Posts tagged 'leadership'
I’ve recently been traveling through Japan, covering all the way from Nagasaki on Kyushu island in the south up to Sapporo in the north. Three weeks. 2500km. By train. Needless to say, Japanese trains are awesome: They’re fast, they’re clean, they’re cheap (at least for tourists), and they will take you pretty much anywhere. But by far the most remarkable thing about them is: They’re on time. All the time.
When I talk about strategy, particularly product strategy, and particularly to engineers, I like to start with a picture that looks like this: My goal here is to draw their attention away from what usually comes to mind about planning and prioritizing: Which features are on the roadmap and which aren’t? Where’s that issue ranked on the backlog? Will this enhancement request make it into the next sprint?
In biology, there’s a concept called homeostasis: Living systems seem to effortlessly balance differences between internal and external conditions in order to remain within their existential boundaries. The human body for example maintains an almost constant core temperature through sophisticated heating and cooling processes, and thus manages to keep us alive and flourishing in a wide range of environments. Social systems on the other hand don’t come with such built-in regulatory mechanism.
If you’ve got about 20 minutes to spare, I’d invite you to listen to the following performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 28 (Op. 101) by the great Igor Levit: What caught my attention about this piece—apart form the beauty of the music itself—are the peculiar titles Beethoven chose for each of the four movements. Normally, these are intended to clarify the composer’s intentions for the benefit of the performer.
I consider myself reasonably fit. I know I can run a mile in seven minutes, or a kilometer in four and a half. On even ground. In cool climate. When I’m feeling fresh and relaxed. But upwards on a 75% incline? On a rocky hillside? In 40°C or more? With lungs full of smoke, the roar of a wildfire in my ears, and under threat of a sudden and violent death?
How does anybody actually decide what they do? Life is an endless parade of choices: In every moment we prioritize and decide: Do we get up or stay in bed? Do we read the paper or go for a walk? Do we exercise or watch TV? Each of those tiny choices may seem inconsequential on their own, but taken together they end up defining our entire life. The same is true in business: Every day, we make countless small decisions that end up shaping our organization and its culture.