HBR Video: Reinventing Performance Management

I stumbled across this today at hbr.com.  It covers the process that Deloitte used to revamp its internal review process.  It was forced to make the change because its previous process had the following issues:

Performance Management Issues

  • Annual process wasn’t timely.
  • Goals changed throughout the year.
  • Inconsistent skills ratings from one person to another.
  • The process took thousands of hours and didn’t produce very good results.

Qualities of High Performing Teams:

  • A change to use your strengths every day
  • Inspiring Mission
  • Coworkers commitment to quality

New process focuses on four future statements.  Managers are asked to mark how much they agree with these statements:

  • I would reward this person the highest possible increase and bonus.
  • I would always want this person on the team.
  • This person is at risk for low performance.
  • This person is ready for promotion today.

Deloitte’s research shows a direct correlation between the frequency of conversations and the engagement of team members.

Weekly Check-ins:

  • Set Expectations
  • Review Priorities
  • Comment on Work

Deloitte’s new performance management focuses on

  • See performance accurately.
  • Reward it Accordingly.
  • To inspire better performance in the future.

The system is designed to focus on future performance, not past performance.

Reading Notes: Creativity Inc: Understanding the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Author: Ed Catmull

Format: Audible

Subject: Culture

Rating: 10/10


This book is very much the story of Pixar.  Which is a story that I found very enjoyable in itself.  But, the book also contains a lot of ingredients that make the company such a success.  Catmull, who is one Pixar’s co-founders, does an excellent job sharing his experiences over the decades long time frame the book covers.

Catmull believes that creative problem solving is critical for businesses is any industry.  The book outlines the process of making creativity a part of an organizations daily culture.

A hallmark of a healthy and creative culture is that people feel free to express ideas, opinions, and criticisms.  The word honesty carries baggage that can hold people back. So, encourage candor over honesty.  Pixar puts smart people in a room together to solve problems, and encourages them to use candor in their conversations with one another.  They refer to these meetings as a Brain Trust.

An Effective Feedback system is built on empathy; an idea, that we are in this together.  The purpose of feedback is to move the process forward.  Effective feedback requires candor, trust, and empathy.  A note is a good way to give feedback.  A good note is timely and specific, it should inspire,  it clarifies what is wrong or missing, it doesn’t have to include a fix to the problem, and it makes no demands.

Catmull also stresses the importance of “Getting the Team Right.”  He believes that great teams are far more important than great ideas.  He also encourages managers to hire people that are smarter than they are and have a lot of potential. (“hire for potential, not the past.”)  Find, develop, and support good people.    A good team is made up of people who complement each other.   Understand the mix of talent in the group, match the right people with the right task.


What I like most about the book:  

I really enjoyed listening to the many challenges that were overcome while making Pixar hits such as  Toy Story, Up, Monsters Inc.

Favorite Quotes:

  • The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
  • Quality is the best business plan.
  • If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.
  • You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.
  • Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.
  • Don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share them with others. Show early and show often. It’ll be pretty when we get there, but it won’t be pretty along the way.
  • Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.
  • If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it.
  • What is the point of hiring smart people, we asked, if you don’t empower them to fix what’s broken?
  • You don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility.
  • Be patient. Be authentic. And be consistent. The trust will come.
  • It is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.
  • If there are people in your organization who feel they are not free to suggest ideas, you lose.
  • Societal conditioning discourages telling the truth to those perceived to be in higher positions.
  • There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convicted you are right.
  • Measure what you can, evaluate what you measure, and appreciate that you cannot measure the vast majority of what you do.

CNBC interview with Bill Belichick

The greatest coach of all time doesn’t spend a lot of time giving interviews, so this is definitely worth a watch.

