension of the idea meritocracy for the “good of the organization.”
    6. Recognize that if the people who have the power don’t want to operate by principles, the principled way of operating will fail.

Get the people right

  1. Remember That the WHO Is More Important than the WHAT
    1. Recognize that the most important decision for you to make is who you choose as your Responsible Parties.
      1. Understand that the most important Responsible Parties are those responsible for the goals, outcomes, and machines at the highest levels.
    2. Know that the ultimate Responsible Party will be the person who bears the consequences of what is done.
      1. Make sure that everyone has someone they report to.
    3. Remember the force behind the thing.
  2. Hire Right, Because the Penalties for Hiring Wrong Are Huge
    1. Match the person to the design.
      1. Think through which values, abilities, and skills you are looking for (in that order).
      2. Make finding the right people systematic and scientific.
      3. Hear the click: Find the right fit between the role and the person.
      4. Look for people who sparkle, not just “any ol’ one of those.”
      5. Don’t use your pull to get someone a job.
    2. Remember that people are built very differently and that different ways of seeing and thinking make people suitable for different jobs.
      1. Understand how to use and interpret personality assessments.
      2. Remember that people tend to pick people like themselves, so choose interviewers who can identify what you are looking for.
      3. Look for people who are willing to look at themselves objectively.
      4. Remember that people typically don’t change all that much.
    3. Think of your teams the way that sports managers do: No one person possesses everything required to produce success, yet everyone must excel.
    4. Pay attention to people’s track records.
      1. Check references.
      2. Recognize that performance in school doesn’t tell you much about whether a person has the values and abilities you are looking for.
      3. While it’s best to have great conceptual thinkers, understand that great experience and a great track record also count for a lot.
      4. Beware of the impractical idealist.
      5. Don’t assume that a person who has been successful elsewhere will be successful in the job you’re giving them.
      6. Make sure your people have good values/character and are capable.
    5. Don’t hire people just to fit the first job they will do; hire people you want to share your life with.
      1. Look for people who have lots of great questions.
      2. Show candidates your warts.
      3. Play jazz with people with whom you are compatible but who will also challenge you.
    6. When considering compensation, provide both stability and opportunity.
      1. Pay for the person, not the job.
      2. Have performance metrics tied at least loosely to compensation.
      3. Pay north of fair.
      4. Focus more on making the pie bigger than on exactly how to slice it so that you or anyone else gets the biggest piece.
    7. Remember that in great partnerships, consideration and generosity are more important than money.
      1. Be generous and expect generosity from others.
    8. Great people are hard to find so make sure you think about how to keep them.
  3. Constantly Train, Test, Evaluate, and Sort People
    1. Understand that you and the people you manage will go through a process of personal evolution.
      1. Recognise that personal evolution should be relatively rapid and a natural consequence of discovering one’s strengths and weaknesses; as a result, career paths are not planned at the outset.
      2. Understand that training guides the process of personal evolution.
      3. Teach your people to fish rather than give them fish, even if that means letting them make some mistakes.
      4. Recognize that experience creates internalized learning that book learning can’t replace.
    2. Provide constant feedback.
    3. Evaluate accurately, not kindly.
      1. In the end, accuracy and kindness are the same thing.
      2. Put your compliments and criticisms in perspective.
      3. Think about accuracy, not implications.
      4. Make accurate assessments.
      5. Learn from success as well as from failure.
      6. Know that most everyone thinks that what they did, and what they are doing, is much more important than it really is.
    4. Recognize that tough love is both the hardest and the most important type of love to give (because it is so rarely welcomed).
      1. Recognise that while most people prefer compliments, accurate criticism is more valuable.
    5. Don’t hide your observations about people.
      1. Build your synthesis from the specifics up.
      2. Squeeze the dots.
      3. Don’t over squeeze a dot.
      4. Use evaluation tools such as performance surveys, metrics, and formal reviews to document all aspects of a person’s performance.
    6. Make the process of learning what someone is like open, evolutionary, and iterative.
      1. Make your metrics clear and impartial.
      2. Encourage people to be objectively reflective about their performance.
      3. Look at the whole picture.
      4. For performance reviews, start from specific cases, look for patterns, and get in sync with the person being reviewed by looking at the evidence together.
      5. Remember that when it comes to assessing people, the two biggest mistakes you can make are being overconfident in your assessment and failing to get in sync on it.
      6. Get in sync on assessments in a nonhierarchical way.
      7. Learn about your people and have them learn about you through frank conversations about mistakes and their root causes.
      8. Understand that making sure people are doing a good job doesn’t require watching everything that everybody is doing at all times.
