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Jonathan Andrew Wolter

Archive for May, 2011

Book: Power: Why Some People Have It-and Others Don’t

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Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

Power: Why Some People Have It-and Others Don'tPower: Why Some People Have It-and Others Don’t by Jeffrey Pfeffer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is an easy read with interesting examples. If you dislike the title, consider how the world is political, and it is in you interest to know the power games other people will play.

A few highlights:

  • When Keith Ferrazzi (author, CMO, CEO) was offered a position at Deloitte, he insisted in seeing the “head guys.” He met the NYC chief, Loconto, over dinner and Keith said he would accept if the two  would have dinner once a year at the same restaurant.” This was a gutsy move, but gave him influence at a very high level. All because he asked. What could you have asked for?
  • Ishan Gupta is an entrepreneur from India who positioned himself with compiling a book of major Indian entrepreneurs. He had the founder of Hotmail, the Indian president Kalam, and over a dozen leaders contribute to the book. How? His pitch was as a fellow entrepreneur and IIT graduate, he appreciated their courage, and said no one would take a book by him seriously, he wanted their help to write just a few pages or hundred words with key advice. He packaged the request brilliantly, and almost all accepted. Asking for help is inherently flattering. He leveraged his experience to write something with a positive social implication. Then gained influence with very big hitters, and ‘jumped up a weight class.’
  • Confucius said, ‘Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s own ignorance.’ While this seems somewhat out of place in this book, remember if you gain more power, you will change. It is best to not become full of yourself.
  • Stay focused on the outcomes you are seeking, and do not get hung up on people and their idiosyncrasies. You can not and will not please everyone.
  • Be able to act. As in acting, theatrics, Hollywood. If you are ‘angry’ don’t always really be angry, as you can act with emotion, skipping over facts, weaken you position, and alienate people. I have made my worst mistakes when acting out of emotion. You can use emotions effectively to lead a team; however, if you can have the passion of emotion, without the irrationality, it is much better. Thus, learn how to act. It disconnects the irrationality. When I worked at FeedBurner, Dick Costolo was CEO there and he came from 10 years of stand up comedy. Extremely useful for his outward influence (now CEO Twitter), and inward motivating employees.
  • Synchronize the ‘voice’ of a team’s many leaders. I have had huge team problems because the peer group of senior leaders all had different opinions about the vision and priorities. If one of us had suggested a simple, quick, weekly breakfast or lunch meeting next door, we would have been on sync. It would have boosted the team’s morale and effectiveness.
  • Oliver North vs Donald Kennedy’s congressional testimonies suggest theatrics (righteous anger vs shame and timidity) is a significant factor for how people are judged. This was an “aha” moment. Senior leadership is a lot of acting. CXO’s may not see some employees but once a year. The ability to turn on the energy and optimism (acting) is crucial to leave strong, lasting influences in people.
  • One comical specific claim was that “moving your hands in a circle or waving your arms diminishes how powerful you appear. Gestures should be short and forceful, not long and circular.” Probably true. How you carry yourself influences how you are viewed. Are you the carefree person, consistent worker, angry person, goofy one, solid leader, etc.?
  • Take you time in responding. Flustered or unsure people are marginalized. Related to acting. When choosing between emotions or a slower response, always choose the slower, more deliberate response. (My editorializing).

Not amazing, but short and I finished it. I think I can only read a
small number of these kinds of books a year. Now I am ready to read
more math books.

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Written by Jonathan

May 20th, 2011 at 3:18 am

Book Review: The McKinsey Mind. Focusing on Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive thinking

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Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

The McKinsey Mind: Understanding and Implementing the Problem-Solving Tools and Management Techniques of the World's Top Strategic Consulting FirmThe McKinsey Mind: Understanding and Implementing the Problem-Solving Tools and Management Techniques of the World’s Top Strategic Consulting Firm by Ethan M. Rasiel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Worth reading. Especially if you are in consulting. I like the beginning of the book especially, and will be turning back to some of those pages for reference.

Thinking logically
The book starts strong by introducing “MECE: Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive.” I use it often in my teams. Think of it as building a decision tree, where you cover every option, and none are overlapping. Each branch in the tree also has more MECE sub-branches. When deciding or investigating something, draw the tree on a whiteboard, and walk everyone through the options, and sub-tree options until you have a decision, or clear actions to take. Very logical. Be sure to encourage other people to contribute to the branches, and if you are leading it, ideally you team will volunteer the branches, and then they have more commitment to the options.

Or, as Wikipedia says:

[MECE] says that when data from a category is desired to be broken into subcategories, the choice of subcategories should be
1. collectively exhaustive — i.e., the set of all subcategories, taken together, should fully characterize the larger category of which the data are part (“no gaps”)
2. mutually exclusive — i.e., no subcategory should represent any other subcategory (“no overlaps”)

This is desirable for the purpose of analysis: mutual exclusivity avoids the risk of double counting information, and collective exhaustion avoids the risk of overlooking information.

Two areas for MECE thinking are in logic-trees and issue trees.

Logic trees help you identify components of a problem. Start at the 20,000 foot view and move progressively downward. You may want to build multiple trees, for instance by business unit (organizational hierarchy) and functionally (production, sales, marketing, etc.) to see which leads you to the next step, the hypothesis.

Form a hypothesis of what component of the logic tree may be causing the problem. Run it by the Quick and Dirty Test: ask what assumptions you are making that must be true. Are any false? If it passes the QDT, gather data and do analysis to disprove it. This is the same as the scientific method. If you fail to disprove it, you may be on to something. Predict what could happen if the identified root cause was changed.

Issue trees let you rigorously test the hypothesis. They are different from logic trees. Logic trees are a hierarchical grouping of elements. Issue trees are the series of questions or issues that must be addressed to support or disprove a hypothesis. It becomes you roadmap for analysis.

Presenting
Present with the conclusion at the start. This was a good lesson. Do not use inductive reasoning to build up from details into a specific conclusion for your audience. They may already agree with it. You would then waste their time. Instead make you conclusion, and progressively drill into details, broadly covering each level before drilling down further. Stop/skip forward if they do not need the convincing. (A refresher on inductive/deductive reasoning).

Presentations are all about getting buy-in. It is important to “pre-wire” the meeting so that there are no surprises, and people already know your conclusions. The act of pre-wiring will identify gaps you need to work on, or build allies for you proposal.

Interviewing clients/stakeholders is a common activity I have done at ThoughtWorks. The authors advised scheduling time with people, and sending them an agenda. This lowers their apprehension of why consultants want to talk to them. Also at the end, during small talk before you walk out, ask “is there any thing else we did not cover that you think we should?” You’ve built rapport by now. Their answer can uncover important, previously unmentioned issues.

Note: as a software engineer, I appreciate the MECE thinking style for its logic. Also, it is the exact way we approach performance tuning an application. Think about the logic tree of slow spots. Build a hypothesis. Test it by profiling the running program under load. Let the data of time spent in each component show the root cause.

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Written by Jonathan

May 1st, 2011 at 3:14 am