Book Notes: Leadership and Self-deception

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Self-deception : The action or practice of allowing oneself to believe that a false or unvalidated feeling, idea, or situation is true.

“The box” is how we see people – when we are out of the box we see them as people, when we are in the box we see them as objects.

If we are “in the box” or “out of the box” impacts how were being towards others. It is subconscious but has impact on others. As such it is not about what you say to people, you can say the same thing both in and out of “the box” but the undercurrent of the message.

If you don’t feel a sense of betrayal at a choice it means you are already in the box.

If we are “in the box” our actions then cause others to reciprocate.

This repeats in a cycle because we need to be justified, and as such we see the world through this perspective which is a distorted view of the world. As such when people do what we want them to do we still find another way to prove ourselves right. Effectively we end up “colluding” so we both stay in the box.


  1. An act contrary to what I feel I should do for another is called an act of “self-betrayal”
  2. When I betray myself, I begin to see the world in a way that justifies my self-betrayal
  3. When I see the world in a self-justifying way, my view of reality becomes distorted
  4. So – when I betray myself, I enter the box
  5. Over time, certain boxes become characteristic of me, and I carry them with me
  6. By being in the box, I provoke others to be in the box
  7. In the box we invite mutual mistreatment and obtain mutual justification. We collude in giving each other reasons to stay in the box.

Self-justifying where we justify our actions. The more people we can find to agree with our side of the story, the more justified we will feel in believing our story is right.

When having a problem, I don’t think I have one – I think others are responsible.

Out of the boxIn the box
What-focusResultsJustification (being right)

Ironically when people say they are “results focused” it tends to mean that they are referring to themselves which gets in the way of actual company results – people compete and withhold information to prove themselves the winner.

If you are blaming others it is not so they will improve, it is to justify my own failure to improve.

People who come together to help a company succeed can actually end up delighted in each other’s failures and resent each other’s successes.

What does not work in the box

  1. Trying to change others
  2. Doing my best to “cope” with others
  3. Leaving
  4. Communicating
  5. Implementing new skills or techniques
  6. Changing my behaviour

What does work in the box

  1. Question your own virtue

This way you can see others as people and not just objects

When we are in the box people follow you (if at all) only through force or threat of force – but not through leadership.

Knowing the material

  • Self-betrayal leads to self-deception and “the box”
  • When you’re in the box, you can’t focus on results
  • Your influence and success will depend on being out of the box
  • You get out of the box as you cease resisting other people

Living the material

  • Don’t try to be perfect. Do try to be better.
  • Don’t use the vocabulary – “the box” and so on – with people who don’t already know it. Do use the principles in your own life.
  • Don’t look for others’ boxes. Do look for your own.
  • Don’t accuse others of being in the box. Do try to stay out of the box yourself.
  • Don’t give up on yourself when you discover you’ve been in the box. Do keep trying.
  • Don’t deny that you’ve been in the box when you have been. Do apologise; then just keep marching forward, trying to be more helpful to others in the future.
  • Don’t focus on what others are doing wrong. Do focus on what you can do right to help.
  • Don’t worry whether others are helping you. Do worry whether you are helping others.

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.

Book Notes: HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership

HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership by Wanda T. Wallace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What Makes a Leader?

Divisions with a critical mass of Emotional Intelligence (EI) out performed those without by 20%. EI comprises of 5 skills:

  • Self-awareness: knowing your strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and how you impact other.
    • Self-confidence, Realistic self assessment, Self-deprecating sense of humor, Thirst for constructive criticism
  • Self-regulation: controlling disruptive impulses and moods
    • Trustworthiness, Integrity, Comfort with ambiguity and change
  • Intrinsic Motivation: relishing achievement for its own sake
    • A passion for the work itself and for new challenges, Unflagging energy to improve, Optimism in the face of failure
  • Empathy: understanding other people’s emotions and feelings
    • Expertise in attracting and retaining talent, Ability to develop others, Sensitivity to cross-cultural differences
  • Social skill: building rapport with others so you can move in the same direction
    • Effectiveness in leading change, Persuasiveness, Extensive networking, Expertise in building and leading teams

EI are skills which we can practice, develop and improve.

What Makes an Effective Executive

What do effective leaders have in common? They get the right things done, in the right ways-by following eight simple rules:

  • Make smart decisions
    • Ask what needs to be done
    • Ask what’s right for the enterprise
  • Convert that knowledge into effective action
    • Develop action plans
  • Ensure accountability throughout your organization
    • Take responsibility for decisions
    • Take responsibility for communicating
    • Focus on opportunities, not problems
    • Run productive meetings
    • Think and say “We,” not “I”

What Leaders Really Do

Leadership is not just a matter of charisma and vision. Leadership skills are not innate, they must be acquired and developed. To understand leadership we need to know how it is different to management.