      9. Recognise that change is difficult.
      10. Help people through the pain that comes with exploring their weaknesses.
    7. Knowing how people operate and being able to judge whether that way of operating will lead to good results is more important than knowing what they did.
      1. If someone is doing their job poorly, consider whether it is due to inadequate learning or inadequate ability.
      2. Training and testing a poor performer to see if he or she can acquire the required skills without simultaneously trying to assess their abilities is a common mistake.
    8. Recognize that when you are really in sync with someone about their weaknesses, the weaknesses are probably true.
      1. When judging people, remember that you don’t have to get to the point of “beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
      2. It should take you no more than a year to learn what a person is like and whether they are a click for their job.
      3. Continue assessing people throughout their tenure.
      4. Evaluate employees with the same rigor as you evaluate job candidates.
    9. Train, guardrail, or remove people; don’t rehabilitate them.
      1. Don’t collect people – it is worse to keep someone in a job unsuitable for them.
      2. Be willing to “shoot the people you love.” – if that is the best for the company.
      3. When someone is “without a box,” consider whether there is an open box that would be a better fit or whether you need to get them out of the company.
      4. Be cautious about allowing people to step back to another role after failing. Reasons to be cautious:
        1. You’re giving up a seat for someone else who might be able to advance and people who can advance are better to have than people who can’t.
        2. The person stepping back could continue to want to do what they aren’t capable of doing so there’s a real risk of them job slipping into work they’re not fit for.
        3. The person may experience a sense of confinement and resentment being back in a job that they probably can’t advance beyond.
    10. Remember that the goal of a transfer is the best, highest use of the person in a way that benefits the community as a whole.
      1. Have people “complete their swings” before moving on to new roles aka there should always be follow through before someone moves.
    11. Don’t lower the bar.

Build and evolve your machine

  1. Manage as Someone Operating a Machine to Achieve a Goal
    1. Look down on your machine and yourself within it from the higher level.
      1. Constantly compare your outcomes to your goals.
      2. Understand that a great manager is essentially an organisational engineer.
      3. Build great metrics.
      4. Beware of paying too much attention to what is coming at you and not enough attention to your machine.
      5. Don’t get distracted by shiny objects.
    2. Remember that for every case you deal with, your approach should have two purposes: 1) to move you closer to your goal, and 2) to train and test your machine (i.e., your people and your design).
      1. Everything is a case study.
      2. When a problem occurs, conduct the discussion at two levels: 1) the machine level (why that outcome was produced) and 2) the case-at-hand level (what to do about it).
      3. When making rules, explain the principles behind them.
      4. Your policies should be natural extensions of your principles.
      5. While good principles and policies almost always provide good guidance, remember that there are exceptions to every rule.
    3. Understand the differences between managing, micromanaging, and not managing.
      1. Managers must make sure that what they are responsible for works well.
      2. Managing the people who report to you should feel like skiing together.
      3. An excellent skier is probably going to be a better ski coach than a novice skier.
      4. You should be able to delegate the details.
    4. Know what your people are like and what makes them tick, because your people are your most important resource.
      1. Regularly take the temperature of each person who is important to you and to the organization.
      2. Learn how much confidence to have in your people—don’t assume it.
      3. Vary your involvement based on your confidence.
    5. Clearly assign responsibilities.
      1. Remember who has what responsibilities.
      2. Watch out for “job slip.”
    6. Probe deep and hard to learn what you can expect from your machine.
      1. Get a threshold level of understanding.
      2. Avoid staying too distant.
      3. Use daily updates as a tool for staying on top of what your people are doing and thinking.
      4. Probe so you know whether problems are likely to occur before they actually do.
      5. Probe to the level below the people who report to you.
      6. Have the people who report to the people who report to you feel free to escalate their problems to you.
      7. Don’t assume that people’s answers are correct.
      8. Train your ear.
      9. Make your probing transparent rather than private.
      10. Welcome probing.
      11. Remember that people who see things and think one way often have difficulty communicating with and relating to people who see things and think another way.
      12. Pull all suspicious threads.
      13. Recognise that there are many ways to skin a cat.
    7. Think like an owner, and expect the people you work with to do the same.
      1. Going on vacation doesn’t mean one can neglect one’s responsibilities.
      2. Force yourself and the people who work for you to do difficult things.
    8. Recognise and deal with key-man risk.
    9. Don’t treat everyone the same—treat them appropriately.
      1. Don’t let yourself get squeezed.
      2. Care about the people who work for you.
    10. Know that great leadership is generally not what it’s made out to be.
      1. Be weak and strong at the same time.
      2. Don’t worry about whether or not your people like you and don’t look to them to tell you what you should do.
      3. Don’t give orders and try to be followed; try to be understood and to understand others by getting in sync.
    11. Hold yourself and your people accountable and appreciate them for holding you accountable.
      1. If you’ve agreed with someone that something is supposed to go a certain way, make sure it goes that way—unless you get in sync about doing it differently.