Quotes from the Interview:

  • “Every battle is won before it is fought.” – Sun Tzu
  • “A battle plan is great until you go into battle, then it doesn’t mean anything.” – General Dwight Eisenhower
  • “Don’t be afraid to use a good idea.”
  • “Good players can’t overcome bad coaching. It’s impossible”


Piercing Conversations and Conversational Capacity

I had the privilege to attend a local Vistage meeting as a guest this morning.  The speaker was Craig Weber and the topic was about piercing conversations and conversational capacity.  Weber is an engaging speaker and did an excellent job of educating the group on the concept of conversational capacity.

The idea behind conversational capacity is that for any given group of people, there is a list of topics and / or issues that we could rank from most difficult at the top to the easiest at the bottom.  If we started at the bottom of the list the group could have productive conversations and proactively solve issues.  But as we work our way to the top of the list, the group will eventually stall out and become unproductive.  The higher up the list a given group can productively converse is a measure of its conversational capacity.

Weber states that when conversations get difficult most people tend to begin either “minimize” the conflict or trying to “win” the conflict.  The problem is that these two behaviors are unlikely to lead to the best possible outcomes.  And the most effective teams will find a way to operate in the “sweet spot” which is the middle ground between minimizing and winning.

After explaining the concept, Weber went on to provide some tips on how to build the conversational capacity in our given groups.

Tips for Maintaining the Correct Mindset in Meetings:

  • Ask yourself, “What am I seeing that others are missing?”
  • Ask yourself, “What are we all missing?  What are our blind-spots?”
  • Ask yourself, “What do others see on this issue that I don’t?”

Actions for effective decision making:

  • State your Position.
  • Explain your thinking.
  • Test your hypothesis:  “What am I missing?”
  • Inquiry

Common behaviors of Minimizers:

  • Passive body language.
  • Withholding their concerns.
  • Asking leading questions in an effort to backdoor their positions.
  • Feigning agreement.
  • Emailing opposing ideas as opposed to face-to-face conversations.

Common behaviors of Winners:

  • Aggressive body language.
  • No inquiry into opposing ideas or positions.
  • Dismissive of others ideas.
  • Stating opinions as fact.
  • Use of hyperbole.
  • Asking leading questions in order to sabotage other persons position.

Other interesting ideas and quotes from the presentation

  • Management’s business is building an organization that works!
  • Authority figures should generally weigh in last.
  • Your ego is the biggest enemy to your conversational capacity.
  • “Be that as it may,” is a very sophisticated way of saying “Whatever!”
  • A drowning person might know that they are drowning, but that is no substitute for knowing how to swim.
  • Most often in life, in order to actually get smarter, we have to feel dumber first.
  • The job of the executive is to to be right at the end of the meeting, not at the beginning of the meeting.

Harley Davidson Decision Levels:

  1. Top Down – No input required.
  2. Consultative – My Decision, but I want input.
  3. Consensus – Group Decision, and group input needed.

Reading Notes: Traction–Get a Grip on Your Business

eos-systemAuthor:  Gino Wickman

Format: Hardback

Subject:  Business Management

Rating: 8/10


Traction is an instructional manual that documents the Entrepreneurial Operating System or EOS.  EOS is designed to allow business leaders  maintain traction toward the company’s vision.  I actually read it the book in November 2015 as I prepared to start as CFO for Staley Inc.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and EOS process, and have since gone on to participate in local round tables on the EOS implementation process.  I am convinced that I would be twice as successful as I am today if I had read this book ten years sooner.

The concept of Rocks would have been very beneficial to several of my colleagues in past jobs.  The ability to prioritize efforts around a long-term vision is easy to understand.  But many managers have a difficult time accepting  that it means allowing other issues to fester until a later date.

Six Parts of the EOS System.

  • Vision:  Successful business owners have compelling visions for their organizations and diligently communicate those visions to ensure that everyone one in the organization has a clear image of where the company is going and how it is going to get there.
  • People:  Successful leaders surround themselves with great people.  You can’t build a great company without great help.
  • Data:  The best leaders rely on a handful of metrics to help manage their business which frees you from the quagmire of managing personalities, egos, subjective issues, emotions.
  • Issues:  Issues are obstacles that must be faced to execute your vision. Just as an individual’s success is directly proportionate to his or her ability to solve any issues that arise, the same holds true for a company.