Management is about coping with complexity; bringing order and predictability.
Leadership is about learning how to cope with rapid change and to be able to adapt to it.

Planning and budgetingSetting direction
Organising and staffingAligning people
Provides control and solves problemsProvides motivation

The Work of Leadership

In bussiness there are many complex and changing problems and it is people throughout the organisation which needs to be able to adapt to these. This work is tough on everyone and the solutions are counterintuitive.

  • Rather than providing solutions, you must ask tough questions and leverage employees’ collective intelligence.
  • Instead of maintaining norms, you must challenge the “way we do business.”
  • And rather than quelling conflict, you need to draw issues out and let people feel the sting of reality

How do we do this?

  1. Get on the balcony. Move back and forth between the action and the “balcony.” You’ll spot emerging patterns, such as power struggles or work avoidance. This high-level perspective helps you mobilize people to do adaptive work.
  2. Identify your adaptive challenge. Ask which beliefs, values, and behaviors needed overhauling. Resolving these will bring company wide collaboration.
  3. Regulate distress. To inspire change-without disabling people-pace adaptive work:
    1. Let employees debate issues and clarify assumptions safely
    2. Provide direction. Define key issues and values. Control the rate of change: Don’t start too many initiatives simultaneously without stopping others.
    3. Maintain just enough tension, resisting pressure to restore the status quo. Raise tough questions without succumbing to anxiety yourself. Communicate presence and poise.
  4. Maintain disciplined attention. Encourage managers to grapple with divisive issues, rather than indulging in scapegoating or denial. Deepen the debate to unlock polarized, superficial conflict. Demonstrate collaboration to solve problems.
  5. Give the work back to employees. To instill collective self-confidence (versus dependence on you) support rather than control people. Encourage risk taking and responsibility-then back people up if they err. Help them recognize they contain the solutions.
  6. Protect leadership voices from below. Don’t silence whistleblowers, creative deviants and others exposing contradictions within your company. Their perspectives can provoke fresh thinking. Ask, “What is this guy really talking about? Have we missed something?”

Why should anyone be led by you?

Of course, you need vision, energy, authority and strategic direction but you also need these qualities if you want people to follow you:

  • Show you’re human, selectively revealing weaknesses.
  • Be a “sensor”, collecting soft people data that lets you rely on intuition.
  • Manage employees with “tough empathy”. Care passionately about them and their work, while giving them only what they need to achieve their best.
  • Dare to be different, capitalizing on your uniqueness.

Crucible of leadership

Extraordinary leaders find meaning in and learn from the most negative events. Such transformative events are called crucibles-a severe test or trial. Crucibles are intense, often traumatic and always unplanned where leaders emerge from adversity stronger, more confident in themselves and their purpose as well as more committed to their work.

Four skills enable leaders to learn from adversity:

  1. Engage others in shared meaning
  2. A distinctive, compelling voice
  3. Integrity
  4. Adaptive capacity. This most critical skill includes the ability to grasp context, and hardiness. Grasping context requires weighing many factors (e.g.. how different people will interpret a gesture). Without this quality, leaders can’t connect with constituents.

Level 5 Leadership

Only 11 of the 1,435 Fortune 500 companies have sustained stock returns at least three times the market’s for 15 years after a major transition period (see Good To Great). These 11 companies has one thing in comment – a “Level 5” leader at the helm. Level 5 leaders have both deep personal humility with intense professional will. What are the leadership levels?

  1. Highly capable individual: Makes productive personal contributions through talent, knowledge, skills, and good work habits
  2. Contributing team member: Contributes to the achievement of group objectives; works effectively with others in a group setting
  3. Competent manager: Organises people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives.
  4. Effective leader: Catalyses commitment to and vigorously chases a clear and compelling vision, stimulates the group to high standards of performance
  5. Executive: Builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional drive

Each layer sits on top of the one before and to be an effective level 5 leader means mastering all 5 levels.

Seven Transformations of Leadership

A key leadership skill is leading transformations. There are seven types of ation logic – these have a significant impact on how the transformation is executed and received.

