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Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish

The book:
This is a management guide by Verne Harnish, the founder and CEO of the strategic planning firm Gazelles. Harnish tells how to implement the three Rockefeller principles, Priorities, Data, and Rythm.

This book is particularly useful for leaders of growing companies, although several principles can be applied to any type of project, for example, holding regular meetings and getting feedback from stakeholders.

There are few detailed explanations, a lot of repetition, and several fictitious stories to help explain the concepts.

Takeaways and Paths of Action:

1. Get the numbers (Data):
What can be measured, can be done. Every member of your project or organization must have a "smart number" that serves as a quick review of his/her progress. For example, a salesperson may use the number of sales in the week or the number of recurring customers. The COO may use the number of goods produced divided by the number of hours worked; it does not have to be a whole number, you can use ratios. Even the janitor, if you have one, should have a number.

This keeps people focused and makes it easier for you, the leader, to check progress. 

Revising the numbers of the entire organization can give you a better understanding of your own firm and how the performance of some employees or departments affect others.

2. Make one and only one person accountable:
Several people can be in charge of completing a task. For example, every employee in the product development team can be responsible for producing high-quality parts and products, but only the chief product officer (or equivalent) must be held accountable for the quality of the final product. 

Having more than one person in charge is having no one in charge.

3. Training is the boss's job:
Make sure every individual gets more than enough training. The author suggests as much as twenty times the industry average or twenty times as much as your closest competitor. 

You should include training in the hiring process. Remember that one great (well-trained) person can do the job of three good employees.

4. Meet regularly (rhythm):
Regular meetings are critical to keeping your people focused and synchronized, and it does not have to take more than 20 minutes. To keep it short, make sure you have a well-planned agenda that focuses on only one key issue or goal.

Here is a sample agenda for a daily meeting:

Goal: communicating progress and collaborating to solve small day-to-day issues
1. What's up: Chat or informal conversation (because it may happen anyway) [5 min]
2. Daily measures: Get a quick progress report from everyone; this is what the "smart numbers" are for. [7 min]
3. Where are you stuck?: Busy, productive people get stuck pretty often. If you find that there are major issues that need to be addressed, schedule more meetings to focus on each. [7min]

These are also called "uncomfortable" meetings because, ideally, you should not be sitting down or in an office environment. You don't want to spend too much time! You don't even need to be in the same room, a conference call works just fine.

Keeping the meetings short and at the same time will help to build the habit in the organization.

5. Charles' Schwab $25,000 tip:

Charles Schwab applied this advice for one week and paid $25,000 for it. Obviously, he continued using it throughout his career.

1. Write down your five priorities for the day. If you have less than that, write them all down.
2. Organize the list and put the most important on top along with a detailed description of what you must accomplish that day that is related to that priority.
3. Forget about all the others and start executing until that single task is completed.
4. Once that task is completed, do the same for the next priority on the list.

This seems too easy, and you might be tempted to just thinking and not writing the priorities. Resist that lazy temptation and do it. Do it for a week and see the results yourself. It's been working for me!

Favourite quote:

"The only people who don’t get stuck are those who aren’t doing anything. Busy, productive people who are doing anything of consequence get stuck pretty regularly." 

-Verne Harnish


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