Principles: Table of Work Principles 10 and 11 (Part 13 of 14)


10. Manage as Someone Operating a Machine to Achieve a Goal

  1. Look down on your machine and yourself within it from the higher level
    • Constantly compare your outcomes to your goals.
    • Understand that a great manager is essentially an organizational engineer.
    • Build great metrics.
    • Beware of paying too much attention to what is coming at you and not enough attention to your machine.
    • 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)
    • Everything is a case study.
    • 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)
    • When making rules, explain the principles behind them.
    • Your policies should be natural extensions of your principles.
    • 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. 
    • Managers must make sure that what they are responsible for works well.
    • Managing the people who report to you should feel like skiing together.
    • An excellent skier is probably going to be a better ski coach than a novice skier.
    • 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.
    • Regularly take the temperature of each person who is important to you and to the organization.
    • Learn how much confidence to have in your people – don’t assume it.
    • Vary your involvement based on your confidence.
  5. Clearly assign responsibilities. 
    • Remember who has what responsibilities.
    • Watch out for “job slip.”
  6. Probe deep and hard to learn what you can expect from your machine.
    • Get a threshold level of understanding.
    • Avoid staying too distant.
    • Use daily updates as a tool for staying on top of what your people are doing and thinking.
    • Probe so you know whether problems are likely to occur before they actually do.
    • Probe to the level below the people who report to you.
    • Have the people who report to the people who report to you feel free to escalate their problems to you.
    • Don’t assume that people’s answers are correct.
    • Train your ear.
    • Make your probing transparent rather than private.
    • Welcome probing.
    • 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.
    • Pull all suspicious threads.
    • Recognize 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.
    • Going on vacation doesn’t mean one can neglect one’s responsibilities.
    • Force yourself and the people who work for you to do difficult things.
  8. Recognize and deal with key-man risk.
  9. Don’t treat everyone the same – treat them appropriately.
    • Don’t let yourself get squeezed.
    • Care about the people who work for you.
  10. Know that great leadership is generally not what it’s made out to be.
    • Be weak and strong at the same time.
    • Don’t worry about whether or not your people like you and don’t look to them to tell you what you should do.
    • 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 your accountable.
    • 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.
    • Distinguish between a failure in which someone broke their “contract” and a failure in which there was no contract to begin with.
    • Avoid getting sucked down.
    • Watch out for people who confuse goals and tasks, because if they can’t make that distinction, you can’t trust them with responsibilities.
    • 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.
    • Put things in perspective by going back before going forward.

11. 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.
    • 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.
    • Watch out for the “Frog in the Boiling Water Syndrome.”
    • Beware of group-think: The fact that no one seems concerned doesn’t mean nothing is wrong.
    • To perceive problems, compare how the outcomes are lining p with your goals.
    • “Taste the soup.”
    • Have as many eyes looking for problems as possible.
    • “Pop the cork.”
    • Realize that the best people closest to certain jobs probably know them best.
  3. Be very specific about problems; don’t start with generalizations.
    • Avoid the anonymous “we” and “they,” because they mask personal responsibility.
  4. Don’t be afraid to fix the difficult things.
    • Understand that problems with good, planned solutions in place are completely different from those without such solutions.
    • Think of the problems you perceive in a machinelike way.