• Sort Blog:
  • All
  • Book Reviews
  • EA Rotterdam
  • Essays
  • Goals
  • Links
  • Series
  • Short Stories
  • Uncategorized

Hell Yeah or No (Book Review)

Hell Yeah or No by Derek Sivers is a great little book with life advice from a man who has figured out some good things about life. The thinking is clear, concise, and evergreen. Definitely a book to re-read/listen to (parts of) again every year or so.

First/key idea in this blog post. And great supplement here.

“Use this rule if you’re often over-committed or too scattered. If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”. When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.” When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!” Every event you get invited to. Every request to start a new project. If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about it, say “no.” We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.”

And another great idea is one about being now or future focussed.

Measure What Matters (Book Review)

Measure What Matters by John Doerr is the management book around goal setting as a company. From legendary investor John Doerr and influenced by Bill Campell (executive coach), and full of examples from Google and the like.

The core of the book should also be possible to be applied to oneself. So let’s dive in.

Too much to read? Watch John Doerr’s TED Talk about OKRs (11min)

OKRs

“Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.”

Objective: what is to be achieved

  • significant, concrete, action-oriented, and (ideally) inspirational
  • e.g. organize the world’s information
  • e.g. make psychedelics more accessible

Key Results: how we get to the objective

  • specific and time-bound (month/quarter), aggressive yet realistic
  • measurable and verifiable
  • e.g. grow revenue of Youtube by 30% this quarter
  • e.g. make an overview of all psychedelics companies this quarter

Goals can be harmful, people can only work towards them and ignore opportunities and ‘goal-hack’. But don’t be mistaken, goals are necessary (insert Yogi Berra quote 😉 ).

Goals create alignment, clarity, and job satisfaction.

The rest of the book dives deeper into the ‘superpowers’ of OKRs:

  • Focus and Commitment to Priorities
  • Align and Connect for Teamwork
  • Track for Accountability
  • Stretch for Amazing

and the applications and implications

  • Conversation, Feedback, Recognition
  • Continuous Improvement
  • The Importance of Culture

OKR Hygiene

  • Less is more
    • it signals what to say yes to and no to
    • three to five OKRs per cycle
  • Set goals from the bottom up
  • No dictating
  • Stay flexible
    • modify or abandon mid-cycle if needed
  • Dare to fail
    • aim higher than where you are now
    • ‘train harder than last time’
  • A tool, not a weapon
    • OKRs and bonuses are best kept separate
  • Be patient; be resolute
    • it takes some time to get used to them

Focus and Commitment to Priorities

chapters 4, 5, and 6

What is most important for the next three (or six, or twelve) months?”

Many people can’t name the priorities of their companies (or themselves for that matter).

  • You will need to repeat the OKRs until you (leadership) become tired of repeating it, then people will know them

… nothing moves us forward like a deadline.”

Quarterly OKRs are advised.

You need to pair OKRs to measure both effect and counter-effect. This means quality and quantity. Or speed and robustness. Only measuring one can lead to goal-hacking.

OKRs also mean that you don’t work on other things. These are the projects that need to get done, you can only work on another project if you update your OKRs.

The art of management lies in the capacity to select from the many activities of seemingly comparable significance the one or two or three that provide leverage well beyond the others and concentrate on them.”

Put more wood behind fewer arrows.”

Chapters 5 and 6 are examples from two companies that implemented OKRs.

Instead of reacting to external events on the fly, we’re acting purposefully on our plans for each quarter.”

Align and Connect for Teamwork

chapters 7, 8, and 9

OKRs lead to alignment because you know what everyone/the company is working on (and only 7 percent of employees fully understand the goal of a company).

Chapter 7 has an example of OKRs for a football team, some good, some bad.

OKRs should work towards the greater goal, but also can/should come from bottom-up. At that level, people know best what to do to achieve the goals. Doerr says 50-50 is a good mix.

OKRs may be internal (do X) or external (get Y revenue). Depending on the phase of a company and how much you know of the environment, you can finetune this.

One good (alignment) question to ask is: Will this thing work towards our North Star?

Track for Accountability

chapters 10 and 11

OKRs can be tracked, and revised or adapted as circumstances dictate.

Cloud-based software could help with:

  • Making goals visible to everyone
  • Drive engagement
  • Promote internal networking
  • Save time, money, frustration

Track the goals for yourself (weekly, monthly, or whatever frequency works best). Preference of Doerr is weekly.

Then you can choose the following:

  • continue
  • update
  • start (new one)
  • stop (do let everyone who is dependent on this OKR know)

Scoring (at Google) is done as follows. A bit objective with subjective ‘did I put in the effort’ mixed in:

  • 0.7 to 1.0 = green
  • 0.4 to 0.6 = yellow (progress, but not there)
  • 0.0 to 0.3 = red (fail)

Always reflect on the progress made, as also to inform making new OKRs.