      2. Distinguish between a failure in which someone broke their “contract” and a failure in which there was no contract to begin with.
      3. Avoid getting sucked down to doing the tasks of a subordinate.
      4. Watch out for people who confuse goals and tasks, because if they can’t make that distinction, you can’t trust them with responsibilities.
      5. Watch out for the unfocused and unproductive “theoretical should.”
    12. Communicate the plan clearly and have clear metrics conveying whether you are progressing according to it.
      1. Put things in perspective by going back before going forward.
    13. Escalate when you can’t adequately handle your responsibilities and make sure that the people who work for you are proactive about doing the same.
  2. Perceive and Don’t Tolerate Problems
    1. If you’re not worried, you need to worry—and if you’re worried, you don’t need to worry.
    2. Design and oversee a machine to perceive whether things are good enough or not good enough, or do it yourself.
      1. Assign people the job of perceiving problems, give them time to investigate, and make sure they have independent reporting lines so that they can convey problems without any fear of recrimination.
      2. Watch out for the “Frog in the Boiling Water Syndrome.”
      3. Beware of group-think: The fact that no one seems concerned doesn’t mean nothing is wrong.
      4. To perceive problems, compare how the outcomes are lining up with your goals.
      5. “Taste the soup.”
      6. Have as many eyes looking for problems as possible.
      7. “Pop the cork.” – ask for feedback, don’t expect it.
      8. Realize that the people closest to certain jobs probably know them best.
    3. Be very specific about problems; don’t start with generalizations.
      1. Avoid the anonymous “we” and “they,” because they mask personal responsibility.
    4. Don’t be afraid to fix the difficult things.
      1. Understand that problems with good, planned solutions in place are completely different from those without such solutions.
      2. Think of the problems you perceive in a machinelike way.
  3. Diagnose Problems to Get at Their Root Causes
    1. To diagnose well, ask the following questions: 1. Is the outcome good or bad? 2. Who is responsible for the outcome? 3. If the outcome is bad, is the Responsible Party incapable and/or is the design bad?
      1. Ask yourself: “Who should do what differently?”
      2. Identify at which step in the 5-Step Process the failure occurred.
      3. Identify the principles that were violated.
      4. Avoid Monday morning quarterbacking – don’t evaluate decisions on what you know now but what you could have known at the time.
      5. Don’t confuse the quality of someone’s circumstances with the quality of their approach to dealing with the circumstances.
      6. Identifying the fact that someone else doesn’t know what to do doesn’t mean that you know what to do.
      7. Remember that a root cause is not an action but a reason.
      8. To distinguish between a capacity issue and a capability issue, imagine how the person would perform at that particular function if they had ample capacity.
      9. Keep in mind that managers usually fail or fall short of their goals for one (or more) of five reasons.
        1. They are too distant.
        2. They have problems perceiving bad quality.
        3. They have lost sight of how bad things have become because they have gotten used to it.
        4. They have such high pride in their work (or such large egos) that they can’t bear to admin they are unable to solve their own problems.
        5. They fear adverse consequences from admitting failure.
    2. Maintain an emerging synthesis by diagnosing continuously.
    3. Keep in mind that diagnoses should produce outcomes.
      1. Remember that if you have the same people doing the same things, you should expect the same results.
    4. Use the following “drill-down” technique to gain an 80/20 understanding of a department or sub-department that is having problems.
      1. List the Problem
      2. Identify the Root Causes (5 whys etc)
      3. Create a Plan
      4. Execute the Plan
    5. Understand that diagnosis is foundational to both progress and quality relationships.
  4. Design Improvements to Your Machine to Get Around Your Problems
    1. Build your machine.
    2. Systemise your principles and how they will be implemented.
      1. Create great decision-making machines by thinking through the criteria you are using to make decisions while you are making them.
    3. Remember that a good plan should resemble a movie script.
      1. Put yourself in the position of pain for a while so that you gain a richer understanding of what you’re designing for.
      2. Visualize alternative machines and their outcomes, and then choose.
      3. Consider second- and third-order consequences, not just first-order ones.
      4. Use standing meetings to help your organization run like a Swiss clock.
      5. Remember that a good machine takes into account the fact that people are imperfect.
    4. Recognize that design is an iterative process. Between a bad “now” and a good “then” is a “working through it” period.