OpportunistWins any way possible.
Self-oriented, manipulative
Good in emergencies and in pursuing salesFew people want to follow them for the long term
DiplomatAvoids conflict.
Wants to belong, obeys group norms and doesn’t rock the boat
Supportive glue in teamsCan’t provide painful feedback or make the ard decisions needed to improve performance
ExpertRules by logic and expertise.
Uses hard data to gain consensus and buy-in.
Good individual contributor.Lacks emotional intelligence, lacks respect for those with less expertise
AchieverMeets strategic goals.
Promotes teamwork, juggles managerial duties and respond to market demands to achieve goals.
Well suited to managerial workInhibits thinking outside the box
IndividualistOperates in unconventional ways.
Ignores rules they regard as irrelevant
Effective in venture and consulting roles.Irritates colleagues and bosses by ignoring key organisational processes and people.
StrategistGenerates organisational and personal change.
Highly collaborative, weaves vision with pragmatic, timely initiatives, changes existing assumptions
Generates transformations over the short and long termNone
AlchamistGenerates social transformation.
Reinventing organisations in historical ways.
Leads society wide changeNone

Discovering your Authentic Leadership

Authentic leaders achieve by being themselves. To be able to do this you really need to know yourself.

  1. Which people and experiences in your early life had the greatest impact on you?
  2. What tools do you use to become self-aware? What is your authentic self? What are the moments when you say to yourself, this is the real me? 3. What are your most deeply held values? Where did they come from?
  3. Have your values changed significantly since your childhood? How do your values inform your actions?
  4. What motivates you extrinsically? What are your intrinsic motivations? How do you balance extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in your life?
  5. What kind of support team do you have? How can your support team make you a more authentic leader? How should you diversify your team to broaden your perspective?
  6. Is your life integrated? Are you able to be the same person in all as aspects of your life-personal, work, family, and community? If not, what is holding you back?
  7. What does being authentic mean in your life? Are you more effective as a leader when you behave authentically? Have you ever paid a price for your authenticity as a leader? Was it worth it?
  8. What steps can you take today, tomorrow, and over the next year to develop your authentic leadership?

In Praise of Incomplete Leaders

The biggest myth in leadership is the “complete leader”: someone at the top who’s got it all figured out. Trying to be this person is a danger to you and your company. Instead accept that you’re human, with strengths and weaknesses. Understand the four leadership capabilities all organizations need:

  • Sensemaking: interpreting developments in the business environment
    • Constantly understanding changes in the business environment and interpreting their ramifications for your industry and company
  • Relating: building trusting relationships
    • Building trusting relationships, balancing advocacy (explaining your viewpoints) with inquiry (listening to understand others viewpoints), and cultivating networks of supportive confidants
  • Visioning: communicating a compelling image of the future
    • Creating credible and compelling images of a desired future that people in the organization want to create together
  • Inventing: coming up with new ways of doing things
    • Creating new ways of approaching tasks or overcoming seemingly insurmountable problems to turn visions into reality

Then find and work with others who can provide the capabilities you’re missing. Not only does this produce better results but it also promotes leadership throughout the organisation – leading to new ideas the company needs to excel.

Book Notes: You Can’t Know It All

You Can’t Know It All: Leading in the Age of Deep Expertise by Wanda T. Wallace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Expert based leader – E-leader

Expert leader have grown through getting deeper and deeper knowledge on a particular topic (e.g. tax law). Being a leader tends to be more of the same deep expertise.

Spanning leader – S-leader

E-leaders are capped by their knowledge – it is a challenge to reach outside of their area of expertise. Spanning leadership is very different and is a transition which must be gone through so that leaders are able to take on broader areas – some of which they may have little knowledge.

E-leader transition to to S-leader

How You Add Value
adding value tangiblybecomesrecognising the intangible value you add
controlling quality and riskbecomescontrolling strategic focus and priorities
contributing specific knowledgebecomescontributing to the commercial impact
doing it yourselfbecomescreating leverage
How You Get (the Right) Work Done
controlling from the centerbecomesenabling the team
relying on professional skills and contactsbecomesrelying on a broad network
drilling deeplybecomesembracing ambiguity
deep focus and concentrationbecomesability to shift focus often
getting the right decisionbecomesmoving forward with a good call
How You Interact
trusting yourself to do a good jobbecomestrusting a broad base of people
relying on rational argumentsbecomesrelying on relationships and diplomacy to resolve issues and influence outcomes
converations are about factsbecomesconversations include emotions
quirky personality is acceptedbecomesexecutive presence matters
people follow because of your specific knowledgebecomespeople follow because of inspiration

