Tools #3: What the Hell is Going On!

Continuing the thread of re-coaching myself to think –

Today’s Lesson – How to look at a problem through a set of lenses (hats in this case) one at a time and focus.

The tool of the week is – Cynefin Framework developed by Dave Snowden in 1999

The goal is to help make sense of a situation to help guide a response.

First: Which domain are you in (see diagram below), then the action based on the characteristics

Clear – typically process-oriented situations and problems. Domain of “known knowns”. Approach: sense–categorize–respond. Understand the situation (sense), categorize it, then respond by applying a best-practice solution.

Complicated – typically has multiple right answers. Domain of “known unknowns”. Approach: sense-analyze-respond. Because analysis is needed they require expert knowledge. Experts should assess the situation, investigate possible options and choose a course of action.

Complex – domain of “unknown unknowns”. Approach: probe-sense-respond. we don’t yet know enough about it. It’s not clear what needs to be answered in the first place. Experiment first, learn about the problem. Then sense what you’re dealing with and respond appropriately. The goal should be to understand enough so that the problem or situation moves to the complicated domain where it’s easier to deal with.

Chaotic – just out of control. Approach: act-sense-respond. “First act to establish some stability, to contain the situation. Only then assess the situation and work on bringing enough order to it to move it into the complex domain.” One benefit is that you can try weird and wild stuff because the pain of the chaos creates the chance to solve it in any way possible.

Don’t know which one? You’re in “Disorder” – The best place to start is to break-up into small parts and try to then put them into each bucket above.

Questions to help determine the domain you’re in:

  • Do you know what causes the situation?
  • Is the situation under control?
  • How much do you know about it?
  • Does solving it require expert knowledge?

All credit for the above belongs to

Holy Crap, finally done: High Impact Management

Reading a business book in public like High Output Management feels like the dorkiest thing in the world. All I think is, “what a try-hard this guy is.” But the cool thing is I’m not in high school anymore and caring about things is cool. So f* those people (who probably don’t exist) judging me.

I started this book on April 20, 2022 (again…originally started multiple times before but just could not make it past the first few pages) –

Here are the takeaways: (this guys took way better notes: )

Chapter 1:

  • Remember the breakfast factory: our job is to understand the “limiting step” in the process
  • Don’t let the wrong step be the limiting step
  • The black box of creating things: how might you create holes in the process to check on things being made and make sure they’re being created
  • QA – In-process test vs functional tests
  • Try and detect problems as soon as possible in the process, it’s the lowest value stage

Chapter 2

  • More on Blackbox Indicators – How do you keep an eye on things? Here are the big chunky phases to create indicators:
    • Sales forecasts – and how do you measure confidence and adjust the forecast process
    • Material management
    • Condition of equipment
    • Workforce
    • Quality
  • Don’t overfit your indicators – “You get what you measure” to avoid this you can pair indicators to create a balance (should add an example here
  • Linearity Indicators vs Trend Indicators (example: measuring output against linearly should show continuous progress as opposed to huge pushes as a deadline comes up
  • What if need to make compromises in QA – you need to do it with a well balanced management team but never ever mess with reliability
  • Leverage
    • Pg. 35 started to hit on how you can change how you work to get more leverage
    • Output vs Activity
    • Embassy example – when 98% are approved when everything single is reviewed…they should move to sample tests

Ok, the rest of the Chapters.

At some point you have to just finish something and that’s where I got with this book. So many great things in there but also I’ll need to revisit. Here are the things that really stood out to me:

  • Remember the breakfast factory:
    • What are your limiting steps?
    • How can you cut holes in the factory box?
    • Where can you find leverage?
  • Strive for output that aligns with outcomes
  • Don’t let the process become the thing – that aligns with Wiggly
  • Be a coach: No credit, Be tough, Good coachs were good players

Excercise at the end of Book

Great things to do after reading this book:


  • Identify the operations in your work most like process, assembly, and test production.
  • For a project you are working on, identify the limiting step and map out the flow of work around it.
  • Define the proper places for the equivalents of receiving inspection, in-process inspection, and final inspection in your work. Decide whether these inspections should be monitoring steps or gate-like. Identify the conditions under which you can relax things and move to a variable inspection scheme.
  • Identify half a dozen new indicators for your group’s output. They should measure both the quantity and quality of the output.
  • Install these new indicators as a routine in your work area, and establish their regular review in your staff meetings.
  • What is the most important strategy (plan of action) you are pursuing now? Describe the environmental demand that prompted it and your current status or momentum. Is your strategy likely to result in a satisfactory state of affairs for you or your organization if successfully implemented?


