Thursday, November 11, 2021

Use the Heilmeirs for Project Funding

I learnt about the Heilmeirs from Vijay Gill, an ex-SVP at Databricks (now an SVP at RapidAPI). He said that this was the fastest way to focus the discussion around project funding. I've found it to be useful - sharing this with you.

The Heilmeirs

Project funding is governed by this one-pager process:

  • What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.
  • How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
  • What is new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?
  • Who cares? If you are successful, what difference will it make?
  • What are the risks?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?
  • What are the mid-term and final “exams” to check for success?

The Effective Executive

 The Effective executive

“An effective executive does not need to be a leader in the sense that the term is now most commonly used. Harry Truman did not have one ounce of charisma, for example, yet he was among the most effective chief executives in U.S. history. Similarly, some of the best business and nonprofit CEOs I’ve worked with over a 65-year consulting career were not stereotypical leaders. They were all over the map in terms of their personalities, attitudes, values, strengths, and weaknesses. They ranged from extroverted to nearly reclusive, from easygoing to controlling, from generous to parsimonious.

What made them all effective is that they followed the same eight practices:

  • They asked, ‘What needs to be done?’
  • They asked, ‘What is right for the enterprise?’
  • They developed action plans.
  • They took responsibility for decisions.
  • They took responsibility for communicating.
  • They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
  • They ran productive meetings.
  • They thought and said ‘we’ rather than ‘I.’

Friday, June 04, 2021

For Effective Meetings, leverage the Meeting Bill of Rights

Meetings become enormously important as a medium of work execution as people become more senior over time. I've seen that the quality of meetings vary from person to person and organization to organization. Over the years, I've found the following principles very useful to frame my approach to meetings. I'm sharing this with you - hope you find it useful as well. Cheers!

 Adapted from "The Secrets to Masterful Meetings" (PDF); How Jeff Bezos runs meetings.

Your Meeting Bill of Rights

  1. Meeting Notice.You have the right to be informed about the purpose and proposed agenda for a meeting, verbally or in writing, at least twenty-four hours in advance of the meeting.
  2. Timely Start.You have the right to attend meetings that start on time. 3 minutes late: issue a reminder; 7 minutes late: meeting cancelled. 
  3. Right People.You have the right to have all major viewpoints critical to decision-making represented at the meeting. Conversely, If you're not useful to the meeting, feel free to leave.
  4. Right Information.You have the right to have the information necessary to facilitate decision-making available at the meeting. Come prepared.
  5. Ground Rules.You have the right to have agreed upon ground rules respected in the meeting.
  6. Focused Discussion.You have the right for meetings to stay focused on the topic of the meeting.
  7. Input Opportunity.You have the right to have the opportunity to provide input and alternative views before decision-making occurs in the meeting.
  8. Meeting Recap.You have the right to hear a recap of (a) decisions made during the meeting, (b) actions to be taken, when and by whom, following the meeting, and (c) any outstanding issues to be discussed at a future meeting.
  9. Timely Completion.You have the right to have your time respected by having meetings finish at or before the scheduled end time.
  10. No Retribution.You have the right to exercise YourMeeting Rights without fear of retribution or other consequences.

If you have the right people, the right information, a focused discussion and a recap of the decisions and action items of the meeting, the meeting is successful.

What's expected in the Agenda?

  1. Specify the type of meeting
    1. Problem Solving
    2. Decision Making
    3. Knowledge Sharing
    4. Status Update
    5. Innovation
    6. Team Building
  2. For Problem Solving and Decision Making meetings: clearly specify the issue or the decision as part of the agenda. 
    1. At close, recap and ensure that a decision was reached.
  3. For Information Sharing / Status Update meetings: come prepared with the shareable information (ideally written down)
    1. At close, recap information and determine action items.
  4. For Innovation meetings: Suspend judgement.
    1. Brainstorming happens in 2 phases: Flare and Focus. They should take place separately.
    2. Flare: Use "Yes, and..." language instead of "Yes, but...". "Yes, and..." is collaborative and stimulates discussion
    3. If you have concerns, hold them aside for the focus meeting.
  5. Team Building: Have fun! Get to know the team and skip talking about work. 
    1. The goal is to know and trust your teammates. 

Here's a few examples

Meeting: Qingxian : Divye - Realtime Feature Monitoring Status
Date: Jan 4, 2019

Agenda: Knowledge Sharing
1. Qingxian: Status of RT Feature Monitoring; Demo of current state.
2. Any action items for Divye?

Meeting: David : Divye – follow up on HF Training Doc
Date: Jan 3, 2019

1. Sync on Homefeed training

Outcome: Knowledge sharing.
Preparation: Divye to look at code pointers in the doc before the meeting.

Meeting: Divye : P - Sell Call - Software Engineer, ML Platform
Date: Jan 3, 2019

- Expecting an offer from X
- Interviewing with A, B, C, D, E, F 
- Top choices are Pinterest, Airbnb, and Lyft
- Priorities: good culture, likes the product, team/project, tech lead, eventual mgmt
- Concerns: does team/project have enough scope, leadership opportunities, how do we support IC to managers?

It's not necessary to be explicit about the type of meeting in the agenda (as long as it's clear what needs to get done by the end of the meeting). A few maxims - don't leave a decision meeting without the decision made, if not made, have clearly identified next steps. For a problem solving meeting, leave only after next steps are identified. Recap is the most important part of a Knowledge sharing meeting and people in a Team Building event should always leave happy after a round of chit-chat.