Abhi Yerra

Sheepdog: A Framework for Action in Life and Work

Management
If you investigate companies that have failed, you will find that many employees knew about the fatal issues long before those issues killed the company. If the employees knew about the deadly problems, why didn’t they say something? Too often the answer is that the company culture discouraged the spread of bad news, so the knowledge lay dormant until it was too late to act. 
 
A healthy company culture encourages people to share bad news. A company that discusses its problems freely and openly can quickly solve them. A company that covers up its problems frustrates everyone involved. The resulting action item for CEOs: Build a culture that rewards—not punishes—people for getting problems into the open where they can be solved.
 
- Hard thing about hard things
 
Wherever knowledge workers perform well in large organizations, senior executives take time out, on a regular schedule, to sit down with them, sometimes all the way down to green juniors, and ask: “What should we at the head of this organization know about your work? What do you want to tell me regarding this organization? Where do you see opportunities we do not exploit? Where do you see dangers to which we are still blind? And, all together, what do you want to know from me about the organization?” 
 
The definition of a “routine” is that it makes unskilled people without judgment capable of doing what it took near-genius to do before; for a routine puts down in systematic, step-by-step form what a very able man learned in surmounting yesterday’s crisis.
 
Every one of Lee’s generals, from Stonewall Jackson on, was a man of obvious and monumental weaknesses. But these failings Lee considered—rightly—to be irrelevant. Each of them had, however, one area of real strength—and it was this strength, and only this strength, that Lee utilized and made effective.
 
Every survey of young knowledge workers—physicians in the Army Medical Corps, chemists in the research lab, accountants or engineers in the plant, nurses in the hospital—produces the same results. The ones who are enthusiastic and who, in turn, have results to show for their work, are the ones whose abilities are being challenged and used. Those that are deeply frustrated all say, in one way or another: “My abilities are not being put to use.”
 
If one disciplines oneself to ask about one’s associates—subordinates as well as superiors—“What can this man do?” rather than “What can he not do?” one soon will acquire the attitude of looking for strength and of using strength. And eventually one will learn to ask this question of oneself.
- Effective Executive
 
Management
 
  • Everyone is a manager at the company with the factir being that they are owners of their realm of concern 
  • Hoeven this doesn't mean they are not responsible for the total action 
  • However there are people who can remove impediments
  • They connect the group to a huge purpose 
  • A manager is not a side job it has to be a full time affair that includes certain tasks. Ensuring work is moving forward, removing impediments, 1:1s, Coburn resolution, etc.
 

Retrospectives

 

Quarterly

 
  • What did we do well this quarter?
  • What are some things in that we should be concerned about in the future?
  • What is our major focus for the quarter? 
  • What 3 things should we try doing better next quarter?
  • What did we do poorly or didn’t anticipate?
  • Grade your OKRs
 
A lot of management of a project or task is creating clear expectations and
it is okay if you don't know how to fill everything. The goal is to get
better.
Remember:
  • The other person is human.
  • They have their own fears, insecurities, love of different things from you and aspirations.
  • They may also think differently from you. Visually, Verbally, Written. Figure out how you can better communicate.
  • Do not micromanage. Let people do their thing and suggest improvements.
  • Make ideas seem like it is coming from them. Have a deadline.
  • The two objectives of a business are marketing and innovation. You need to create and then figure out a way to make money to offset that innovation
  • A company has to have a mission that creates economic output, workers that are managers in their own right as opposed to cogs, and benefit society.
  • While doing this the company has to both deal with the present while building for the future. The goal is how to effectively keep the economic engine going now while building for the future.