  • Conduct work simplification on your most tedious, time-consuming task. Eliminate at least 30 percent of the total number of steps involved.
  • Define your output: What are the output elements of the organizations you can influence? List them in order of importance.
  • Analyze your information and knowledge gathering system. Is it properly balanced among “headlines” and “weekly news magazines”? Is redundancy built in?
  • Take a “tour”. Afterward, list the transactions you got involved during the course.
    Create a once-a-month “excuse” for a tour.
  • Describe how you will monitor the next project you delegate to a subordinate. What will you look for? How? How frequently?
  • Generate an inventory of projects on which you can work at discretionary times.
  • Hold a scheduled one-on-one with each of your subordinates. (Explain to them in advance what a one-on-one is about. Have them prepare for it.)
  • Look at your calendar for the last week. Classify your activities as low/medium/high leverage. Generate a plan of action to do more of the high-leverage category. (What activities will you reduce?)
  • Forecast the demand on your time for the next week. What portion on your time is likely to be spent on meetings? Which of these are process-oriented meetings? Mission-oriented meetings? If the latter are over 25 percent of your total time, what should you do to reduce them?
  • Define the three most important objectives for your organization for the next three months. Support them with key results.
  • Have your subordinates do the same for themselves, after a thorough discussion of the set generated above.
  • Generate an inventory of pending decisions you are responsible for. Take three and structure the decision-making process for them, using the six-question approach.
  • Evaluate your own motivational state in terms of the Maslow hierarchy. Do the same for each of your subordinates.
  • Give your subordinates a racetrack: define a set of performance indicators for each.
  • List the various forms of task-relevant feedback your subordinates receive. How well can they gauge their progress through them?
  • Classify the task-relevant maturity of each of your subordinates as low, medium, or high.
  • Evaluate the management style that would be most appropriate for each. Compare what your own style is with what it should be.
  • Evaluate the last performance review you received and also the last set of reviews you gave to your subordinates as a means of delivering task-relevant feedback. How well did the reviews do to improve performance? What was the nature of the communication process during the delivery of each?
  • Redo one of these reviews as it should have been done.

Notebook Aug. 2021 to Aug. 2022

I’ve tried so hard to move away from using a physical notebook for work and personal writing, but there’s something so magical about just putting pen to paper. I hit 1 year at my job which was the start of a notebook. The way I’ve been writing these is that work starts on the front and my personal writing starts from the back. Eventually, they meet in the middle. But how do I make sure they’re not just locked in a drawer never to be found…maybe I retype everything :0

Instead of transferring everything into a digital format. This is a summary of what I covered:

  • Bass guitar with Ben and writing music
  • Why writing is important to me – and how I see more of my dad in my life
  • Reading and notes: Pyramid of Success – John Wooden
  • Reading and notes: Ready Player Two (
  • Skillpath Training:
  • Scratch sheets for Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, Mothers Day
  • My thoughts on the movie Luca – I really want to dive into this one before I lose it
  • Reading and notes: High Impact Management
  • Reading and notes: Continuous Discovery
  • Winning at Insurance!!! Not Winning but just not getting as screwed as I thought.
  • Big feelings…all is ok.

Can NOT get over this set by the Blaze… so good

Tools #2: All the Hats

Continuing the thread of re-coaching myself to think –

Today’s Lesson – How to look at a problem through a set of lenses (hats in this case) one at a time and focus.

The Untool of the week is –

Based on the book Six Thinking Hats, Edward de Bono –

Illustration of the Six Thinking Hats: Yellow for positivity, Green for creativity, Red for emotions, White for data, Black for negativity and Blue for control.


Trying to picture how this will actually work. I’m not great at compartmentalizing. Or maybe I could… starting with the Green Hat, then having people looking at the ideas in phases?

Or is the focus on One big idea, then putting on the Black Hat, then using the Green Hat to work around the Black Hat’s issues, and then trying to find the viable solution using Yellow, Red, White, Blue?

That could be interesting. My brain wonders quite a bit so I could see myself constantly trying to put all the hats on at once, but that’s not helpful to anyone. Much like mindfulness, being able to focus with a specific goal in mind is a muscle that I just need to flex more. But that’s where the Blue hat comes in: “🔵 Blue hat is for controlling the process. Especially in meetings, it’s good to be able to step in when there’s no progress and enable the group to move forward (e.g. by shifting the thinking or discussion to a different hat/perspective).”