Issues should be documented on one of three list until they are resolved.

VTO Issues List: Issue that are not a priority for this quarter

Leadership Team Issues List:  Tactical issues that must be solved this week or quarter, and that must be solved at the highest level in the company.

Departmental Issues List.  All Tactical issues that live at the department level.

  • Process:  Processes are your way of doing business.  Successful organizations see their way and constantly refine it.  This is the most neglected of the Six Key Components.
  • Traction:  In the end, the most successful business leaders are the ones with traction.  They execute well and they know how to bring focus, accountability and discipline to their organization.

Successful companies make use of the Vision, Traction, Organizer, or VTO:

  1. What are your core values?
  2. What is your core focus (also known as Vision Statement, Mission Statement, Sweet Spot…)?
  3. What is your 10-year target (or long-term strategy)?
  4. What is your marketing strategy?
    1. 3 Uniques
    2. Your Proven Process
    3. Your Guarantee
    4. Target Market
  5. What is your 3-year focus (short-term strategy)?
  6. One is your 1-year plan? (tactics)
  7. What are your quarterly rocks?  Company Level
  8. What are your issues?   Company Level

Accountability Chart:  An organizational chart that lays out all of the positions in the company along with their Core Responsibilities

Right People in the Right Seats:

  • Right People = Core Values + People Analyzer
  • Right Seats = Unique Abilities + Accountability Chart

Rocks:  Are short time priorities that help you achieve your vision.  Establish the 3-7 most important priorities that must be done in the next 90 days.  These priorities are called rocks.  The company has rocks. The leadership team has rocks, and team members have rocks.   The primary purpose is to help focus the organization, and to break the habit of trying to focus on everything at once.

L10 Meeting (Level 10):  Meetings with a specific agenda that are held with the same people, in the same space, and at the same time each week:

L10 Agenda:

  • Check-in
  • Review Rocks
  • Review Scorecard
  • Announcements
  • Issues Solving
  • Score the Meeting

Reading Notes: The One Minute Manager

One Minute Manager Management Philosophy
One Minute Management Philosophy

Authors:  Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

Format: Audible

Subject:  Management

Rating: 9/10


It took me far to long to get around to reading this gem of a book.  Its written in a narrative format and does an excellent job of both telling and showing the “Minute Manager” philosophy.  The focus of the book is coaching the team to grow and perform at their best.  The philosophy consists of three key parts:  One Minute Goal Setting, One Minute Praisings, and One Minute Reprimands.

One Minute Goal Setting serves as the foundation for One Minute Management and the authors rely heavily on the Pareto Principle, that 80% of the results come from 20% of your goals.  The One Minute Goal Setting Process is outlined below:

  1.  Agree on the specifics of the goal.
  2. Define what success looks like.
  3. Write out the goals on a single sheet of paper.
  4. Re-read each goal regularly, which should only take a minute per goal.
  5. Set aside a minute several times per day to review your actions and verify they align with your goal.
  6. Tell people that you will provide feedback about how they are doing.

One Minute Praisings This is the second tool in the One Minute Manager’s toolkit.  The idea is to build positive reinforcement when somebody is caught doing something right.  When people feel good about themselves, they produce good results.  Here are the steps for a One Minute Praising:

  1. Praise people immediately, be specific about what they are doing right, how good it makes you feel about what they did right, and how its helps the organization.
  2. Pause for a moment to allow them to reflect.
  3. Encourage them to continue the behavior, and give them a pat on the back.

One Minute Reprimands  This is the final piece in the One Minute Manager’s arsenal.  The purpose of the reprimand is to keep the person and lose the behavior.  It is the counterpart of the One Minute Praising, and it consists of two parts:

Part 1

  1. Reprimand people immediately.
  2. Be specific about the behaviors they did wrong, tell them how it makes you feel.  Focus the reprimand on their behaviors, not the individual.
  3. Pause for a few seconds and let them fell how you feel.

