Happy Friday everyone! The reading this week ended quite different than I thought it would when I began. I actually love weeks like that. I don’t know if it’s because I dislike routine or if I just like the idea of change. (Ironically enough I hate surprises!) I didn’t foresee when the week began how impactful the week would be. And I don’t mean simply for my reading habit but for the world, specifically the open source world.
In case you missed my Monday post, about the Microsoft GitHub acquisition, I’d recommend going and taking a read, it was quite the story and I saw a lot of interest in the topic. This $7.5 billion transaction caused a lot of questions and concerns in the open source community, mostly due to Microsoft’s storied history. As a result of this semi-controversial start to the week my book selection took a slight different direction.
This week’s theme: “Knowing What Matters”
As with previous weeks I found a common theme though this week I believe it’s a bit less serendipitous and a bit more expected given the announcement made. (Although I would suggest the conclusions I draw are still very interesting and aligned along a particular line of thinking.) Let’s jump right in!
The first book I picked up this week was one that I had sitting on my bookshelf (virtual of course) but I hadn’t started yet. Factfulness, by Hans Rosling had come across my path I believe from a best seller’s list and the impactful, bold cover caught my eye and although I am the first to tell you not to judge a book by it’s cover – the typography lover inside of me was instantly attracted to pick this one up.
But what encouraged me to start reading it this week was due actually in part to the Microsoft headlines which then led me to Bill Gates news which eventually led me to his announcement this week about paying for a copy of this particular book to any graduating student who might be interested.
Now that is a lead-in story right there isn’t it?! Okay so what is it about this book that captured Mr. Gates’ attention to this level? Let’s pick out just a few highlights:
- Things are better than they seem: Hans points out through a series of charts, graphs, and data plots the severity to which our perception of the world is skewed. We have held onto the fatalistic thinking of approximately 50 years ago. And even worse we’ve passed these static misconceptions on to the next generation.
- Measurements matter when in perspective: the author is not suggesting that everything is perfect, nor does he suggest we “look at the world through rose-colored glasses“. Instead the point being made is we can better appreciate the negative and the positive when we put the measurements in the proper perspective.
- The dangers of human instincts: Humans are incredibly smart, highly educated, and yet score worse than chimpanzees (or pure and random guessing) on the various survey questions asked throughout the book. This comes from our overdramatic worldview instead of a fact-based worldview. Our instincts, left unchecked, tend towards drama beyond fact.
Ultimately this book is the author’s attempt to encourage the reader to not be embarrassed by their dramatic tendencies, but rather use data (Hans and team uses a lot of data) to inform a factual viewpoint, control instincts and replace misconceptions. Overall a fantastic read.
Measure What Matters
As you can probably guess I read a lot of books from the NYT Best Seller’s Lists. Measure What Matters, by John Doerr carries a subtitle that intrigued me: “How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs”. Catch the subtle link to the first book in that subtitle? Yep, the Gates Foundation. Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation is referenced heavily in this book.
Now, before anyone feels too bad, I need to say I’m a very very big advocate for removing acronyms from most common vernacular. They tend to make people feel dumb when instead it’s simply an unfamiliar subject matter. Don’t feel bad – you can’t be a SME (subject matter expert…see how annoying that can be?) about everything!
- What is an OKR? This is simply an abbreviated way of saying Objectives and Key Results. See, not that big a deal. What is meant by the term is a type of protocol for companies, teams, and individuals for collaborative goal-setting. Objectives are simply WHAT is to be achieved. They are concrete, meaningful, action-oriented and even inspirational. Objectives are the way to fight against feelings, overly dramatic views, and poor execution. Key Results are the ways objectives can be benchmarked and measured. This is the manner by which we measure HOW we get to the aforementioned objective. Incredibly important to a key result is the ability to be measurable and verifiable.
“It’s not a key result unless it has a number” – Marissa Mayer
- Continuous Performance Management: The second half of the book focuses on the contemporary alternative to annual performance reviews. (Watch out here comes another acronym) CFR’s which stand for conversations, feedback, and recognition are how this idea of continuous performance management is implemented and evaluated.
This book is jammed full of real-life case studies and stories from some of the world’s best known companies. Split into two parts (OKR’s and CRF’s) the true stories illustrate how these two theories are related and when both are functioning deliver a complete system for measuring what matters.
And now we come to the final book for the week. I hesitated to include this book in the list since technically this was a re-read but felt that it absolutely fit into the sub-theme for the week. Hit Refresh, by Satya Nadella caught my eye as particularly timely this week. In case you didn’t know Satya assumed the role of Microsoft CEO in 2014. This book is his thoughts.
I can’t imagine stepping into a behemoth corporation such as Microsoft and hoping to “right the course” or “turn the ship around”. It’s almost an unthinkable monumental challenge but as I read through Satya’s story I found myself becoming convinced if anyone could conquer this challenge, Satya could.
- Learning to Lead: The first few chapters in this book share incredible thoughts on leadership and seeing opportunities. Satya discusses the power of innovation, teamwork, and transformations when led by an empathetic leader.
- Recognizing what’s important: Satya shares what he learned along the road to change and what it required both as a leader and as an established company. The power of a shared mission, a vision that empowered every person and rediscovering the soul of Microsoft.
- Looking at the future: In the final part of the book Satya begins to explore what is required in the years ahead for the changes to Microsoft’s culture to be realized and their mission fulfilled.
Obviously, as you can now see the sub-theme for this particular’s week of reading involved a subtle thread of Microsoft’s influence in the world. From the recent announcement of Microsoft’s latest acquisition to the words written almost presciently by Satya Nadella:
Over the years, I’ve found that openness is the best way to get things done and to ensure all parties feel terrific about the outcome. In a world where innovation is continuous and rapid, no one has time to waste on unnecessary cycles of work and effort. Being straightforward with one another is the best way to achieve a mutually agreeable outcome in the fastest time possible.
– Satya Nadella
But, Microsoft’s journey is only the secondary theme for this week. Were you able to pick up on the primary motif carried throughout this week by these three books? It comes down to a simple concept:
Human emotions, feelings, and their endeavors are heavily influenced by their worldview; and only with proper facts, knowledge, and wisdom can they accomplish those things which matter most.