Key Takeaway: We all need facilitators and Blue Hat

My daughter’s favorite video/music is a great fit for this one.

Tools #1: Dogs and Tools

Trying to learn as an adult is so hard. You already have so much of your neural network built and weighted that you get pulled back into old patterns. I mean the saying goes you can’t teach an ol’ dog new tricks. But, I think a better version is you can’t teach an ol’ dog new ways of performing old tricks that treated them well so far and got them to where they needed to go. That’s too long I guess.

I stumbled across this site: that is all about trying out different mental frameworks. My goal is to read through one of these each week and truly digest it, get into the noggin, and hopefully, it will push this ol’ dog to be some __% better.

What’s funny is that I’ve spent the better part of 10yrs facilitating innovation sessions for groups of 20+ people specifically around breaking your thinking. It’s just really hard to do this for yourself. Turns out people need people.

Old Ignite Workshops

Untool – Conflict Resolution Diagram

  • They reference this was pulled from the “Theory of Constraints” by Eliyahu Goldratt
  • The goal of this tool (aka “Evaporating Cloud”) is to be used when a conflict seems impossible.
  • There are three parts worked in the following order:
    • Demands/proposals of the opposing sides: these are usually mutually exclusive which is what creates the conflict.
      • Ask: What does the other side want to do? What do I want to do?
    • Underlying needs or requirements of both sides
      • Ask: What needs are satisfied by the proposal of each side?
    • Shared goal or objective that’s behind the needs
      • Ask: What will be achieved by meeting the needs of both sides?
      • This is important to come to a shared understanding as you become part of the same team, but you happen to be approaching it differently.
  • Now that the above is taken care of, you’ll need to discuss the assumptions that are behind the original approaches. This will most likely uncover why the approaches are at odds.
  • Ending – now you build the solution together with a focus on the shared vision/goal.

This reminds me of a reverse flow Opportunity Solution Tree that Teresa Torres talks about

Remember: focus on the outcomes and let that help dictate the path…hopefully a path takes into account kindness 😀

Growth and Leadership: Areas to Keep in Mind

Over the last two days, I put myself in a training (SkillPath “Management & Leadership Skills for First-Time Supervisors & Managers”) to help me better at helping others. About 7 weeks ago I was provided a great opportunity to move into a group product manager role and work with 3 current product managers and hire an additional product manager.

Group product manager has some nuances that make it vary a bit from what I’m used to. 1.) is that I’m still a direct contributor and 2.) I now have direct reports. This made me real nervous. How was I going to get my work done and provide the team with everything they need. We’re only 7 weeks in so we’ll see but I still need to do everything I can to grow in my leadership and not wing it. But truly couldn’t be more excited to work directly with seasoned product managers who know how to get their work done. We’ll learn a lot from each other.

Here are my take-aways from the day. Link to PDF

  • Learn to be direct but respectful = assertive
    • How to say No respectively: Understanding, Situation, Action
  • Focus on Logos (logic) , Ethos (ethics) , Pathos (emotion) ….but really get better at Pathos and being a true listener (body, mind and ears)
  • Don’t be fiddle-faddle with your meaning or words, a real struggle: let your yes be yes and your no be no
    • I thought this was cool quote “Catch somebody doing something right”
  • Be great at feedback: LB-NT (Like Best, Next Time) and maybe add reinforcement and help them prep when the “next time” is coming up
    • ‘But’ and ‘However’ marginalize all your previous comments
  • Be amazing at meetings: setting the stage, coming away with actions, and not wasting everyone’s time
  • If sending someone to training ask them to think about:
    • What am I learning?
    • So what?
    • Now what?
  • Asking is always better than telling
  • “You are paid for your team’s success”

Letters to Lu: Luca

Dear Lu,

I’m writing this a while after I originally had this thought. It’s probably in my physical notebooks somewhere, but posting here anyway.

Your mom and I were watching Luca. Great little flick about bravery and becoming who you want to be. Whenever I would go to the movies, my favorite part was the escape into the main character’s world. But even more than that was I would try and feel like the main character. When the movie was over I think about how I could overcome a similar challenge the character did or “be brave” or “stand-up for myself” or whatever. Movies make me cry…I think because they push me to think about things I’m scared of and know I need to step into to conquer them. This happens all the time…

Except for ‘Luca’. There was a moment early on in the where Luca’s parents are being very cautious and not wanting Luca to get hurt or get into trouble etc. Then it hit me.

