What is the development theory that Steve Jobs used to develop the Apple II computer? Do you think that when Thomas Edison invented and mass-produced the light bulb, and many other inventions, he was thinking about what project development model to apply? What model was on the mind of Henry Ford when he revolutionized the automotive industry (besides the model T)?
If you have great visionary leaders who have a good understanding of the market, and talented people who master the state-of-the-art technology, with a bit of luck, you can develop a best-in-class product, and disrupt the market, without the need for any management/development theory. Following your success, people (not as smart as your people) will try to extract lessons from your good practices, theorize them, and sell them to other companies as remedies to their problems. Good practices will always help to improve the outcome, but will never fix the problem of narrow-minded leadership and unmotivated people.
This sets the ground for the sequel.
The development of a product/software comprises the following key activities:
Title: Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries Author: Safi Bahcall Publication Date: 2019 Recommendation Score: 4.5/5
Safi Bahcall is an entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in physics. In his book “Loonshots” he tries to apply the principle of physics to innovation in business ventures. The book is inspired by two success stories in recent American history 1) the turnaround of the Bell Telephone Company, led by Theodore Vail, during the first decade of the 20th century which resulted in creating the Bell Labs, 2) and by the efforts of Vannevar Bush to improve the technology of the US army during the second world war.
The author states that for an organization to nurture innovation, the following conditions should be met:
Phase Separation and Dynamic Equilibrium
Create phase separation and dynamic equilibrium: to separate the artists, who want to create crazy technology, from soldiers whose discipline ensures that the technology is being implemented efficiently (quality, cost, time). And create a continuous exchange of ideas, information, and people between the two groups (dynamic equilibrium) to allow the transfer of technology from the innovation phase to the implementation phase, and to allow the transfer of field experience to innovators.
The Leader as a Gardener
Innovation leaders should be like gardeners: their role is to balance between the two groups and to manage the transfer between them. Not to intervene as soldiers, nor to contribute as artists. And leaders should love their artists and soldiers equally.
Robert Iger had been the CEO of the Walt Disney Company for 15 years. In his book “The Ride of a Lifetime”, Iger tells his story from humble beginnings to global fame. In hindsight, the author tries to extract some lessons for successful leadership. The book is pleasant to read. Its storytelling is enjoyable. It gives you insights into how the life of a CEO looks like.
I recommend it: enjoy the story and take the lessons with a grain of salt.
Leadership is not an exact science, and most books dealing with it are a waste of time. The best thing about “The Ride of a Lifetime” is the no-nonsense approach to leadership; the author tells you what has worked for him and what has not. There are no references to (HBS) academic theories, nor pseudo-scientific studies. When I finished reading the book, the impression I had was that leadership is all about being trustworthy, emotionally aware, and able to take bold risks.
The author starts the first chapter by “This book is not a memoir”, as he wants it to be a book of lessons. I disagree. Iger is trying to connect the dots backward and to make sense of past events. This process is very risky, especially when based on one person’s perspective. It is prone to the hindsight bias; when we try to find causality between correlated events where there might be none. The author admits the role of chance at the end of the book, but convey the message that the traits that served him well are the reason for his achievements. This is why I think that the lessons should be taken with a grain of salt. Some problems have no unique solution. Again, leadership is not an exact science.
Projects go over-budget and over-schedule; small ones, like renovating your kitchen, and huge ones, like constructing the Sydney Opera House. One main reason is our overconfident optimistic approach to planning. Behavioral psychologists call this the “Planning Fallacy“.
This post defines the concept of planning fallacy, gives examples of its consequences on some global projects, and provides some tips to mitigate it.
The Planning Fallacy
The planning fallacy is when we underestimate the time and resources needed to complete a project. We are often optimistic about our performance and the outcome of the project, so we take our desires for real plans.
The planning fallacy is a cognitive bias that fools our decision-making ability into considering the best-case scenario. It has a somewhat positive side, which is risk-taking. This cognitive bias allows us to take both small risks, such as opening a small business, and huge risks such as starting a war.
Catastrophic Project Plans
The following chart presents some major projects around the globe that went catastrophically over-budget. Notice the trend; the bigger the project, the higher the overbudget.
Becoming a manager is a stressful, yet rewarding, experience. Beginners in management often fail in their first role. This is mainly because of their misconceptions about what it means to be the boss. In this post, you will find the main misconceptions about management, reality, and tips for successful leadership. The main misconceptions of the new managers are:
I can rely on the same skills that led me to the management role.
Being a manager means I am more independent.
Formal authority is a source of power.
Results delivery requires controlling people.
I must build relationships with individual subordinates.
I will make sure that the operation will keep running smoothly.
1 – Be a leader. Don’t be a star.
Myth: I can rely on the same skills that led me to my new role.
Reality: The required skills to be a successful manager are completely different. You learn them mostly by experience. You need to put your emotional intelligence at work.
Tip: Prepare yourself for the management role before you take it. If you already are a manager, it is never too late. Learn and practice.
2 – Stay humble, you can’t do whatever you want
Myth: Now I can implement my brilliant plans. I can change everything.
Reality: You are tied with a complex chain of interactions. You discover that someone who works for you could get you fired.
Tip: Build your network inside the organization. Learn how to negotiate and influence. Understand the interdependencies and stay humble.
3 – Don’t rely on your formal authority. You must earn it.
Myth: My position is a source of power.
Reality: You can’t be more wrong. It will surprise you that people will not give you respect and trust you for your formal authority, you need to earn it.
Tip: Demonstrate competence (listen more than talk), character (your willingness to do the right thing) and influence in the organization.
The more talented the subordinate, the less likely he/she is to follow orders.
4 – Don’t seek compliance. Seek commitment.
Myth: I must get compliance from my subordinates. I am in charge; I control.
Reality: More often than not, direct reports will not respond when you tell them to do something.
Tip: Build commitment by empowering individuals to achieve team goals. Don’t use orders.
Stress is the response of your body to challenge. Your level of stress predicts your performance in your job and your relationships. On the one hand, high levels of stress would cause strong anxiety, exhaustion, and impaired performance. On the other hand, low levels of stress would result in boredom, inactivity, and disengagement.
You need an optimal amount of stress to perform at your best. In psychology, this is known as the Yerkes–Dodson law, depicted in the figure below.
If you are a manager or a leader, make sure that your people are experiencing the optimal level of stress to stay engaged, motivated and at their best performance.