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Questions to ask new employers


Tom Limoncelli

If you aren’t familiar with the term “vertical integration” it is the MBA term for “if you want something done right, do it yourself.”

Imagine trying to drive a car with someone else controlling the steering wheel. Now imagine that their incentives are perversely the opposite of yours. They get paid by how many turns they make. You get paid by how fast you get there. It just doesn’t work. They control the wheel.

Contracting advice

Wisdom pulled from a variety of sources





Meeting timeline

Start of the meeting

During the meeting

End of the meeting

Meetings, Bloody Meetings

  1. plan - be precise about the objectives and why you need the meeting
  2. inform - what people need to bring to the meeting
  3. prepare - the logical sequence of items (prioritizing the important)
  4. structure and control - present evidence first, then discuss without jumping around
  5. summarize and record - write down the who/what of action items, decisions


Does Management Matter? (paper)

Building A Learning Organization

Knowing how is partial knowledge; it is rooted in norms of behavior, standards of practice, and settings of equipment. Knowing why is more fundamental: it captures underlying cause-and-effect relationships and accommodates exceptions, adaptations, and unforeseen events.

Deming’s “Plan, Do, Check, Act”

Peter Senge’s 5 component technologies

Most discussions of learning organizations finesse these issues. Their focus is high philosophy and grand themes, sweeping metaphors rather than the gritty details of practice. Three critical issues are left unresolved; yet each is essential for effective implementation. First is the question of meaning. We need a plausible, well-grounded definition of learning organizations; it must be actionable and easy to apply. Second is the question of management. We need clearer guidelines for practice, filled with operational advice rather than high aspirations. And third is the question of measurement. We need better tools for assessing an organization’s rate and level of learning to ensure that gains have in fact been made.

Delivering bad news

Crucial Accountability by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler, Maxfield

How do I speak up about infractions so that dangerous behaviour is avoided

Find a polite way to interject - positive deviance

Know what convo to hold and if you should hold it

If you find yourself having the same convo again and again, there’s another, larger violation that needs to be addressed.

”.. [S]peed rarely leads to careful thought.”

You have to distill the issue to a single sentence. Lengthy descriptions of violated expectations only obscure the real issue. If you can’t reduce a violation to a clear sentence before you talk, the issue almost never becomes more understandable and focused as a conversation unfolds.

Do you actually know the intention? Don’t leap to conclusions

Crucial Conversations

By: Kerry Patterson; Joseph Grenny; Ron McMillan; Al Switzler

What’s a crucial convo?

The results of a crucial conversation have high impact on quality of life

Given choices on approach, we can:

(I suspect there’s actually a larger spectrum than 3 choices ;-)

Crucial conversations are frequently spontaneous, catching you off-guard

Common crucial conversations include:

“How can I be 100 percent honest with , and at the same time be 100 percent respectful?"

At the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of relevant information. People openly and honestly express their opinions, share their feelings, and articulate their theories. They willingly and capably share their views, even when their ideas are controversial or unpopular.

Pool of shared meaning -> everyone should feel comfortable adding to it

Hints, sarcasm, caustic humor, innuendo, and looks of disgust are not effective sharing of meaning.

Maintain your focus:

Killers of honest dialogue:

When a conversation turns crucial, ask “What do I really want here?”

Also, as the conversation unfolds and you find yourself starting to, say, defer to the boss or give your spouse the cold shoulder, pay attention to what’s happening to your objectives. Are you starting to change your goal to save face, avoid embarrassment, win, be right, or punish others? Here’s the tricky part. Our motives usually change without any conscious thought on our part. When adrenaline does our thinking for us, our motives flow with the chemical tide.

“We assume we have to choose between getting results and keeping a relationship. In our dumbed-down condition, we don’t even consider the option of achieving both.”

Know what you want and what you don’t want, ie want to voice concerns AND not hurt feelings.

Watch for content and conditions

You want to be alert for the moment a convo goes from routine to Crucial

Signs that a conversation is about to get Crucial

Look for safety problems. Safe conversations let the things that need to be said be said. Unsafe convos are ugly.


Conversely, when people aren’t involved, when they sit back quietly during touchy conversations, they’re rarely committed to the final decision. Since their ideas remain in their heads and their opinions never make it into the pool, they end up quietly criticizing and passively resisting. Worse still, when others force their ideas into the pool, people have a harder time accepting the information.


The best don’t play games. Period. They know that in order to solve their problem, they’ll need to talk about their problem—with no pretending, sugarcoating, or faking. So they do something completely different. They step out of the content of the conversation, make it safe, and then step back in. Once safety is restored, they can talk about nearly anything.

Remember the last time someone gave you difficult feedback and you didn’t become defensive? Say a friend said some things to you that most people might get upset over. In order for this person to be able to deliver the delicate message, you must have believed he or she cared about you or about your goals and objectives. That means you trusted his or her purposes so you were willing to listen to some pretty tough feedback.

Crucial conversations often go awry not because others dislike the content of the conversation, but because they believe the content (even if it’s delivered in a gentle way) suggests that you have a malicious intent. How can others feel safe when they believe you’re out to harm them? Soon, every word out of your mouth is suspect. You can’t utter a harmless “good morning” without others interpreting it in a negative way.

Consequently, the first condition of safety is Mutual Purpose. Mutual Purpose means that others perceive that you’re working toward a common outcome in the conversation, that you care about their goals, interests, and values. And vice versa. You believe they care about yours. Consequently, Mutual Purpose is the entry condition of dialogue. Find a shared goal, and you have both a good reason and a healthy climate for talking.

Here are two crucial questions to help us determine when Mutual Purpose is at risk:

Three good skills that the best dialogues use:

contrasting provides context, proportion, and can fix misunderstandings of scope or severity

Agree to agree. Focus on your purpose, and be open to alternatives. Find the higher objective which you agree on.