      1. Understand the power of the “cleansing storm.”
    5. Build the organization around goals rather than tasks.
      1. Build your organisation from the top down.
      2. Remember that everyone must be overseen by a believable person who has high standards.
      3. Make sure the people at the top of each pyramid have the skills and focus to manage their direct reports and a deep understanding of their jobs.
      4. In designing your organization, remember that the 5-Step Process is the path to success and that different people are good at different steps.
      5. Don’t build the organization to fit the people.
      6. Keep scale in mind.
      7. Organize departments and sub-departments around the most logical groupings based on “gravitational pull.”
      8. Make departments as self-sufficient as possible so that they have control over the resources they need to achieve their goals.
      9. Ensure that the ratios of senior managers to junior managers and of junior managers to their reports are limited to preserve quality communication and mutual understanding.
      10. Consider succession and training in your design.
      11. Don’t just pay attention to your job; pay attention to how your job will be done if you are no longer around.
      12. Use “double-do” rather than “double-check” to make sure mission-critical tasks are done correctly – having two independent approaches then compared is better than trying to check someones workings.
      13. Use consultants wisely and watch out for consultant addiction.
    6. Create an organizational chart to look like a pyramid, with straight lines down that don’t cross.
      1. Involve the person who is the point of the pyramid when encountering cross departmental or cross-sub-departmental issues.
      2. Don’t do work for people in another department or grab people from another department to do work for you unless you speak to the person responsible for overseeing the other department.
      3. Watch out for “department slip.”
    7. Create guardrails when needed—and remember it’s better not to guardrail at all.
      1. Don’t expect people to recognize and compensate for their own blind spots.
      2. Consider the clover-leaf design.
    8. Keep your strategic vision the same while making appropriate tactical changes as circumstances dictate.
      1. Don’t put the expedient ahead of the strategic.
      2. Think about both the big picture and the granular details, and understand the connections between them.
    9. Have good controls so that you are not exposed to the dishonesty of others.
      1. Investigate and let people know you are going to investigate.
      2. Remember that there is no sense in having laws unless you have policemen (auditors).
      3. Beware of rubber-stamping.
      4. Recognise that people who make purchases on your behalf probably will not spend your money wisely.
      5. Use “public hangings” to deter bad behavior.
    10. Have the clearest possible reporting lines and delineations of responsibilities.
      1. Assign responsibilities based on workflow design and people’s abilities, not job titles.
      2. Constantly think about how to produce leverage.
      3. Recognize that it is far better to find a few smart people and give them the best technology than to have a greater number of ordinary people who are less well equipped.
      4. Use leveragers – get people who go from concept to implemented effectively where you only need to be involved for 10%.
    11. Remember that almost everything will take more time and cost more money than you expect.
  5. Do What You Set Out to Do
    1. Work for goals that you and your organization are excited about and think about how your tasks connect to those goals.
      1. Be coordinated and consistent in motivating others.
      2. Don’t act before thinking. Take the time to come up with a game plan.
      3. Look for creative, cut-through solutions.
    2. Recognize that everyone has too much to do.
      1. Don’t get frustrated.
    3. Use checklists.
      1. Don’t confuse checklists with personal responsibility.
    4. Allow time for rest and renovation.
    5. Ring the bell – celebrate success.
  6. Use Tools and Protocols to Shape How Work Is Done
    1. Having systemised principles embedded in tools is especially valuable for an idea meritocracy.
      1. To produce real behavioral change, understand that there must be internalised or habitualised learning.
      2. Use tools to collect data and process it into conclusions and actions.
      3. Foster an environment of confidence and fairness by having clearly-stated principles that are implemented in tools and protocols so that the conclusions reached can be assessed by tracking the logic and data behind them.
  7. And for Heaven’s Sake, Don’t Overlook Governance!
    1. To be successful, all organizations must have checks and balances.
      1. Even in an idea meritocracy, merit cannot be the only determining factor in assigning responsibility and authority.
      2. Make sure that no one is more powerful than the system or so important that they are irreplaceable.
      3. Beware of fiefdoms – loyalty to the boss conflicting with the loyalty to the organisation as a whole.
      4. Make clear that the organization’s structure and rules are designed to ensure that its checks-and-balances system functions well.
      5. Make sure reporting lines are clear.
      6. Make sure decision rights are clear.
      7. Make sure that the people doing the assessing:
        1. Have the time to be fully informed about how the person they are checking on is doing
        2. Have the ability to make the assessments
        3. Are not in a conflict of interest that stands in the way of carrying out oversight effectively.
      8. Recognize that decision makers must have access to the information necessary to make decisions and must be trustworthy enough to handle that information safely.
    2. Remember that in an idea meritocracy a single CEO is not as good as a great group of leaders.
    3. No governance system of principles, rules, and checks and balances can substitute for a great partnership.