The best Work Principles for Mads Hansen 

“In order to be great, one can’t compromise the uncompromisable.”

“Make your passion and your work one and the same and do it with people you want to be with.” 

1: Trust in Radical Truth and Radical Transparency

  • 1.1: Realize that you have nothing to fear from knowing the truth. 

  • 1.2a: Never say anything about someone that you wouldn’t say to them directly and don’t try people without accusing them to their faces. 

2: Cultivate Meaningful Work and Meaningful Relationships

3: Create a Culture in Which It Is Okay to Make Mistakes and Unacceptable Not to Learn From Them

  • 3.1a: Fail well. Everyone fails, so fail well.

  • 3.2a: Get over “blame” and “credit” and get on with “accurate” and “inaccurate.”

  • 3.4: Remember to reflect when you experience pain.

  • 3.4b: Know that nobody can see themselves objectively. 

4: Get and Stay in Sync

  • 4.3: Be open-minded and assertive at the same time.

  • 4.3c: Watch out for people who think it’s embarrassing not to know. 

  • 4.4: If it’s your meeting, manage the conversation 

  • 4.4f: Watch out for topic slip

  • 4.4i: Let people talk for two minutes before being interruptible

5: Believability Weight Your Decision Making

  • 5.2: Find the most believable people possible who disagree with you and try to understand their reasoning

  • 5.2b: Remember that believable opinions are most likely to come from people who have successfully accomplished the thing in question at least three times, and who have great explanation of the cause-effect relationships that lead them to their conclusions.

  • 5.2d: Pay more attention to people’s reasoning for a conclusion than their specific conclusion

  • 5.3: Think about whether you’re playing the role of a teacher, student, or peer, and whether you should be teaching, asking questions, or debating.

  • 5.4: Understand how people came by their opinions 

  • 5.4a: If you ask someone a question, they’ll give you an answer, so think through who you should address your question to.

  • 5.7: Pay more attention to whether the decision-making system is fair than whether you get your way. 

6: Recognize How to Get Beyond Disagreement

  • 6.1: Principles can’t be ignored by mutual agreement.

  • 6.3: Don’t leave important conflicts unresolved. 

  • 6.4: Once a decision is made, everyone should get behind it even though individuals may still disagree. 

7: Remember that WHO is more important than WHAT

8: Hire Right, Because the Penalties for Hiring Wrong are Huge

  • 8.1: Match the person with the design 

  • 8.1a: Think through which values, abilities, and skills you are looking for (in that order).

  • 8.1d: Look for people who sparkle, not just “any of those”

  • 8.4: Pay attention to people’s track records.

  • 8.4b: Recognize that performance in school doesn’t tell you much about whether a person has the values and abilities you are looking for. 

  • 8.5: Don’t hire people just to fit the first job they will do; hire people you want to share your life with.

  • 8.6: When considering compensation, provide both stability and opportunity 

  • 8.6d: focus more on making the pie bigger than on exactly how to slice it so that you or anyone else gets the biggest piece.

  • 8.8: Great people are hard to find so make sure you think about how to keep them. 

9: Constantly Train, Test, Evaluate, and Sort People

  • 9.1: Understand that you and the people you manage will go through a process of personal evolution.

  • 9.1a: Recognize that personal evolution should be relatively rapid and a natural consequence of discovering one’s strengths and weaknesses; as a result, career paths are not planned at the outset. 

  • 9.3: Evaluate accurately, not kindly

  • 9.3c: Think about accuracy, not implications

  • 9.5: Don’t hide your observations about people. 

  • 9.5d: Use evaluation tools such as performance surveys, metrics, and formal reviews to document all aspects of a person’s performance. 

  • 9.8: When you are really in sync with someone about their weaknesses, the weaknesses are probably true 

  • 9.8d: Evaluate employees with the same rigor as you evaluate job candidates [438]

  • 9.11: Don’t lower the bar

10: Manage as Someone Operating a Machine to Achieve a Goal

  • No matter what work you do, at a high level you are simply setting goals and building machines to help you achieve them. 

  • 10.2: For every case you deal with, your approach should have two purposes:

  • To move you closer to your goal

  • To train and test your machine

  • 10.5: Clearly assign responsibilities

  • 10.5b: Watch out for job slip

  • 10.6: Probe deep and hard to learn what you can expect from your machine 

  • 10.6c: Use daily updates as a tool for staying on top of what your people are doing and thinking.

  • 10.6g: Don’t assume that people’s answers are correct, you occasionally need to double check them.

  • 10.6l: Pull all suspicious threads

  • 10.8: Recognize and deal with key-man risk. Every key person should have someone who can replace them.

