Sheepdog: A Framework for Action in Life and Work
You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction. -Bhagavad Gita 2.47
This Book is a Framework for Action and Setting Yourself and Your Work for High-Velocity, High-Tempo Action. The contents in this book are concrete and actionable to getting things done fast. I took the best ideas written by other people and put it into a form that is dense and concrete without a lot of unnecessary fluff. You should be able to jump into any section and figure out why it is there and how to make use of it immediately. Furthermore, each section will have a link to another book or content so you can read more about if it that section interests you.
The principles of this book are toward Action as the main and all encompassing goal of everything you do. The goal of this book is what and how you take action to move forward your goals in an inherently changing world with a lot of unknowns. The goal is to set yourself with 80% Action and 20% Planning.
Action Grid / Self
Maslov's Hierarchy of Needs is a pyramid with five rungs starting with the top being Self-Actualization, Esteem, Love/Belonging, Safety, and Physiological. Before you can get to the self-actualization step, you must meet the four lower levels of the hierarchy. It is hard to be a Sheepdog if you are going hungry.
Exercise / Food / Sleep
Make sure you are getting enough good food and exercise. The food you eat powers the brain and body, and exercise helps the brain think better. Furthermore, get a solid 8 hours of sleep a night. No buts or ifs, rest is a superpower.
Living paycheck to paycheck is not sufficient long term, and the mental burden of finance can limit your ability to advance. Debt and financial insecurity do a lot to limit our growth as it prevents us from pursuing what we want because we are tied to what pays the check.
Humans are social creatures so we need to be around people who love us and who we can love. Make sure you are around people that allow you to grow and curtail people from your life that don’t help you with your journey. If we are dependent on others for our ability to grow consider the nature of your relationship with that person.
Society and Science give us a What and How, but they do not provide the Why. We used to rely on religion to give the Why, but with secularism becoming more the norm it is up to each of us to define: Why are we here?
Objectives and Key Results
Ever consider that most people are aimless? They seem to be pushed around with the tides without ever having aspirations for themselves of where they want to be and where they want to go. Objectives and Key Results is a business framework that can also work for individuals to set up goals and definition of success for the goal.
The Care of the Self
To get where you want, you need to be the manager of your life. Without power over yourself, you will not be able to exert power into the world. Self-mastery means reducing your realm of concern. You have to give up things that may be bringing you short term joy, but long term are holding you back from achieving your goals. You can’t have something without giving up something.
Collect everything that strikes you even stupid ideas. These ideas need to just be taking out of your mind and put into a common system that you will organize once a week to get things done.
Learn, Do, Advance, Iterate
Learning anything fast is a useful skill. You don't have to become a world-class expert at most things to be effective. You need to go for the 80% that is most useful for you to know and be able to learn that fast.
Hobbies / Projects
Have hobbies and projects that are unrelated to what you for work. Get out of your comfort to do things that you have no expertise in such as martial art, dancing, music, gardening, etc.
Plan a day of the week for what you want to achieve the following week. The rest of the week should be attacking that plan. Creating a weekly plan of attack means you no longer need to decide but can act.
As you do more and more, you need to decide what you want to focus. Delegating tasks is an essential skill to grow and expand your capabilities. You get to focus on high-value stuff, and you can have someone take care of the other tasks.
Time Off / Vacation
It is essential that you have time off. Your brain is like a muscle. Your muscles need rest to recover after exercise and so does your mind after work. Have a definite start and end time for your day, and take the weekend to recharge by not working. Furthermore, a quarterly vacation away, even if it is a car ride away is good for your brain to recharge.
Figure out what things are holding you back. Impediments are the marble slab that you have to chisel away until you see David, i.e., attain your goal.
Influence and Power
Decide, Simplify, Execute, Validate
Have a quick and straightforward decision-making framework that also helps you verify that you made the right decision. In a world that is moving faster and faster, high throughput decisions are essential. But this also means being able to course correct quickly if a decision turns out to be a bad one.
Conflict Resolution / Negotiation
Most decisions and actions in life happen with other people. To do this effectively, you need to be able to resolve conflicts, address concerns and influence others to see your vision while also being respectful for their vision.
Fear prevents us from doing things, but it is when we have fear and take the appropriate action to move forward anyways that we grow. A big part of growth is understanding your fears and how those fears are holding you back and recognizing them when they appear.
Action Grid / Work
Your company needs a why for itself bigger than the product it sells. Anyone can sell a product, but it is almost impossible to replicate a story of the why of a company. Most of the most successful companies we know have whys. Companies with whys are the ones we are drawn to, as they give almost a higher purpose in their vision than the products they sell. Companies need this why why to drive you and your team, especially when things go rough. As a leader you want people to follow the vision of the company not the founders. Founders are humans, but it is the vision that keeps people moving forward. The vision is the ideal, the people are the instruments to make the vision real.
The values of a company develop over time, but you can start with some specifics of how to make decisions that everyone can hold and use. These give a framework for decision making that simplifies how to go about something when things are unclear, or there is ambiguity in decision making, especially as a company gets larger.
A Business Plan is full of assumed knowns, but the world is full of unknown, unknowns. The Business Model Canvas is an excellent tool for quickly figuring out if a company has a viable business model that allows it to make money. Every business is divided into multiple, so this also allows you to figure out what those sub-businesses are.
Objectives and Key Results
A business needs clear goals as much as people do. Objectives and Key Results work better if there are fewer of them maybe 1-3 max that gives a clear guideline for what a company is going to achieve every quarter.
Management / Team
Management tasks include nudging, 1:1s to increase leverage, hiring, delegation and removing impediments / muda. The goal of management is to remove obstacles from your team from accomplishing their goals. This means like any sports team ensuring everyone is heading toward the same goal.
Building the Future
Plan a regular meeting every week that includes new opportunities that the company wants to seek, experiments that would improve systems and processes. Create a weekly Scrum that allows you to move forward with new tasks.
Figure out what you need to build from your customers and what you need to build for them, by asking them. Create a regular surveys and questionnaires that will get them to speak to you honestly about what they want.
Working on Now
Standard Operating Procedures
These are the tasks that need to happen repeatedly everyday, week, month to get you moving forward. They just need to be codified and written down so you can do them. If they are not written down they may just not get done and you team may be working reactively instead of proactively. Further by having a standardized system it leads to better delegation and automation overtime.
Delegation / Automation / Focus
It is just as important to not do certain things than to do them. You can’t keep adding new product types, new variations, etc. You need to first focus on the core then make sure that is solid.
Certain standard operating procedures don’t need to be done by your company. It may not be a core competency, or it may be taking too long to do internally. Either get software, create automations or delegate the task to a third party vendor. You want to reduce the time you work on non-core competency so that you can focus on the high value tasks of your company.
Knowledge Sharing / Meetings
Email and Slack are matter of life but they are asynchronous modes of communication. Split them into actionable and informational. Only deal with tasks that are actionable to you, ignore the non-actionable ones or reduce them to a minimum.
Write out a story that has a hero and how you are going to make that person more of a hero. “As a [type of user], I want [an action] so that [a benefit/a value]. We should do it because it will allow us to do <x> with our customers.” This could be anything from a paragraph to a longer narrative that defines what you are trying to do and why. The goal is to create a series of tasks like this so that you can move forward and improve the business.
Impediments / Muda
We all make mistakes or bad processes that lead us to make mistakes, or have impediments that prevent us from advancing. It is important to learn from them our mistakes and impediments so that we can remove them. Gather impediments and muda (waste) and things that are holding your team from performing quickly. These impediments will be generated into new experiments to reduce the need to do them in the future.