Notes from Book: Extreme Ownership

  • At the end of the day if you are the leader and something goes wrong it is your fault and it is your job to make sure everyone understands why they are doing what they are doing.
  • Work with others to achieve what you want for the total entity. No fiefdoms.
  • If someone doesn’t play with the team then they need to be shown the door.
  • Simple: keep things simple. Complexity makes it hard for people to understand. Having something simple and easy to understand makes it much more useful. 80/20 rule here. There may be 100 things but focus on the 20% that gives 80% of output
  • Prioritize and execute: “relax, look around, make a call”. Can’t do everything at once so prioritize what is most important and execute that. You need to be able to focus full time on something get the stakeholders involved and as circumstances change adapt and let the stakeholders know of the change.
  • Decentralize command. Teams should be a total of 6 people or less. There should be a clear leader for each unit that is bigger and who reports to what.
  • Plan effectively
  • Standard operating procedures. Discipline starts with the first alarm. Team must also buy into operations
 

Leadership

  • The care of the self. You have to be separated from the people you are managing
 
 

Management

He organized his warriors into squads, or arban, of ten who were to be brothers to one another. No matter what their kin group or tribal origin, they were ordered to live and fight together as loyally as brothers; in the ultimate affirmation of kinship, no one of them could ever leave the other behind in battle as a captive. 
 
Mongol law, as codified by Genghis Khan, recognized group responsibility and group guilt. The solitary individual had no legal existence outside the context of the family and the larger units to which it belonged; therefore, the family carried the responsibility of ensuring the correct behavior of its members.
 
By organizing a long public discussion, everyone in the community was included into the process, and, most important, everyone understood why they were fighting the war. Although on the battlefield the soldiers were expected to obey without question, even the lowest ranking were treated as junior partners who were expected to understand the endeavor and to have some voice in it. The senior members met together in large public meetings to discuss the issues, then individually went to their own units to continue the discussion with the lower-ranking warriors. To have the full commitment of every warrior, it was important that each of them, from the highest to the lowest, participate and know where he stood in the larger plan of events.
A lot of management of a project or task is creating clear expectations and it is okay if you don't know how to fill everything. The goal is to get better.
Remember:
  • The other person is human.
  • You can’t manage everyone the same, each person has to be managed differently depending on their skills and experience. Some you have to manage everyday others you can go a month or so in between.
  • They have their own fears, insecurities, love of different things from you and aspirations.
  • They may also think differently from you. Visually, Verbally, Written. Figure out how you can better communicate.
  • Do not micromanage. Let people do their thing and suggest improvements.
  • Make ideas seem like it is coming from them. Have a deadline.
  • Best Way to Explain
  • Sales
  • Tasks
  • Plan an hour a day for management and creating leverage on your projects. Just because you say to do things doesn’t mean that they automatically happen so you need to be able to effectively create time for nudging people on tasks, figuring out next set of tasks for people to do, and ensuring that people who are more advanced are going in the direction you want them to go in.
  • Create Competition among your workers as this will encourage faster and better outcomes. 
 
Effective Meetings
 
“Why are we having this meeting? Do we want a decision, do we want to inform, or do we want to make clear to ourselves what we should be doing?” They insist that the purpose be thought through and spelled out before a meeting is called, a report asked for, or a presentation organized. They insist that the meeting serve the contribution to which they have committed themselves. -Effective Executive
  • Meetings should a have a create objective and result and next action.
 
“Thus the chairman must have a clear understanding of the meeting’s objective-what needs to happen and what decision has to be made. The absolute truth is that if you don’t know what you want, you won’t get it. So before calling a meeting, ask yourself: What am I trying to accomplish? Then ask, is a meeting necessary? Or desirable? Or justifiable? Don’t call a meeting if all the answers aren’t yes.”
“What should be discussed at a staff meeting? Anything that affects more than two of the people present. If the meeting degenerates into a conversation between two people working on a problem affecting only them, the supervisor should break it off and move on to something else that will include more of the staff, while suggesting that the two continue their exchange later.”
 - High Output Management
 
