Break All the Rules [summary]

  1. do i know what to do?
  2. do I have the tools?
  3. can I do my best?
  4. – do I get praise?
  5. – does someone care about me?
  6. – does someone encourage me?
  7. – do my opinions matter?
  8. does company mission make my job meaningful?
  9. are coworkers commited to quality?
  10. do I have a best friend?
  11. in 6 months, have we talked about my progress?
  12. in last 1 year, have I seen growth opportunities?

Apart from word usage, effective communication combines some major skills including

  • engaged listening,
  • nonverbal communication,
  • management of stress at the moment, and
  • assertion of self in a respectful way. (Principles of marketing, 2010)

Collateral is printed or digital material salespeople use to support their message. It can consist of brochures, position papers, case studies, clinical studies, market studies, and other documents. (Principles of marketing, 2010)

  • select for talent, not experience, intelligence, or determination
  • set expectations by setting outcomes, not processes
  • motivate by highlighting strengths, not weaknesses
  • develop an employee for the right fit, not for the next rung on the ladder.

AIDA model: attention, interest, desire, action.

So what is tough love? How does it work? The “tough” part is easy to explain. Because great managers use excellence as their frame of reference when assessing performance, Tough love simply implies that they do not compromise on this standard.

I should work for the benefit of others. Even QA – they think they do important work, so let them think this way. Let me be an instrument in helping them feel better about their work, to do the work better.

To “care” means to “set the person up for success.”

Customer satisfaction is: (1) accuracy, (2) availability, (3) partnership, and (4) advice.

The University of Minneapolis textbook is very good. Some things in it are not enough detailed, some are wrong (for example, the customer satisfaction segment is uneventful. I drew so much more inspiration from “First, break all the rules”. That book said, the customer satisfaction has four components to it: (1) the offering must be accurate, e.g. if the toothpaste claims to clean teeth, it should clean teeth; (2) the offering must be available and timely, e.g. if I’m going to a restaurant to eat, there should be a table ready for me; (3) the offering must give the customer a sense of partnership with the company, e.g. I have a portable espresso maker and I really enjoy that it was invented and that I have it, it improves my life; and (4) the offering should advise the customer on how to improve her life (and that is the point of most products, to improve customer life). E.g., amazon advices on products, and google maps advices on best driving routes. (Buckingham, Coffman, 2016). Given these four principles, the customer should be satisfied. It is understandable also that partnership and advice are advanced topics, and the company’s profitability may come before that. I think this is a deeper insight than what the bus 5112 textbook said, which was basically, “customer should be satisfied.”

Investing in their best was, first, the fairest thing to do; second, the best way to learn; and, third, the only way to stay focused on excellence.

There are only three possible routes to helping the person succeed. Devise a support system. Find a complementary partner. Or find an alternative role.

Broadbanding is a vital weapon in the arsenal of great managers. (This has to do with pay structure.)

The Four Keys (again):

  1. select for talent
  2. define the right outcomes
  3. focus on strengths
  4. find the right fit

When interviewing for talent, ask open-ended questions:

  • How closely do you think people should be supervised?
  • What do you enjoy most about selling?
  • Tell me about a time you overcame resistance to your ideas
  • How do you feel when someone doubts what you have to say?

Recent research into adult learning reveals that students stay in school longer and learn more if they are expected to direct and record their progress. These four characteristics—simplicity, frequent interaction, focus on the future, and self-tracking—are the foundation for a successful “per formance management” routine.

The strengths interview:

  1. What did you enjoy most about your previous work experience? What brought you here? (If an existing employee) What keeps you here?
  2. What do you think your strengths are? (skills, knowledge, talent)
  3. What about your weaknesses?
  4. What are your goals for your current role? (Ask for scores and timelines)
  5. How often do you like to meet with me to discuss your progress? Are you the kind of person who will tell me how you are feeling, or will I have to ask?
  6. Do you have any personal goals or commitment you would like to tell me about?
  7. What is the best praise you have ever received? What made it so good?
  8. Have you had any really productive partnerships or mentors? Why do you think these relationships worked so well for you?
  9. What are your future growth goals, your career goals? Are there any particular skills you want to learn? Are there some specific challenges you want to experience? How can I help?
  10. Is there anything else you want to talk about that might help us work well together?

Performance Planning Meeting

  • What actions have you taken?
  • What discoveries have you made?
  • What partnerships have you built?

Then, direct the discussion towards the future:

  • What is your main focus?
  • What new discoveries are you planning?
  • What new partnerships are you hoping to build?

If you hate your job, it’s probably due to your manager. Not the benefits, perks, or the work itself.