I’m no longer the main character, I’m the worried parent. Now I’m crying for other reasons but mostly because I want you to be the most confident and strong person in the world. And want nothing more for you to be safe and never get hurt. Super weird feelings.

Anyways, love you very much,
Your Dad

The Blaze – Heaven

Ready Player Two – Fun Read….A Bit Cheese

Fun reads are back!!! It’s been way too much time since I’ve had a chance to get into a fun sci-fi book. Huge thank you to my neighbors for gifting me Ready Player Two for Christmas. Back in May of last year, I gifted their 11yr old son the original ‘Ready Player One’ which I loved. This year the two of us were going to read this at the same time so we could get into the details together.

Grabbed from here:

The start of the book made me immediately embarrassed about suggesting this book to my neighbor’s kid. I’m a new parent myself (daughter turned 1 today!!!!) and I’m not sure what is or isn’t age-appropriate.

First, there was the idea of spending 12hrs a day playing a simulated video game and the theme of escapism. I enjoy the hell out of some video games and getting lost in those worlds. I also know that my real-world self grew immensely when I dumped my Xbox years ago when I realized how many hours a day I was playing (upwards of 4-5hrs a day). Things “magically” started falling in place for me at the time once I did this. My efforts and enthusiasm funneled into things that helped me grow as a person instead of into a fake character that couldn’t do much more than frag the shit out of some other players (Halo 2 Online…How I miss three).

Second, sex, porn, and gender-fluid experiences came up a few times early in the book, and each time I cringed. People have sex and experience porn…yep but I also understood there was a young kid that will read it and felt it was a bit of a teenage thing vs a 6th grader. Maybe not 🤷‍♂️ an issue but it’s like when you’re a kid and a kissing or romantic scene comes up in a movie that you’re watching with your parents. Super awkward…that feeling is what I felt.

Overall, the book has some very cheesy, thin moments in the story but there were some cool concepts. There were also some fun adventures during the hunt that kept me engaged.

Spoilers: Favorite Moments

The way some of the easter eggs worked in the world was fascinating to me. There was one moment early on where an old calendar had to be placed on a wall and turned to the right month…then the setting of the whole location would move forward/backward in time to reveal clues that would have only been available during that time on the calendar. Brilliant. What a fun mechanic and a way to hide an easter egg. I haven’t played many ‘Myst’ types games in a long time but this put right back to being a kid and amazed when you uncover a clue and things happen. Such joy!

The John Hughes and Prince missions were the best part of the planet for sure. I learned a ton about the creators and gained a new respect for their work. The imagery was vivid and it brought me back to some of my favorite movies. :Chef’s Kiss: This was the most like the original book.

Diving deep into the implications of being immersed in a game for 12hrs. Again, the mechanics of how it would work to be lying still for very long extended periods of time was interesting.

  • How would a user protect their real body?
  • What are the effects on the mind/body?
  • What does that do for the overall health of the world, does it make it rush faster to 0 since everyone wants to be in the simulated world?
  • Also, the idea of conscious that can not die. With Elon’s Nueral Link and Meta pushing harder for better experiences…could this be a thing? In the book they did the bullshit thing of not letting anyone know that they are being copied as well as not giving them the option to reep the benefits of such a thing happening :-/ Yuck

Missed Moments

His Mom’s backpack!!!! Ugg there could have been interesting tear-jerking moments that could have been pulled out there.

The whole idea of the Vonnegut spacecraft. I didn’t understand the need for this at all or how it helped move the overall story forward. It was odd.

Sorrento 🙁 I’m not sure this could have been any weaker point in the book. So many details were given to the hunt… little care was put into this character who was driving a major part of the story.

Wrapping Up

Another fast read, the first one I finished in three days because of how excited I was to see what was next, this one was about 2-3 weeks because the first few chapters really hard to get through. Honestly, the last couple of chapters were hard too. But did I have a good time…certainly. I give it a 5/10, but sequels are really hard (Return of Jafar, what a stinker). I still think Ernest Cline should be proud of the works he created and put out in the world. I’m unsure of the factors that played into this book’s release. Really cool elements and interesting thoughts but some funky decisions that made it feel sloppy. Side note: I noticed the other day he doesn’t have Twitter anymore….that made me sad a bit and I’m not sure why…but I hope it’s not because of this book.

Today’s tune by John Orr, aka Kid Overdrive, performing an arrangement from his 2006 VGM album, Get Equipped With Kid Overdrive. It’s badass.