1:1s
One of the fundamental tenets of Intel’s managerial philosophy is the one-on-one meeting between a supervisor and a subordinate. Its main purposes are mutual education and the exchange of information. By talking about specific problems and situations, the supervisor teaches the subordinate his skills and know-how, and suggests ways to approach things. At the same time, the subordinate provides the supervisor with detailed information about what he is doing and what he is concerned about. Obviously, one-on-ones take time, both in preparing for them and in actually holding them—time that today’s busier manager may not have. -High Output Management
“What should be covered in a one-on-one? We can start with performance figures, indicators used by the subordinate, such as incoming order rates, production output, or project status. Emphasis should be on indicators that signal trouble. The meeting should also cover anything important that has happened since the last meeting: current hiring problems, people problems in general, organization problems and future plans, and -- very, very important -- ~potential~ problems. Even when a problem isn’t tangible, even if it’s only an intuition that something’s wrong, a subordinate owes it to his supervisor to tell him, because it triggers a look into the organizational black box. The most important criterion governing matters to be talked about is that they be issues that preoccupy and nag the subordinate. These are often obscure and take time to surface, consider, and resolve.” -High Output Management
“ A key point about a one-on-one: It should be regarded as the subordinate’s meeting, with its agenda and tone set by him. There’s good reason for this. Somebody needs to prepare for the meeting. The supervisor with eight subordinates would have to prepare eight times; the subordinate only one. So the latter should be asked to prepare an outline, which is very important because it forces him to think through in advance all of the issues and points he plans to raise.” - High Output Management
 
  • Praise people based on effort not for being smart. They will work harder and want a bigger challenge.
  • When assigning tasks. Tasks should be assigned based on the paradox of choice. Fewer options can lead to the work being done more effectively.
  • Manager needs to figure out what the 80/20 of this is.
  • These tasks should be a part of the bigger vision and goals.
  • 1:1 Meeting Agenda
  • ReIterate the vision
  • Tell them goals we are using to get there
  • Define outcomes and help them define key results.
  • See where they are to achieving key results
  • Ask for what could use improvement.
  • Where is there deficiency in communication
  • Capture mistakes and things that may kill the company.
  • Ask any improvements that they can use from you.
 
 

Hiring

 
  • Know the mindset of the people you hire.
  • Are they Growth Mindset or Fixed Mindset
  • Give them a trial project
  • How do they respond to feedback?
  • Do they shutdown?
  • Do they take it and update it?
  • Do they learn by reading, writing or talking?
  • Ask what their ambitions are when hiring people. Where do they want to be?
  • What are my strengths? My weaknesses?
  • What can this person do?
  • Don’t look at weakness if there is one strength that they have
  • How can I most effectively deploy this person
  • Leverage
  • Will this person help you compound your growth?
  • Will this person work well with others on a team and help the team grow in a compounded way?
  • If this is a sports team would you want this person and if so what strengths do they bring?
  • At what point do you think they will be less effective?
  • Give your team a chance to improve but cut members who don’t perform
  • Completion gives a measure to live towards. Give people competition to attain.
  • What drives the person you are hiring?
  • Where in the Maslov Hierarchy of Needs are they?
  • What is the strength in the other person that you want dilespite their weaknesss?
  • How can you use that strength?
  • Design the job and figure out what values fit that job.
  • If you are designing a machine what attributes do you need for that person to do well?
  • Don’t design jobs to fit people. You need to be objective and it may not make sense to keep someone who doesn’t have the criteria to do that job well.
  • Freelancers / Upwork
  1. Create a small paid project for them to do that shouldn’t take more than 2 hours. If they don’t do it then not don’t move on.
  1. See how they deal with the feedback given.
  1. If they don’t take feedback well then they are likely not a good fit.
  1. If they are not at the level they say they are after you have given them feedback then they are not a good fit.
  1. Ask them what their current commitments are. If they have a lot just expect work to take longer.
 
