I’ve made it a habit to buy books on the spot whenever someone gives me a “must-read” recommendation. So, when my friend, Tomas, gave me this recommendation, I bought it right away. To my surprise, when it finally arrived, I went to place it on my bookshelf next to two other copies of this exact same book I had ordered before.

On written reports and specs

Across the board I think teams can benefit from improving the quality and quantity of planning documents (product & tech specs) prior to building anything. Upfront process reduces likelihood of shipping frankenstein products.

So why are written reports necessary at all? They obviously can’t provide timely information…[however,] they are formulated and written, the author is forced to be more precise than he might be verbally. Hence their value stems from the discipline and the thinking the writer is forced to impose upon himself as he identifies and deals with trouble spots in his presentation…writing the report is important; reading it often is not


  1. Written reports are often times more valuable for the author than the reader
  2. You may not feel ROI on something you write via people reading/commenting on your work
  3. In a highly cross-functional team, they are important to get buy-in from product, design, marketing etc. The EM and PM need to codify this into a process

On managerial leverage

It seems like everyone complains about completing 60-70% of their task list. This means that they need 1) process improvement 2) better prioritization (includes saying no)

Three basic ways [for managerial leverage]:

  1. when many people are affected by one manager
  2. when a person’s activity or behavior over a long period of time is affected by a manager’s brief, well-focused set of words or actions
  3. when a large group’s work is affected by an individual supplying a unique, key piece of knowledge or information.

[Try to] detect and fix any problem in a production process at the lowest-value stage possible…if we can decide that we don’t want a college candidate at the time of the campus interview rather than during the course of a plant visit, we save the cost of the trip and the time of both the candidate and the interviewer.

Delegation without follow-through is abdication…even after you delegate it, you are responsible for its accomplishment, and monitoring…


  1. Take a more involved approach in the planning phase of projects. Fix issues before the team is too deep into execution, and then trust the team to execute to plan
  2. Apply a “leverage score” to your task-list, prioritize based on leverage. Make this more quantitative. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it needs to exist
  3. Delegate things you do, but are time-consuming. Provide mentorship where you can. Learn new skills, so you can delegate those as well.

On meetings

For many people, easily 30-60% of the day is spent in meetings. And only 10-20% of them are effectively run with clear objectives.

To use your calendar as a production-planning tool, you must…[have] active use of your calendar…fill the holes between time-critical events [and should] say “no” at the outset of work beyond your capacity to handle

An estimate of the dollar cost of a manager’s time including overhead, is about $100 per hour. So a meeting involving ten managers for two hours cost the company $2000. Most expenditures of $2000 have to be approved in advance by senior people.

If the chairman forces you to show up at a meeting prepared and on time, you might consider him a drill sergeant. But if you show up on time, ready for work, and someone else doesn’t and isn’t, you’ll probably be-grudge the person responsible for wasting your time


  1. Fight for your calendar. Ask for more convenient meeting times (i.e. clump meetings)
  2. Require pre-reading/agenda/goal for meeting in the invite - reject invites otherwise (where permissible, start inter-team)

On managing

One-on-ones often times provide a good pulse for the manager, but feel like they are providing marginal lift for reports.

One-on-ones are not for the manager. Often times they turn into a social chitchat. Building rapport is important, but building your reports is even more important.

[One-on-ones] should be regarded as the subordinate’s meeting, with its agenda and tone set by him

The single most important task of a manager is to elicit peak performance from his subordinates…a manager has two ways to tackle [limited performance]: through training and motivation

Paraphrased: [Determine how much feedback a person can take. It’s sometimes better to deliver only two things and know they can capably make a change, than five things that will overwhelm them]

An achiever will alternate between “meets requirements” and “exceeds requirements” rating throughout his career. [This means you are pushing them, and they are stepping up to meet the challenge.]


  1. Require more active planning from reports for our one-on-ones. Reschedule one-on-ones if not ready
  2. Spend more time on training your reports. It’s people management and professional growth management
  3. There are multiple axis of growth, make sure there are at least one or two that the report is “meets requirements” on. Broaden scope otherwise

Now, go run a better team.