We have said that an employee may join a company because of its prestige and reputation, but that his relationship with his immediate man ager determines how long he stays and how productive he is while he is there. We have said that the manager is the critical player in turning each employee’s talent into performance. We have said that managers trump companies.

Core: Tools for Gaining Focus

One of the tricks is to gain motivation velocity. (You need to use Belief trait to enable this.) When you know you want/need to increase your operational speed and focus, but it’s difficult for you to focus on the specific problem at hand (it’s a bias – see #Catch22.5, where you literally cannot work on the one thing you need to work on). Then, do something that is (a) unrelated, and (b) you can do pretty easily. Maybe something physical – like working out for 5 minutes, if you have your mobile workout setup (See #MobileWorkout). I usually find that I can carry the focus from the simpler task, to the more difficult one.

Also, this process can be long-term. You can help yourself for the current task at hand, but also doing this consistently for months and years will have a different kind of benefit: a unique flexibility in directing your focus.

I also find it useful to rotate 3 tasks (I’m researching the optimal number of tasks). That is, when you are doing one task and get stuck, switch to the other task for a while, and then switch back to the first one. Maybe two tasks “at once” (but see #NoMultitasking for a corollary) is ideal? Maybe 3 or 4? Maybe it depends on the person. Let me know what you think in the comments!


I’m a highly technical person and science plays a big role in my life and work, and it’s perhaps surprizing that I mention faith – but it’s true, faith has a place in my definition of personal corporate culture.

You have to do the best you can. You have to be on top of your game, at all times (and especially at crunch time or competition time). And remember the split-second rule: you only have a splitsecond to make a decision, and every mistake can make or break a task.

But what we are doing is developing ourselves, so that we are great. And from that, the success comes almost automatically. So we are not pursuing success as much as we pursue self-actualization, and success is a by-product of being on top of your game. That’s where faith and belief comes in. I’m a highly technical person and science plays a big role in my life and work, and it’s perhaps surprizing that I mention faith – but it’s true, faith has a place in my definition of personal corporate culture. You have to believe that success will come. You have to believe that small actions that you take and don’t seem to receive a rewad – eventually, the totality of your “correct” actions brings about success. It’s a bit of a leap because it’s entirely possible that a sequence of all the correct actions, still doesn’t bring success. You can make no mistakes, and still fail ([insert quite, image]), that’s the nature of the open market. The leap then is the leap of faith: the belief that eventually, the totality of correct actions brings about success. Whatever your definition of success might be.

Definition of Priority Codes ( P0, P1, P2, P3, P4 ) in Technical Development

I thought this topic is clear, but I’ve run into this again very recently. Since so much conflicting information is going around, let’s iterate once again on what the priority codes should mean. I’m drawing this originally from Jira definitions  – I think that’s where i saw it first, and it is the most sensible.

  • P0 – the work stops, site is down
  • P1 – unblock someone else, required to be done before other things
  • P2 – ordinary flow of work
  • P3 – nice to have, but not required
  • P4 – informational only

I recently saw another definition coming from a more “senior” individual, and it almost made sense, until it didn’t. At which time I stopped and re-evaluated the definitions for myself, once again. The faulty definition was:

  • (DO NOT USE)
  • P0 – the work stops
  • P1 – the task affects customers
  • P2 – the task affects customers, but there is a non-technical workaround solution
  • P3 – the task doesn’t affect customers
  • P4 – informational / never used
  • (DO NOT USE)

The problem with the faulty definition is that everything is P1, and nothing can really be escalated to P0. P4 is completely useless, and junior PM’s and developers would usually create P3’s (the default in Jira), positioning themselves for a need to clarify or shift priorities, etc.

Another thing to note. The priority definitions are technical. They aren’t written with customers in mind – there are multiple layers between devs and customers, and the priority codes are for developers more than anyone else.

The default code is P2. If the work doesn’t need to be done, save the resources and time and don’t do it; change the priority to P3. If there is a change that a task needs to be done sooner rather than later, bump it to P1. And the P4 is effectively never used, because informational stuff resides in wikis and other communication channels..

Live Systems

Everything changes. And change works – life itself has proven that.

In technology, you would think that since computers are very good at repeating something very exactly over and over again, things in the digital world sometimes wouldn’t change… But they do. They have to. There is somethign called digital rot – everything rots if it doesn’t change. Relationships rot (try not talking to a close friend for a week), tools rot (who uses myspace anymore?), and if a digital offering doesn’t undergo continuous change, it gets left behind and dies off. So you have to change, and your products and services have to evolve, or be left to “die.”

