Management

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

— Peter Drucker

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.

— Seneca

Get the important things right.

— N. P. Calderwood
The Eisenhower Matrix

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

What gets measured gets managed.

— Peter Drucker

Bill's dad asked each of us to write down on a piece of paper one word that would best describe what had helped us the most. Bill and I, without any collaboration at all, each wrote the word focus.

Right people at right places.

— Ray Kroc

Right process produce right results.

— The Toyota Way

80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

The law of diminishing returns states that in all productive processes, adding more of one factor of production, while holding all others constant, will at some point yield lower incremental per-unit returns. The law of diminishing returns does not imply that adding more of a factor will decrease the total production, a condition known as negative returns, though in fact this is common.

Power law is a functional relationship between two quantities, where a relative change in one quantity results in a proportional relative change in the other quantity, independent of the initial size of those quantities: one quantity varies as a power of another. For instance, considering the area of a square in terms of the length of its side, if the length is doubled, the area is multiplied by a factor of four.

First things first.

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

— Benjamin Franklin

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.

— Mike Tyson

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

In any system that relies on cooperation from a school of fish to a professional hockey team, communication is the number one key to success.

Organizations are held together by information.

— Peter Drucker

Parkinson's law of triviality is the argument that members of an organization give disproportionate weight to trivial issues. Parkinson provides the example of a fictional committee whose job was to approve the plans for a nuclear power plant spending the majority of its time on discussions about relatively minor but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bike shed, while neglecting the proposed design of the plant itself, which is far more important and a far more difficult and complex task.

In my experience, going from 1x to 10x, from 10x to 100x, and from 100x to (when Lady Luck really smiles) 1000x returns in various areas has been a product of better questions.

I do think there's a good framework for thinking. It is physics. The sort of first principles reasoning. What I mean by that is, boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy.

Things that are true are consistent.

If you state that force equals mass times acceleration, it shouldn’t matter who is measuring the force, or whether it’s Tuesday or not. Those factors aren’t part of your rules, and they shouldn’t vary the outcome.

Much of what passes for absolute statements of truth in our society are actually momentary statements of opinion. And the giveaway: It depends on who’s acting. It’s wrong when they do it, right when we do it. Which means it’s opinion, not a basic principle.

It turns out that organizations and systems are more reliable, more efficient and more professional when they’re operated on principles that are actually true.

We feel it’s better to write something up completely. This forces the floor — the person who’s making the pitch can’t be interrupted. They are guaranteed to be able to present their story completely, exactly as they wanted.

Offices have become interruption factories.

Most employees want to be productive, but the organization too often gets in their way. The average company loses more than a day each week to structures and processes that consume valuable time and prevent people from getting things done.

Second is the importance of well-established roles. Sociologists and organizational theorists have marveled for decades at the way disaster response teams or emergency room trauma units pull off complex tasks, even if they have never met before, because the division of labor is understood.

Adding human resources to a late software project makes it later.

A toothpaste factory had a problem: Due to the way the production line was set up, sometimes empty boxes were shipped without the tube inside. People with experience in designing production lines will tell you how difficult it is to have everything happen with timings so precise that every single unit coming off of it is perfect 100% of the time. Small variations in the environment (which cannot be controlled in a cost-effective fashion) mean quality assurance checks must be smartly distributed across the production line so that customers all the way down to the supermarket won’t get frustrated and purchase another product instead.

Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the toothpaste factory gathered the top people in the company together. Since their own engineering department was already stretched too thin, they decided to hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem.

The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP (request for proposal), third-parties selected, and six months (and $8 million) later a fantastic solution was delivered — on time, on budget, high quality and everyone in the project had a great time. The problem was solved by using high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box would weigh less than it should. The line would stop, and someone had to walk over and yank the defective box off the line, then press another button to re-start the line.

A short time later, the CEO decided to have a look at the ROI (return on investment) of the project: amazing results! No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the scales were put in place. There were very few customer complaints, and they were gaining market share. “That was some money well spent!” he said, before looking closely at the other statistics in the report.

The number of defects picked up by the scales was 0 after three weeks of production use. How could that be? It should have been picking up at least a dozen a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He filed a bug against it, and after some investigation, the engineers indicated the statistics were indeed correct. The scales were NOT picking up any defects, because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were good.

Perplexed, the CEO traveled down to the factory and walked up to the part of the line where the precision scales were installed. A few feet before the scale, a $20 desk fan was blowing any empty boxes off the belt and into a bin. Puzzled, the CEO turned to one of the workers who stated, “Oh, that…One of the guys put it there ’cause he was tired of walking over every time the bell rang”.

- Unknown

Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.