 
“Will you admire this person?”
“Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering?”
“Along what dimension might this person be a superstar?”
-Amazon Shareholder Letter
 
“I believe high standards are teachable. In fact, people are pretty good at learning high standards simply through exposure. High standards are contagious. Bring a new person onto a high standards team, and they’ll quickly adapt. The opposite is also true. If low standards prevail, those too will quickly spread. And though exposure works well to teach high standards, I believe you can accelerate that rate of learning by articulating a few core principles of high standards, which I hope to share in this letter.”
“Another important question is whether high standards are universal or domain specific. In other words, if you have high standards in one area, do you automatically have high standards elsewhere? I believe high standards are domain specific, and that you have to learn high standards separately in every arena of interest. When I started Amazon, I had high standards on inventing, on customer care, and (thankfully) on hiring. But I didn’t have high standards on operational process: how to keep fixed problems fixed, how to eliminate defects at the root, how to inspect processes, and much more. I had to learn and develop high standards on all of that (my colleagues were my tutors).”
“What do you need to achieve high standards in a particular domain area? First, you have to be able to recognize what good looks like in that domain. Second, you must have realistic expectations for how hard it should be (how much work it will take) to achieve that result – the scope.”
“Unrealistic beliefs on scope – often hidden and undiscussed – kill high standards. To achieve high standards yourself or as part of a team, you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be – something this coach understood well.”
“We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structured six-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of “study hall.” Not surprisingly, the quality of these memos varies widely. Some have the clarity of angels singing. They are brilliant and thoughtful and set up the meeting for high-quality discussion. Sometimes they come in at the other end of the spectrum.
“Here’s what we’ve figured out. Often, when a memo isn’t great, it’s not the writer’s inability to recognize the high standard, but instead a wrong expectation on scope: they mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-page memo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more! They’re trying to perfect a handstand in just two weeks, and we’re not coaching them right. The great memos are written and re-written, shared with colleagues who are asked to improve the work, set aside for a couple of days, and then edited again with a fresh mind. They simply can’t be done in a day or two. The key point here is that you can improve results through the simple act of teaching scope – that a great memo probably should take a week or more.
“So, the four elements of high standards as we see it: they are teachable, they are domain specific, you must recognize them, and you must explicitly coach realistic scope. For us, these work at all levels of detail. Everything from writing memos to whole new, clean-sheet business initiatives. We hope they help you too.

Communication

 

Tasks

 

Meetings

  • Take 30 Seconds to Write Down the key points after a meeting.
  • Do it immediately and only 30 seconds.
 

Delegation

 
  • Tell people your goals and what your outcomes are and help them make you reach those goals.
  • Tasks much be made as part of the bigger picture. People like to do tasks but know why they are doing it.
  • So when delegating give the big picture
  • How you work and what is expected
  • And the tasks should be a singular unit with an outcome.
 

Problems / Issues

  • When you have a problem ask the five whys.
  • Each why should be answered specifically with names of people involved and what is happening.
  • Have a standard place of collecting issues
 

Brainstorming

but too much concern for creating a “safe environment” for criticism actually kills the ability to think constructively and creatively, because you’re focusing on the other people rather than the material at hand. - Mind for Numbers
 
 
  • It is better for people to prebrainstorm and come with a list of ideas than to brainstorm in a group. If brainstorming as a group the loudest speaker sort of narrows the idea and people go based on that as opposed to a diversity of ideas which is what you want when brainstorming.
 

Effective Emails

Don't be wishy washy. Be confident and assertive. Examples:
  • "The reason I'm calling is... "
  • "Tell me who-how-when-where-what..."
  • "I'm super busy bringing on new clients, but I do have a slot available at 11:00 am."
  • "Why don't we go ahead and get that set up?"
  • "I'll be visiting a client not far from your office on Monday. I can pick you up for lunch."
  • "A lot of my customers are telling me that they're having problems with XYZ. What do you feel is your biggest challenge?"
  • "How about we meet at 2:00 pm?"
When replying give a why. This will make it much more likely that they take action.
When replying to a prospect be helpful, like you are already a part of their team. Give them choices, and options and additional resources to consider when making choices. Be like a person already on their team, ready to help. Don't come off as a sales person trying to sell them. If you already help the choice to be a part of the team is much easier.
  • "Here are some options for people in your situation..."
  • "We found these to be helpful in making appropriate decisions...”
 

Receiving Feedback

 
  • Compassionate Detachment. Detach yourself from the area that you are being critiqued or where you are receiving feedback.
  • Have a growth mindset. How can you take their feedback and apply it to your work?
  • Tell yourself: “This is for me to grow.”