Possible questions:

  • Did I accomplish all of my objectives?
    • If so, what contributed to my success?
    • If not, what obstacles did I encounter?
  • If I were to rewrite a goal achieved in full, what would I change?
  • What have I learned that might alter my approach to the next cycle’s OKRs?

After this feedback, take a breath to savour your progress.

Stretch for Amazing

chapters 12, 13, and 14

“If companies don’t continue to innovate, they’re going to die – and I didn’t say iterate, I said innovate.” – Bill Campbell

Google divides their OKRs into two buckets

  1. Committed goals: related to metrics, aim is to get a 1.0
  2. Stretch/aspirational goals: bigger-picture, aim to get 0.7
    1. Google fails 40% of these

Stretch goals should be fine-tuned to an organisation. You should have some, but not all. And they shouldn’t be ‘fly to Mars next year’, but ‘build a working rocket next year’ (difficult, but remotely possible).

(fun fact: it was Susan Wojciki’s garage where Google started, she was employee nr 16 and YouTube’s 10x’er)

OKRs can also be seen as the ‘big rocks’ (Stephen Covey). Do those first, then add smaller and smaller pebbles and sand (to fill a jar).

Conversation, Feedback, Recognition

chapters 15 and 16

A manager’s first role is the personal one. It’s the relationship with people, the development of mutual confidence … the creation of a community.” – Peter Drucker

This is in response to not everything being able to be captured by numbers, by OKRs.

The idea is that OKRs get coupled to continuous performance management in the form of:

  • Conversations: manager and contributor
  • Feedback: bidirectional and between peers
  • Recognition: expression of appreciation

What is noted again is to decouple OKRs from compensation (otherwise the goals will be too low/high/goal-hacked). Feedback from the team and context is more important for compensation. (see graph p182)

Conversations

The conversations are driven by the subordinate. It’s about goal setting/adjusting, update on progress (what works/doesn’t work), coaching both ways, career growth, mini-performance review.

Feedback

Specific feedback to gauge if you’re doing well, what others need from you, etc. Also, feedback on the company.

Recognition

Continuous, peer-based, objective, sharing stories, tied to company goals and strategies.

Continuous Improvement

chapter 17

Story about Zume, but alas OKRs didn’t help them in the end.

The Importance of Culture

chapters 18, 19, and 20

Culture eats strategy for breakfast” – saying/John Doerr.

Culture is the parts that include someone that champions the goals (OKRs) and others that help others and motivate (CFRs).

This part is a bit more vague, but it comes down to having a culture where people are going in the same direction, OKRs can help with getting that so.

If you want to cut a man’s hair, is it better if he is in the room?” – Senegalese saying

Ideas are easy; execution is everything.” – John Doerr

OKRs checklist

Objective

  • Concrete
  • Significant
  • Action-oriented
  • Inspirational
  • 3-5 Objectives

Key Results

  • Specific
  • Time-bound
  • Aggressive but attainable
    • Either aim for complete (1.0)
    • Or aim out there with 10x projects (0.7)
  • Qualitative and quantitative (prevent goal-hacking)
  • 2-5 Key Results per Objective

Review

  • Weekly or per month
  • Change goals if ‘ladder is on the wrong building’
  • Rate (at end) from 1.0 (complete/full effort), <0.7 (progress), <0.4 (fail)
  • What contributed to the success?
  • What obstacles were there?
    • How should it be rewritten?
  • What changes for the next cycle?
  • Take a break

How to Make Millions with Your Ideas (Book Review)

How to Make Millions with Your Ideas by Dan Kennedy is one of the marketing books that one supposedly should have read. I found it somewhat informative, but mostly because I projected my own experience and ideas on what is being said.

It does a good job of presenting different ideas, but a lot of them are of that time (mail order business). That doesn’t mean that some of the lessons or inspiration isn’t valid.

One good nugget from the book is the lesson that starting with an idea, and making that come to fruition, may be harder than selling something (in a specific area) that is already successful somewhere else.

I’ve made some more notes in Obsidian.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (Book Review)

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout is a great book that I thought I had already summarized here, but apparently not.

It lays the groundwork of what marketing is, positioning. Find a space in the market, nee, in the mind of the consumer.

There are ways to modify this, but only a few ways. You can’t be better and hope/believe that you’re going to win the market. You have to position yourself as the challenger brand, make a new submarket, and some other variations are possible.

But even the same product, in a different market (cars and beers are often used as examples) don’t fair well when introduced somewhere else.

The curse of line extension is one that I think I/Queal should be most wary of, be good at doing one thing, but don’t try and broaden it too much. The consumer will only remember you for doing one thing (quick drinkable meals vs providing all quick meals?)

Ok, enough rambling. I will, one day, do a more structured summary. Probably when I have crystallized my ideas around the new business enough that I can say I’ve followed the guidelines here.