Don’t treat your emotions as if they are the only valid response.

See + Hear -> Tell a Story -> Feel -> Act

If we can find a way to control the stories we tell, by rethinking or retelling them, we can master our emotions and, therefore, master our crucial conversations.

“Any set of facts can be used to tell an infinite number of stories.”

Expand your emotional vocabulary

Question your feelings and stories - is it the right feeling?

Don’t confuse stories with facts

Clever stories:

watch for double standard with victim/villain

clever stories can:


Clever stories omit crucial information about us, about others

Broaching uncomfortable topics requires:


Facts are the least controversial, and they are the most persuasive

When we start with shocking or offensive conclusions (“Quit groping me with your eyes!” or “I think we should declare bankruptcy”), we actually encourage others to tell Villain Stories about us. Since we’ve given them no facts to support our conclusion, they make up reasons we’re saying these things. They’re likely to believe we’re either stupid or evil.

So if your goal is to help others see how a reasonable, rational, and decent person could think what you’re thinking, start with your facts.

And if you aren’t sure what your facts are (your story is absolutely filling your brain), take the time to think them through before you enter the crucial conversation. Take the time to sort out facts from conclusions. Gathering the facts is the homework required for crucial conversations.

Always start with facts. “Facts lay the groundwork for all delicate conversations.”

“be willing to abandon or reshape your story as more information pours into the Pool of Shared Meaning.”

Soften the message, be tentative (not wimpy).

Invite opposing views, and mean it.

Don’t launch into monologues. Avoid harsh, conclusive language.

Hold to your belief, but be nice about it.

Look for opportunities to be curious about others

When others are acting out their feelings and opinions through silence or violence, it’s a good bet they’re starting to feel the effects of adrenaline. Even if we do our best to safely and effectively respond to the other person’s verbal attack, we still have to face up to the fact that it’s going to take a little while for him or her to settle down. Say, for example, that a friend dumps out an ugly story and you treat it with respect and continue on with the conversation. Even if the two of you now share a similar view, it may seem like your friend is still pushing too hard. While it’s natural to move quickly from one thought to the next, strong emotions take a while to subside. Once the chemicals that fuel emotions are released, they hang around in the bloodstream for a time—in some cases, long after thoughts have changed.

Every sentence has a history - find out what’s lead to this


Break the cycle, encourage other person to step away from their harsh feelings, anger

Ask to get things rolling -> Mirror to confirm feelings -> Paraphrase to acknowledge the story -> Prime when you’re getting nowhere

To keep ourselves from feeling nervous while exploring others’ paths—no matter how different or wrong they seem—remember we’re trying to understand their point of view, not necessarily agree with it or support it. Understanding doesn’t equate with agreement. Sensitivity does equate to acquiescence. By taking steps to understand another person’s Path to Action, we are promising that we’ll accept their point of view.

Agree -> Build -> Compare

Most arguments consist of battles over the 5 to 10 percent of the facts and stories that people disagree over. And while it’s true that people eventually need to work through differences, you shouldn’t start there. Start with an area of agreement.

So here’s the take-away. If you completely agree with the other person’s path, say so and move on. Agree when you agree. Don’t turn an agreement into an argument.

Don’t get caught up in trivial differences, making a mole hill into a mountain. Say “I agree,” and then build.

If you agree with what has been said but the information is incomplete, build. Point out areas of agreement, and then add elements that were left out of the discussion.

Compare your path with the other person, determine what they’re trying to accomplish

Decision making

Dialogue is not decision making

Before making a decision, decide how to decide

Decision Making styles

Before making decisions: Who cares? Who knows? Who must agree? How many people is it worth involving?

When making decisions: Who? Does what? By when? How will you follow up? If multiple people share a task, who’s responsible? Spell out exact deliverables, no fuzziness. Use contrasting. Prototypes/examples are good. Write down the details of conclusions, decisions, and assignments.

Don’t get pulled into any one instance or your concern will seem trivial. Talk about overall pattern.

Look for those areas that are most grievous to you and might not be all that hard to talk about. Pick one element and work on it. Establish Mutual Purpose. Frame the conversation in a way that the other person will care about.


What is your Style under Stress? Your family? Coworkers?


Trust is not binary, there are degrees of trust

Have a clear ‘no surprises’ rule, that folks should let you know of snags ASAP.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Google Understanding Team Effectiveness

The researchers found that what really mattered was less about who is on the team, and more about how the team worked together. In order of importance:

  • Psychological safety: Psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking an interpersonal risk or a belief that a team is safe for risk taking in the face of being seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive. In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.

  • Dependability: On dependable teams, members reliably complete quality work on time (vs the opposite - shirking responsibilities).

  • Structure and clarity: An individual’s understanding of job expectations, the process for fulfilling these expectations, and the consequences of one’s performance are important for team effectiveness. Goals can be set at the individual or group level, and must be specific, challenging, and attainable. Google often uses Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to help set and communicate short and long term goals.

  • Meaning: Finding a sense of purpose in either the work itself or the output is important for team effectiveness. The meaning of work is personal and can vary: financial security, supporting family, helping the team succeed, or self-expression for each individual, for example.

  • Impact: The results of one’s work, the subjective judgement that your work is making a difference, is important for teams. Seeing that one’s work is contributing to the organization’s goals can help reveal impact.

The researchers also discovered which variables were not significantly connected with team effectiveness at Google:

  • Colocation of teammates (sitting together in the same office)
  • Consensus-driven decision making
  • Extroversion of team members
  • Individual performance of team members
  • Workload size
  • Seniority
  • Team size
  • Tenure