Some of the key skills in the transformation

  • Delegation – proper delegation not directing/instructing people how to do the task
  • An enabling mind-set –
Instructing, Expert Mind-setEnabling, Spanning Mind-set
I know what to do
I provide answers or structure
If people do what I say, we will have a good outcome
I add value by knowing what to do
I am respected because I know what to do
There are multiple approaches that lead to the same outcome
I don’t know exactly what to do, but I know what the organisation needs
I encourage people to think and to stretch themselves
I have time to guide; this is on my primary agenda
I add value by enabling others
I am respected because I can involve and inspire others
  • Ask different questions –
The Instructing, Expert Mind-set asks:The Enabling, Spanning Mind-set asks:
Why did this happen?
What wasn’t understood?
What dd we miss?
Conclude with direction – “This i what needs to be done next time”
What possibilities does this create?
How else could you frame the situation?
How will you ensure that you stay on track?
What have we learned from this?
Who else needs to be consulted?
Who else has an opinion that should be considered?
Conclude with “What do you want to do differently next time?”
  • Keeping in touch with work – empowering but getting updates
  • Coping with mistakes – an inevitable part of the job
  • Build team members’ reliance on each other – building networks and less centralisation so things are not just hub and spoke
  • Co-develop strategy – not just a top down but including input and feedback
  • Being a connector exchanging information
  • Shifting focus based on value vs effort
  • Realising that there is no perfect solution so embracing that and moving forward

Book Notes: The Art Of Action

The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps between Plans, Actions and Results by Stephen Bungay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Knowledge Gap – Caused by the chaotic world in which we live in and how it changes.
Alignment Gap – Caused by miss alignment between top-level and low-level managers.
Effect Gap – The difference between the result achieved and the result desired

Real uncertainties produce psychological uncertainties which we do not like. As such we try to over come these gaps in the following ways:

Classic Knowledge Gap solution– Get more information and more analysis than resolution and action. This in tern slows things down and means the data is more out of date which can itself increase the risk which the data was supposed to help with.
Classic Alignment Gap solution – Forcing top managers to specify exactly what they want people to do – stressing actions rather than outcomes, causing extra work and confusion. People don’t feel trusted so push decisions up the organisation, which causes frustration and a reinforcing loop.
Classic Effect Gap solution – Causes extra controls to “ensure” they get what they wanted. Metrics, typically on inputs rather than outputs, are put in place and monitored. This adds additional cost and bureaucracy. Creating a culture of risk avoidance, checks and close supervision making the problem worse.

These are the result of the separation of strategy and execution. Here managers produce the strategy and workers execute it. This separation produces a rigidity meaning that as the situation changes the plans can not be followed.
The book presents an alternative approach whereby everyone is deciding on strategy in align with the higher intent and execution. This approach is termed “Directed opportunism”. A key element of this is to provide both alignment and autonomy.

Alignment and Autonomy – These can be seen as opposite ends of a spectrum, however you can still have Autonomy with Alignment. “Directed opportunism” is seen as a way to achieve this. A key element of this approach are carefully constructed commands, consisting of the following components:

  • Context – What is the situation?
  • Higher Intents – Firstly, the what and why from my boss; Secondly, the what and why of their boss.
  • My Intent – What are we trying to achieve and why?
  • Measures – In order to know if the intent is being realised – however care must be taken that the measures themselves are not the target. Metrics along with other observations should all be taken into account.
  • Implied Tasks – Main Tasks, responsibilities and timing. Highlight which is the main effort.
  • Boundaries – What are our freedoms and what are the constraints
  • Backbrief – Has the situation changed? No – the brief is valid; Yes – we have to change some tasks, but what we are trying to achieve is still valid; Yes – and we have to change what we are trying to achieve

Directed opportunism Knowledge Gap – Limit direction to defining and communicating the intent
Directed opportunism Alignment Gap – Allow each level to define how they will achieve the intent of the next level up and “backbrief” so that there is a closed loop to ensure understanding.
Directed opportunism Effect Gap – Give individuals freedom to adjust their actions in line with intent

A key element is that for this to work means that the people doing this need to be competent and suitably skilled.

At a time there is a key intent – a sequence of these are built such that there is clarity on what must be achieved to move towards the ultimate goal.

A briefing cascade will only work properly if the organisational structure broadly reflects the task structure. If it is in conflict it should be change before anything else. It requires an appropriate level of hierarchy of entities that can be made wholly or largely accountable for critical tasks, led by people who are skilled and experiences enough to make autonomous decisions.