Remote (Book Review)

Remote by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson makes the case for working remotely. They do it successfully with their own company (Basecamp) and encourage others to do it too.

At first pass, I found the book not to apply to my own situation, but I might reread it as the current situation makes it more present than before.

Founders at Work (Book Review)

DRAFT – taken from Evernote 26/02/15

Startups create value
Start with a sprint, then slow down the least!
Don’t look productive (e.g. suits, business meetings), be productive instead
Founders were unsure that they were onto something big
Perseverence / determination is factor nr 1
Adaptable nr 2 – never lose sight of what the users want
Have a good co-founder
Tips: 1) write a business plan, 2) don’t expect users to change behavior too much
Learn what makes you valuable
Every time you save on part you save on complexity (queal makkelijker)
Best things came from 1) not having money, 2) not having done it before

The Box (Book Review)

The Box by Marc Levinson is an interesting history of the shipping container. It’s got nothing to do with what I’m working on, but nonetheless it was very interesting. The story takes place on a global scale, it’s well researched, and shows how unpredictable the future can be.

The book gave me a better understanding of how the global economy operates, it’s history, and gave some more ‘power’ to the tides of history (vs the great man theory). This is because although there are some very important players, the timing should have been right and that is what matters most.

Ohh and that government intervention almost never helps (and hurts in most cases). Yet in the end, Dubai is a very good counterexample. The question there is, how much is that government and not just ‘business’ doing it’s thing (and maybe a lot of luck too?).

Eckart’s Notes (Book Review)

Eckart’s Notes is a Dutch book by Eckart Wintzen. He was an inspiring entrepreneur to many. His core idea was that you could run a company by having many autonomous cells. I think it could compare to an ant colony, your body, or many other bottom-up systems.

In the book, he argues for independence mixed with strict guidelines from the holding (queen bee, your cognition). This allows for independent and creative thought from the cells, with a uniform representation and way of doing things.

Some things are very strict, like what font to use and the size of plants in the office. But a cell is responsible for its own acquisition, making a profit, etc.

This system prevents many back-office processes from starting/growing. Because the cell has to do it themselves (and of course don’t want to do it, but have to).

There are many more ideas in the book and it reminded me of ReWork quite a bit.

Not everything might apply to your organisation, but I can recommend most entrepreneurs (especially with (the ambition to grow beyond) 20 people or more).

Zero to One (Book Review)

Zero to One by Peter Thiel is an interesting take on entrepreneurship and what it takes to succeed. I think the book can be read in a few different ways. I don’t think you should take it as gospel and many lessons in the book can be turned around (and that is also something he does to illustrate ‘bad/conventional’ startup advice). What I do think that it shows is a blueprint for how many venture-funded startups could succeed.

// I think I already summarised the book sometime back. Will have to find it.

“What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”

Loonshots (Book Review)

In Loonshots we’re taken on an innovative journey by Safi Bahcall. In the book, he argues how we can stimulate loonshots (moonshots, innovative new products, high chance of failure) on a personal and company level. He talks about the ingredients for loonshots, uses many examples (which can be a bit too detailed), and makes you want to start your own loonshot factory.

From my (read: Queal’s) perspective, I have mixed feelings about the need and viability of loonshots. What if innovation and progress are made in small steps? Bahcall does mention this in the book and I think he is also on board with this concept. He calls them franchises (making the next iteration/update of an original product). If the distinction (1 or 0) is a bit artificial, I will leave in the middle. Let’s just say the book focuses on one end, the loonshots.

Here are some ingredients/concepts from the book:

  • False Fail: When a valid hypothesis yields a negative result in an experiment because of a flaw in the design of the experiment.
    • The example here was that statins didn’t go through the phase where they tested on rats, it turned out they were a bad analogy for a human body and only through someone trying it out again on chickens (and 3 more failures, something he mentions many times), did it move forward.
    • Another one I heard before, was the mention of social networks and why some people did invest in Facebook, they saw that the failure was in how earlier social networks executed their strategy, not in that the idea was bad. (see more here)
  • Phases of organisation: When an organisation is considered as a complex system, we can expect that system to exhibit phases and phase transitions — for instance, between a phase that encourages a focus on loonshots and a phase that encourages a focus on careers.
    • Here there is also a large section (to the end) on how companies can encourage loonshots, they mostly focus on preventing incentives (behavioural economics) for making a career.
    • One example is DARPA where someone works on a project (no chance to move up) for some years before rotating out again.
  • Separate artists and soldiers: Make sure that the people working on the loonshots (artists) don’t need to fulfil the same metrics as the people bringing in the immediate profit (soldiers).
    • Do love them equally (example used was how Steve Jobs only focussed on the artists)

This being said, a very interesting book, but maybe not very much applicable for myself (at this moment).