  • 10.10: Great leadership is generally not what it is made out to be

  • Being maximally effective is the most important thing that a leader must do. It is more practical to be honest about one’s uncertainties, mistakes, and weaknesses than to pretend they don’t exist. It is also more important to have good challengers than good followers.

  • 10.10c: Don’t give orders and try to be followed, try to be understood and to understand others by getting in sync.

  • 10.11: Hold yourself and your people accountable and appreciate them for holding you accountable 

  • 10.11a: If you’ve agreed with someone that something is supposed to go a certain way, make sure it goes that way, unless you get in sync about doing it differently.

  • 10.12: Communicate the plan clearly and have clear metrics conveying whether you are progressing according to it.

11: Perceive and Don’t Tolerate Problems

  • Problems are like coal thrown into a locomotive engine because burning them up—inventing and implementing solutions for them—propels us forward. Every problem you find is an opportunity to improve your machine. Identifying and not tolerating problems is one of the most important and disliked things people can do. 

  • 11.1: If you’re not worried, you need to worry. And if you’re worried, you don’t need to worry.

  • 11.2: Design and oversee a machine to perceive whether things are good enough or not good enough, or do it yourself.

  • 11.2b: Watch out for the frog boiling in the water syndrome.

  • 11.2e: Taste the soup, make sure it tastes good before going out to the customer

  • 11.4: Don’t be afraid to fix the difficult things

  • 11.4b: Think of the problems you perceive in a machinelike way

12: Diagnose Problems to Get at Their Root Causes

  • 12.1: To diagnose well, ask the following questions:

  • Is the outcome good or bad?

  • Who is responsible for the outcome (RP)?

  • If the outcome is bad, is the RP incapable and/or is the design bad?

  • 12.1f: Just because someone else doesn’t know what to do doesn’t mean that you do know what to do. 

  • 12.1i: Managers usually fail or fall short of their goals for one or more of five reasons:

  • They are too distantThey have problems perceiving bad qualityThey have lost sight of how bad things have become because they have gotten used to it they have such high pride in their work (or such large egos) that they are unable to solve their own problemsThey fear adverse consequences from admitting failure.

  • 12.4 Use the following drill down technique to gain an 80/20 understanding of a department or sub-department that is having problems 

  • Step 1: List the problems, inventory all the core problems. Be specific. Name names. Don’t try to find solutions yet.

  • Step 2: Identify the root causes. Keep asking “Why?”.

  • Step 3: Create a plan that addresses the root causes.

  • Step 4: Execute the plan and transparently track its progress.

  • 12.5 Understand that diagnosis is foundational to both progress and quality relationships 

13: Design Improvements to Your Machine to Get Around Your Problems

  • 13.1: Build your machine. Observe what you’re doing and why, extrapolate the relevant principles from the cases at hand, and systemizing that process. It takes longer to build a machine than to complete a task, but it pays off over the long run. 

  • 13.5: Build the organization around goals rather than tasks.

  • 13.5e: Don’t build the organization to fit the people. 

  • 13.5h: Make departments as self-sufficient as possible so that they have control over the resources they need to achieve their goals.

  • 13.5k: Don’t just pay attention to your job; pay attention to how your job will be done if you’re no longer around.

  • 13.5l: Use “double-do” rather than “double-check” to make sure mission-critical tasks are done correctly.

  • 13.6: Create an organizational chart to look like a pyramid, with straight lines down that don’t cross. 

  • 13.8: Keep your strategic vision the same while making appropriate tactical changes as circumstances dictate. 

  • 13.9: Have good controls so that you are not exposed to the dishonesty of others 

  • 13.9e: Use public hangings to deter bad behavior. 

  • 13.10: Have the clearest possible reporting lines and delineations of responsibilities 

  • 13.10b: Constantly think about how to produce leverage.

  • 13.11: Remember that almost everything will take more time and cost more money than you expect. 

14: Do What You Set Out to Do

  • 14.1: Work for goals that you and your organization are excited about… and think about how your tasks connect to those goals. 

  • 14.3: Use checklists

  • 14.5: When you hit your goals, celebrate!

15: Use Tools and Protocols to Shape How Work is Done

  • 15.1: Having systemized principles embedded in tools is especially valuable for an idea meritocracy

16: Don’t Overlook Governance

  • 16.1: All organizations must have checks and balances

  • 16.1b: Make sure that no one is more powerful than the system or so important that they are irreplaceable 

Wrap up

  • An idea meritocracy requires that people do three things:

  • Put their honest thoughts on the table for everyone to see.

  • Have thoughtful disagreements where there is quality back and forth in which people evolve their thinking to come up with the best collective answers possible.

  • Abide by idea-meritocratic ways of getting past the remaining disagreements.

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