Intel’s Andy Grove: How Should a Manager Be Measured?

High Output Management [Andy Grove]

High Output Management [Andy Grove]

At MindFire, we’re experimenting with using Objectives & Key Results (OKRs), which I wrote about here, to provide a clear set of objectives and key results to define “success.”  OKRs have been used at many companies, including Intel during Andy Grove‘s tenure.

During the process of researching how OKRs were used at Intel,  I re-read Andy Grove’s “High Output Management in the hopes of picking up other insights.

I highly recommend the book, as it gives direct insight into the mind of Andy Grove (who by many measures, must have done something right).

In the book, Andy looks at the role of a manager, and asks questions about how a manager should be measured.  He argues that it is not the manager’s output which is the key result — rather, that the output of a manager is the result achieved by a group either under his supervision or under his influence.

Simple stated:

Managers are responsible for (and should be measured by) the output of their direct reports, and for the output of the people that report to their direct reports.

In terms of output, how do you think a manager should be measured?  Do you agree with Andy’s view?

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Confession: I’m Ashamed of This

We’ve had an unresolved bug floating around for the past few months.  Last week, an affected Client asked me to intervene.

At least half a dozen smart people have tried to nail it down, and while we’ve made some progress, it’s certainly not closed from the Client’s perspective (nor mine).  It continues to hang around.

It irks me that we haven’t been able to put the sucker to rest.

Yesterday, I’ve asked one of our team members to own the problem.  As we sat down to discuss next steps, I felt compelled to share the following:

  1. I begin endeavors with the belief that if there’s a will, there’s a way.  I shared this because I wanted to make sure he believed it was possible to solve the problem.   (If you think something is impossible, it most likely will be…)
  2. I am driven towards taking on challenges others have failed to solve.  If someone tells me a task is impossible, something ignites inside me, and I go berserk as I set my mind to the problem.  In the case of this bug, I could feel my switch turning on.

I’m OK with #1.

What I think is unhealthy about #2 is why I feel compelled to take on the challenge: I do it not only to address the issue, but to show the other person that I can (and implicitly, that they couldn’t).

I confess that solving a challenge others have failed at feeds my ego.

Don’t get me wrong: at times, this trait has come in handy (when it is channeled in a productive way).  But I’m worried that this feeling reflects something darker about my personality … something icky I’m not proud of.

Question: Is this behavior unhealthy? Why or why not?  Why do we sometimes feel the need to show our superiority over others?  Leave me your thoughts in the comments.

Engineer Fired For Outsourcing Himself To China

The 4-Hour Workweek

The 4-Hour Workweek: Inspiration for an engineer outsourcing himself to China?

If you’ve read the 4-Hour Work Week, you know that one of the key concepts is outsourcing routine or repetitive work to Virtual Assistants. Timothy Ferriss calls it “geoarbitrage”, which is a fancy way of saying that you can benefit from the fact that what costs $60 dollars an hour in the US is $12 elsewhere.

In the book, Tim suggests that geoarbitrage is a great way to build a lifestyle business — one that can eventually free you from your day job.

Well, here’s a brilliant guy who has taken this idea to the next level. His name is Bob (not his real name), but get this: Bob is believed to have outsourced his own full-time job to a Chinese sub-contractor.

With his free time, he surfed the web and took it easy.

According to this article on The Register, Bob caught got because his company noticed that he was regularly logging in from Shenyang, China.

They probably thought, WTF?  (I’m thinking WTF — is this story true!?)

Allegedly, Bob is said to have FedExed his two-factor authentication token to a Chinese programmer, and was paying 1/5 of his 6-figure salary — freeing Bob up to spend the rest of his time taking it easy.

Believe it or not, here’s Bob’s typical schedule:

  • 9:00 AM: Get to work, surf Reddit for a few hours, and watch cat videos
  • 11:30 AM: Eat lunch
  • 1:00 PM: Spend time on eBay
  • 2:00 PM: Do some Facebook updates, visit LinkedIn
  • 4:30 PM: Send an end-of-day update via email to management
  • 5:00 PM: Leave the office

Apparently, this was working out pretty well. Bob’s performance reviews showed him as a top engineer for many quarters.

It gets better.  It turns out that Bob had also taken jobs with other companies, and had outsourced that work as well. Allegedly, he was netting hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit.

Wait, Does This Really Work?

OK, so I’m a nerd, but stay with me for a moment: let’s put aside the legality of what Bob did, and just take a quick look at the business model:

  1. Let’s imagine Bob’s salary is $120,00 p/year, or $57 p/hour. Let’s assume that’s $40 after taxes.
  2. Let’s imagine the Chinese programmer’s hourly rate is $12 p/hour.
  3. This yields a p/hour (after tax) profit of $28 p/hour — a 70% profit margin.
  4. In a year, Bob takes home $83,200, and out of that, pays $24,960 to the Chinese contractor so that he can spend time surfing the internet. He’s left with $58,240 to compensate him for his ingenuity.

And finally: Let’s imagine that Bob somehow figures out how to get hired at one other company (oh wait, Bob did do that) for the same yearly salary of $120,000, and puts the same process in place.