Part 2

  1. Shake hands and re-ensure them that you are on their side.
  2. Remind them how much you value them, but not their performance in this situation.

Aha Moment:

When it comes to getting the most of their team, companies have three options:

1) Hire All-Stars (very expensive and difficult)

2) Hire somebody with potential and then train them up

3) pray.

Favorite One Minute Manager Quotes:

I care about people and results. They go hand in hand.

“if you can’t tell me what you’d like to be happening, you don’t have a problem yet. You’re just complaining.”

“A problem only exists if there is a difference between what is actually happening and what you desire to be happening.

“Take A Minute: Look At Your Goals, Look At Your Performance. See If Your Behavior Matches Your Goals.”

“If you are first tough on the behavior, then then supportive of the person, it works.”

Reading Notes: Getting Things Done

Author: David Allen

Format: Audible / Kindle

Narrated By: David Allen

Subject: Productivity

Rating: 8/10


Getting Things Done has transformed the way I conduct my life, which really says a lot.  The book itself describes a system for dealing with the immense variety of activities, commitments, and projects we each struggle to juggle in our daily lives.  The system is built around 5 key steps: Capturing, Clarifying, Organizing, Reflecting, and Engaging.  The purpose of the system is to get all of your obligations out of your mind and into a known centralized location in the form of lists, which should allow you to have a “mind like water,” and more capable of being in the moment.  It should also allow you to have the ability to spend your time working on the activities that you can possibly complete in any given situation.  This system is a lot like Chess in the fact that it takes a moment to learn, and a lifetime to master.

In the three or so weeks since I started reading the book I have made the following progress:

  • My Physical In Box at work is habitually empty (this doesn’t mean I have completed all of the work and don’t have any pending action items.)
  • My Email In-Box is also habitually empty (see above.)
  • I have adopted contextual list-taking as a way of life.
  • Actively adopting checklist for repetitive activities in my life.
  • I have noticed an uptick in my productivity and less loose-ends across the full spectrum that is my life.
  • My mind wanders less when I am in meetings and having conversations.

That last bullet point is a substantial benefit.  Having said that, I found my mind constantly wandering to projects, ideas, and activities as I worked my way through the book because I found it very difficult to digest the information without trying to apply it to my life.  So that was a bit of a viscous cycle.  I will definitely keep a copy of this book for reference.

What I liked Most About the Book:  Seeing my empty In-Box, and the focus on defining the “Next Action.”

What I liked Least About the Book:  The information tends to become more and more repetitive as you read through the book.  All in all, Getting Things Done book reads much like a textbook which to be fair, it pretty much is.

Illustrates the Getting Things Done process.

Reading Notes: The FIVE Dysfunctions of a TEAM

The pyramid of the Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Author:  Patrick Lencioni

Format: Audible

Narrated By: Charles Stransky

Subject: Teamwork / Leadership

Rating: 8/10


The Five Dysfunctions of a team covers the basic issues that stop otherwise successful people from leading a company.  These issues are revealed and solved through a fictional tale of a new CEO, Catherine Petersen, who takes over a struggling Tech company that should be wiping the floor with its competition.  She spends the lion-share of her time focusing on getting her leadership team to work together to achieve results as opposed to merely just existing together.  She accomplishes this by educating the team of its dysfunctions, and ultimately helping it to overcome them.

What I liked about the book: 

The book is written as a fable as opposed to a reference manual.

Part of the book that most applied to me:  

It helped me develop a better understanding of the need of conflict in teams.


  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team according to the book:
    • Absence of trust—unwilling to be vulnerable within the group.
    • Fear of conflict—seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate.
    • Lack of commitment—feigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization.
    • Avoidance of accountability—ducking the responsibility to call peers on counterproductive behavior which sets low standards.
    • Inattention to results—focusing on personal success, status and ego before team success.
  • Not everyone who started on the leadership team, stayed on the leadership team.