People tend to act rationally based from their point of view

Typically strategy includes plans, incentives, targets, work-plans etc being passed to the day to day bussiness to operate. Instead the book uses a three tier approach with strategy, execution and tactics.

Leadership and management are not the only two approaches – directing is also an approach which should be in the tool box.

  • Directing – authority, responsibility and duty of direction
    • Developing strategy
    • Giving direction
    • Building the organisation
  • Leading – Getting people to achieve objectives
    • Task
    • Team
    • Individual
  • Management – Organise and controlling resources to achieve objectives
    • Resourcing
    • Organising
    • Controlling

In summary –

  1. We are finite beings with limited knowledge and independent wills
  2. The bussiness environment is unpredictable and uncertain, so we should expect the unexpected and should not plan beyond the circumstances we can foresee
  3. Within the constraints of our limited knowledge we should strive to identify the essentials of a situation and make choices about what it is most important to achieve
  4. To allow people to take effective action, we must make sure they understand what they are to achieve and why
  5. They should then explain what they are going to do as a result, define the implied tasks, and check back with us
  6. They should then assign the tasks they have defined to individuals who are accountable for achieving them, and specify boundaries within which they are free to act
  7. Everyone must have the skills and resources to do what is needed and the space to take independent decisions and actions when the unexpected occurs, as it will
  8. As the situation changes, everyone should be expected to adapt their actions according to their best judgement in order to achieve the intended outcomes
  9. People will only show the level of initiative required if they believe that the organisation will support them
  10. What has not been made simply cannot be made clear and what is not clear will not get done

Book Notes: The Fearless Organization

The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth by Amy C. Edmondson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book provides a number of great stories from when Psychological Safety was present, e.g. the, and when it was not, e.g. VW emissions scandal

Psychological Safety is the experience at a group level about personal consequences aka wil others give you the benefit of doubt. This is different to trust which is on the individual level.

A lack of psychological safety can create an illusion of success that eventually turns into serious bussiness failure.

Epidemic of Silence – because it is easier not to speak up, especially when you fear what will happen if you do. Speaking up benefits the organisation but the benefit is neither immediate nor certain. Speaking up produces learning –

  • from mistakes
  • fixing issues not just working around them
  • sharing knowledge even when confidence in the knowledge is low
  • team based learning through knowledge sharing, offering suggestions and brainstorming

Leaders need to embrace bad news, not only good news. Getting bad news early can nearly always reduce or mitigate failure. People need to be ok to embrace the bad and supported to experiment – which may result in failure. E.g. at Pixar all movies start out bad and it is by embracing that, getting feedback and improving that they make great movies. This is achieved through

  • transparency,
  • productive conflict,
  • humble listening,
  • caring,
  • making it safe to fail through rapid evaluation (because long lived zombie projects are the real failure),
  • asking for input and
  • saying “I don’t know”.

Setting the stage to align on shared expectations and meaning
reFrame the Work – setting expectations about failure, uncertainty and interdependence – highlighting the need for voice
Emphasising purpose – Identifying what is at stake, why it matters and for whom

Inviting participation so people are confident that voice is welcome
Demonstrate situational humility – acknowledge gaps
Practice inquiry – ask good questions and model intense listening
Set up Structures and Processes – forums for input, guidelines for discussions

Respond productively to orientate towards continuous learning
Express appreciation – listen, acknowledge and thank
Destigmatize failure – look forward, offer help, discuss, consider and brainstorm next steps
Sanction clear violations

Reframe the boss

Default FrameReframe
The BossHas answers
Gives orders
Assesses others performance
Sets direction
Invites input to clarify and improve
Creates conditions for continued learning
Learning achieved through success and failure
The aim is to achieve excellence
OthersSubordinates who must do what they’re toldContributors with crucial knowledge and insight

Reframe failure

Traditional FrameDestigmatised Reframe
Concept of FailureFailure is not acceptableFailure is a natural by-product of experimentation
Beliefs about
effective performance
Effective performers don’t failEffective performers produce, learn from and
share the lessons from intelligent failures
The goalPrevent failurePromote fast learning
The frame’s impactPeople hide failure to protect themselvesOpen discussions, fast learning and innovation

Responding to different types of failure

Preventable FailureComplex FailureIntelligent Failure
Process improvement
Systems redesign
Sanctions – if repeated or blameworthy
Failure analysis from diverse perspectives
Identification of risk factors to address
System improvements
Failure parties
Failure awards
Thoughtful analysis
Brainstorming new hypotheses
Design next experiments