mental models

  • A SMaC recipe is a set of durable operating practices that create a replicable and consistent success formula. The word “SMaC” stands for Specific, Methodical, and Consistent. You can use the term “SMaC” as a descriptor in any number of ways: as an adjective (“ Let’s build a SMaC system”), as a noun (“ SMaC lowers risk”), and as a verb (“ Let’s SMaC this project”). A solid SMaC recipe is the operating code for turning strategic concepts into reality, a set of practices more enduring than mere tactics. Tactics change from situation to situation, whereas SMaC practices can last for decades and apply across a wide range of circumstances.

    — Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All (Good to Great Book 5) by Jim Collins, Morten T. Hansen

  • The product vision is what drives and inspires the company and sustains the company through the ups and downs. This may sound straightforward, but it’s tricky. That’s because there are two very different types of product leaders needed for two very different situations:

    • Where there is a CEO or a founder who is the clear product visionary
    • Where there is no clear product visionary—usually in situations where the founder has moved on

    There are two very bad situations you may encounter related to product vision and strategy.

    The first is when you have a CEO who is very strong at product and vision, but she wants to hire a VP product (or, more often, the board pushes her to hire a VP product), and she thinks she should be hiring someone in her own image—or at least visionary like her. The result is typically an immediate clash and a short tenure for the VP product. If this position looks like a revolving door, it’s very possible that’s what’s going on.

    The second bad situation is when the CEO is not strong at vision, but she also hires someone in her own image. This doesn’t result in the clash (they often get along great), but it does leave a serious void in terms of vision, and this causes frustration among the product teams, poor morale across the company, and usually a lack of innovation.

    The key here is that the VP product needs to complement the CEO. If you have a strong, visionary CEO, there may be some very strong VP product candidates that won’t want the position because they know that, in this company, their job is primarily to execute the vision of the CEO.

    — INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love (Silicon Valley Product Group) by Marty Cagan

  • Management by Objectives: The Planning Process Applied to Daily Work

    The system of management by objectives assumes that because our concerns here are short-range, we should know quite well what our environment demands from us “…”

    The idea behind MBO is extremely simple: If you don’t know where you’re going, you will not get there. Or, as an old Indian saying puts it, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” A successful MBO system needs only to answer two questions:

    1. Where do I want to go? (The answer provides the objective.)
    2. How will I pace myself to see if I am getting there? (The answer gives us milestones or key results.)

    — High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove

  • Replication as a mental model teaches us that we don’t always need to reinvent the wheel. Often a good starting point is what others are doing. Once you get a sense and a feel for the environment you can adapt to better suit your own needs.

    What we need to remember is that effective replication requires enough structure and space to produce a copy, but enough flexibility to adapt that copy to changes in the environment. Just because something has worked for a while doesn’t mean that it will continue to be effective in perpetuity. Maintaining a successful approach requires an ability to grow and modify that approach as required.

    — The Great Mental Models Volume 2: Physics, Chemistry and Biology by Shane Parrish, Rhiannon Beaubien

  • The story of a new product, from conception to widespread use and high market share, is usually one of ups and downs. There are so many facets of business to learn, from production to sales to marketing, that for novice businesspeople trying to turn their great idea into a successful sales story, there are usually a few mistakes along the way.

    In addition, we often have to manage traversing our own peaks and valleys while trying to ensure that our current capacities don’t limit our ability to climb a higher peak. Using the lens of global and local maxima shows that often in bringing a new product to market, there are many times the owners reach a peak of success only to have to go down to a local minimum as they take on the next challenging climb.

    — The Great Mental Models Volume 3: Systems and Mathematics by Rhiannon Beaubien, Rosie Leizrowice

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