Assuming all other things are equal, he nets $58,240 from this gig as well, bringing his total yearly take-home to $116,480.

I must say I’m dubious of this story, as I cannot substantiate that our friend Bob actually did this.  But what if it’s true?

Question: Legal issues aside, what do you think of Bob’s scheme? Is it stupid — or brilliant? 

Jerry Seinfeld on How to Write a Joke

One area this blog examines is how successful people do their work, asking “What do they do differently than the rest of us?“.

Watch someone skilled do their thing, and it probably looks pretty easy. But don’t be fooled: greatness takes a buttload of work.

In this short video, Jerry describes his work process, and how it took him two years to create “The Pop Tart Joke”.  

On stage, Jerry takes one minute and 34 seconds to tell the joke — so that’s 16 months of work per minute of performance.  Imagine how much time it takes to prepare for a full routine!

How To Work A Room Like Joe Biden

One area this blog explores is the subtle things successful people do differently than the rest. (When I speak of success, I mean achievement in any field, and by any measure — doesn’t just mean financial success.)

Have you ever watched a politician or high-power executive work a room, and wonder what these “successful” people say (or do) differently than you?

A case-study is Joe Biden, who many say is extremely personable, and great at making people quickly feel comfortable. I can’t comment from personal experience what methods he uses to accomplish this, but I came across a video of Joe working the room at last week’s Senate swearing in ceremony, which gives some insight into his tactics.  (By the way, I’m equally interested in how Reagan worked a room, so please don’t read anything into the subject of this commentary.)

Here are a few things I notice about how he works a room: Read more of this post

People Don’t Buy ‘What’ You Do, They Buy ‘Why’ You Do it

If you’ve never visited TED.com, you really need to take a look. It’s filled with glorious ideas that are candy for your brain. Each speaker does a short presentation (no more than 20 minutes) on a very specific topic.  It’s easy to get sucked in for hours listening to different thought-leaders.

One such presenter and topic is Simon Sinek and his “Golden Circle” philosophy.

In a nutshell, Simon believes that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  He argues that for leaders to inspire action from their employees, customers, or anyone else involved in their mission, they have to successfully communicate the why behind their ideas.

As he puts it:

Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the ‘I have a plan’ speech.

Simon has written a book called “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” where he lays out a process for getting to your why.

If you have a moment, watch the video (18 minutes); I think you’ll find it worth your time.  What do you think of this concept?

The Difference: Problems of Opportunity v. Problems of Existence

Since I met “J” (who is homeless and lives under a bridge), I’ve taken to using a mental image of him to help me get over myself.

Here’s what I mean:  During this morning’s drive to work, I contemplated a number of issues facing us at home and at work.  I’m sure you have a similar list of concerns, worries, and irritations.

I suddenly realized that most (if not all) of my problems are born out of opportunity  — whereas J’s problems (and those faced by billions) are existential problems.

What’s the difference?  A problem born out of opportunity is one like, “Should my wife go back to work, or stay home with our daughter?“, whereas an existential problem is one that threatens our existence.  For example, “What will I eat or feed my children today?

In other words, what I perceive to be problems are situations brought about by the fact that I’m blessed — not a victim.

Let’s break down the problem of opportunity (Should my wife go back to work, or stay home with our daughter?) into its component blessings:

  • Blessing: I have a beautiful wife (and she chose to marry me); she’s also healthy!
  • Blessing: My wife has a great job (not everyone has a job)
  • Blessing: My wife’s job is waiting for her (not always the case)
  • Blessing: We have a home (certainly not always the case)
  • Blessing: We have a healthy daughter (not every child is healthy — plus, not everyone is able to have kids!)

Broken apart in this way, my problem is composed of multiple blessings that bring about additional situations to consider — but unlike the problems faced by others in this world, none are life threatening.

They’re merely by-products of having opportunities.  Why is it so hard to remember this?

I challenge you to name a problem you’re facing.  Next, list the blessings your challenge is born from.  Does your perspective change?  

Success-hack: Using an Issue Log to Improve Personal Performance

Are you interested in what makes certain people and organizations more successful than others? Have you ever wondered what they do differently than you?

I don’t believe there is one magical formula, but I do think there are certain tactics that successful organizations and people have that contribute to their success.

One such tactic is an “Issue Log“. Read more of this post

[Video] How to Survive a Workplace Shooting

Warning: The video is graphic.

With the recent events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn., I’ve thought a lot about how to prepare for such an event. My wife’s school has procedures designed to save lives and protect the children (and she’s had to use them a few times) — but at our office, we haven’t had any meaningful discussions about what to do. I think it is probably a good idea for every business to talk about their plans and procedures in the event that such a tragedy ensues.

Earlier today, I came across this instructional video (above) created by the Alabama Department of Homeland Security, where they cover what to do in a mass shooting situation. They recommend Read more of this post

Blog Traffic Monthly Report: December, 2012

I’m often asked what kind of results to expect in the first month of blogging.  As of today, I’ve written 30 posts (including this one), meeting my objective of one short post per day.

I’m running a number of experiments with this blog (which maybe I’ll cover in another post), and so measuring the data has been an important part of the process.

Here’s a summary of this blog’s ROI (return on investment) for the first 30 days. Read more of this post

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