What teaches us also is that a good media service has to be updated very regularly. Preferably every day. If something is not happening in a channel for a day, it’ll start losing popularity. So you have to continue innovating, continue generating content, and be more varied and precisely match what current trends are set by the market. It’s a hard job, but it’s the only way to survive (and prosper).

The good news is that if you are very new, if you’re just starting out, the continuous change aspect of things doesn’t disadvantage you, on the contrary! As something new on the field, your product/service has room to grow, you haven’t figured everything out so there is very much room for change, and change is often good. So it’s a natural way to level the playing field: the newcomers have this edge over the old-timers, in that the newcomers will necessarily change.

8 hours a day

This way you can be good at it, and once you’re good, you can work on being great (which is again 8 hours a day). If you can do it for more than 8 hours – awesome, but that’s not a requirement.

8 hours a day. The path to greatness, quite simply, is doing something for 8 hours a day. This way you can be good at it, and once you’re good, you can work on being great (which is again 8 hours a day). If you can do it for more than 8 hours – awesome, but that’s not a requirement.

Do you have to have a natural disposition, a talent for it, in order to be great? No. Certainly you don’t need it to be good. Talent helps, but there are many people with unrealized talents walking past you on the streets every day. It’s the perseverance and time commitment that counts – not actual talent.

Note that this implies that you can’t give up. If you fail to succeed… try again. Failing to succeed at something for a month does not give you the right to give up. Use balief (see “belief”, the definition of the tool) to determine the goal that you’re pursuing, and then pursue it consistently until you’ve gotten it.

In the course of this you may discover that you don’t want to be good at it anymore. Up close the goal didn’t look the same as from the distance. Again, use belief to continue working on it (getting from good to great). It is helpful to determine at the very beginning, and promise yourself – what is it that once you achieve it you won’t back out of? Make that decision at the beginning, and when you want to back out, remember that decision being made in the beginning. Because if you back out of your own success you will be lost.

On Health, Sports, and Personal Efficiency

Here we emphasize that doing physical training has a number of positive effects, not achievable elsewhere.

Being healthy lets you live longer. That’s a good thing; live is generally a pleasant thing, and much better than the alternative.

Being healthy is also cheaper. Having medical issues may turn out to be very expensive – especially as one gets older and puts a lot of mileage on the body.

Physical training helps compete in cognitive tasks. Being physically agile makes you mentally agile. Increased metabolism improves blood circulation to the brain, enabling better work.

Overall, it’s a time saving, rather than time cost, to work out or participate in sports. My favourite one is jiu jitsu – it’s very intellectually stimulating, and it doubles as a self-defense mechanism. But you can do anything else, from soccer to basketball to running.

Perceptual Control Theory

A Book Recommendation. This book by William Powers offers a complete basic theory of psychology – and a very interesting one at that.

‘Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) is both the name of the theory and the name of a book by William Powers. I have found it immensely interesting and intuitive, a good way of explaining why people take actions that they do. This book definitely takes a spot on my shelf of recommended reading. Buy in on Amazon.

An example, from Wikipedia: A simple negative feedback control system is a cruise control system for a car. A cruise control system has a sensor which “perceives” speed as the rate of spin of the drive shaft directly connected to the wheels. It also has a driver-adjustable ‘goal’ specifying a particular speed. The sensed speed is continuously compared against the specified speed by a device (called a “comparator”) which subtracts the currently sensed input value from the stored goal value. The difference (the error signal) determines the throttle setting (the accelerator depression), so that the engine output is continuously varied to prevent the speed of the car from increasing or decreasing from that desired speed as environmental conditions change. This type of classical negative feedback control was worked out by engineers in the 1930s and 1940s.

Another example is inverse kinematics, used in 3D animation as well as robot control. You have the goal: for example, a “wrist” movement, and the system that senses and affects things to reach that goal.

Overall, I think the concepts of this theory are super useful both for personal development as a human, and for building digital systems.

PMBA – A review

The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman is a great book all around, and is likely to help you with personal efficiency, self-actualization and achieving personal goals.

MBA as taught in schools has several areas of study: finance & accounting, leadership & management, marketing & strategy, technology & operations. Kaufman in this book gives accurate insights into what goes into MBA education, as well as what goes into the practical applications of such.

The book’s website is and of course you can buy it on Amazon.

Tight Feedback Loops in Agile Management

The importance of feedback loops in agile management and development

I deal in technology a lot, so my monologue on the topic is technology-centric.

There are several feedback loops that are worth looking over. (1) The feedback from developer to manager; (2) the feedback from user to developer.

It’s worth noting that the closer/tighter the feedback loop is, the more value it brings. Being able to expose errors and omissions, from user back to the developer who actually fixes the problem – the faster it happens, the less time is wasted, the faster overall development takes place.