Th Oz Principle

Book review: The Oz Principle by R. Connors, T. Smith and C. Hickman

If you are in program or project management, you definitely familiar with RACI matrix. Probably, the most confusing part of it is the difference between Accountable and Responsible. The picture below I took from the book and it visualize this difference nicely.

The one may be directly responsible for a specific scope, but true accountability spreads beyond immediate tasks and covers a wider area.

Accountability and Responsibility

Why it is important? Because at any company things “fell between the cracks” because people let them fell between cracks because they don’t want to take accountability for that. So, it does not really matter how many head counts are assigned to the task, there always be missed deliverables. There always be blame assignment to other departments, customers, ineffective tools or processes Unless everybody feels accountable.

This resonates very well with Amazon Leadership Principle – Ownership: “Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.

The Oz Principle book defines a framework which an individual or an organization can utilize to detect that they fell “below the bar”, accept accountability for that and start a process of exiting downward spiral. The book defines four steps in the framework.

See It

Everything starts with accepting the reality. If there is a problem, denial is not a solution. The book does not give any magical instruments here – ask and listen to a feedback, actively work towards better understanding of a problem, acknowledge the reality, accept coaching from others.

I believe that deep inside everyone knows if they are below or above the line. So See It is not about knowledge but about courage to accept the reality.

Own It

Accept accountability for results and actions that led to the problem or current state of things. The book provides an interesting list of questions that helps to swallow a pill of accountability:

  1. Can you cite the most convincing point of the “other side of the story” that “they” are telling?
  2. If you wished to warn someone in similar circumstances not to make the same mistakes, what would you tell them?
  3. What facts did you choose to ignore?
  4. What facts should you add to the story that you have left out?
  5. What would you do differently if you faced this situation again?
Solve It

There is always somebody in a team who Sees all the problems and even may be Owns them but still does not move an inch towards resolution. The book suggest ask yourself triggering questions, like “Do you stay engaged in solving a problem when things get difficult?”, “Do you try to discover new ways of thinking about problems?”. There is always an easier way to “quit and stay” and wait until somebody will step in. But will it help in a long run?

For me the best part of the book is simple idea to ask yourself and your team – What else can we do to rise above our circumstances and get results we want?

Do It

Well, Do It is actually about doing it. Stay above the bar for a long time, review selected course of actions and progress step by step. There is a gravitational pull from below the bar that you have to resist. And you failed to resist, then recognize it quickly enough to raise the bar again.

Overall, 4 out of 5 book. The ideas described in it are not new and some parts of the book are outdated, but it is still a solid summary how to drive accountability for yourself and organization.

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Book Review: Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

Years ago, at the beginning of my career, I learned a simple but powerful idea – people come to work for a leader, not for a company. Talent development and retention is one of the most difficult parts of a people manager’s job. So, how do you “multiply” intelligence of your team?

Even if a company fully equipped with learning materials and encourages employees to develop themselves, if will not going to happen on a large scale without a leader who possesses right skills to help people to grow. But what are those skills? And how to measure them?

A one way to measure these skills is to check if people around a leader become smarter over time or they stall in professional development and degrade? The book uses this specific metric to group leaders into two categories “Multipliers” and “Diminishers”. And it makes a lot of sense – if people grow around a leader, they can contribute more and willing to do it. The book calls it “Multiplier Effect”. And vice versa, if people don’t grow, they will give less and less. They will “quit and stay”, as the author nicely put it.

5 chapters of the book analyze patterns and anti-patters of behavior that help a reader to identify are they a “Multiplier” or a “Diminisher”.

  • Talent Magnet vs Empire Builder
  • Liberator vs Tyrant
  • Challenger vs Know-It-All
  • Debate Maker vs Decision Maker
  • Investor vs Micromanager

The book describes how patterns above influence people productivity and collective intelligence . This part has helped to see my own flaws as a manager and a leader.

One interesting idea described in the Chapter 1 is “The Logic of Addition”. And I think, may organizations and individuals operate exactly as the book describes it:

Operational leaders entrenched in the logic of resource allocation and addition argue:

1. Our people are overworked.

2. Our best people are the most maxed out.

3. Therefore, accomplishing a bigger task requires the addition of more resources.

Wiseman, Liz; McKeown, Greg. Multipliers (p. 14).

If this logic applies in a growing market, it may work for a long time. But, inevitably, an organization will face a problem that cannot be solved by throwing in more bodies. And what to do when it happens? Increase productivity of an organization by getting more from its people. It is an obvious conclusion that is very difficult to implement in practice. First of all, why people should care about giving more?

The book gives perspective and recommendations how to run a team in a way that people will want to contribute more and will do it voluntarily. Out of all recommendations, one was specifically interesting for me – “Work The Extremes”. The research done by the authors showed it is not necessary have strengths in all Multiplier dimensions. The one can be great in one or two. What is important that there are no obvious weaknesses. I will use this idea in my development plans.

Overall, a great book – 5 out of 5. If you are a people manager, I highly recommend you to read it.

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Book Review: Genkhis Khan

Book Review: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

When I visited Mongolia for the first time back in 2013, the main airport of the country still had was called Genghis Khan International airport. It was renamed in 2020, but not because the founder of Mongolian Empire lost his importance for Mongolian people.

23 July, 2013 – my first trip to Mongolia

I believe every European at least heard about Genghis Khan and Mongolia but has very vague understanding how many things in the modern world exist because of them.

Adoption of Arabic numerical system, Forbidden Palace in Beijing, Silk Route – the list is very long. However, in collective knowledge, Genghis Khan is primarily associated with cities destructions and war atrocities (that also had a place without a doubt).

I have recently finished a book – Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. It give truly fascinating and amazing story of a rise and fall of Mongolian Empire and its founder. The book provides very detailed overview of Genghis Khan life and path to power and gives insights how ideas and beliefs of a nomadic tribe leader influenced half of the planet population.

Roughly half of the book is telling a reader story how Mongolian empire lived after the great warrior passed away. And why Mongolian expansion stopped – apparently, it is more related to climate conditions than anything else.

The most interesting part of the book is how Mongolian innovations spread across national and religion boundaries. Connecting West and East, they were able to build global economy, proto-globalization, in some sense. It is amazing to see how many modern world features can be traced back to Genghis Khan and his followers.

Overall, it is a great book for anybody who is interested in history and Mongolian culture.

5 out of 5.

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The Invincible Company

Book Review: The Invincible Company

The Invincible company was a first book that I could not open with my Kindle Paperwhite. The reason is that it is written as a visual story with a lot of graphical elements, diagrams and tables. It is a new format for me, but I have enjoyed it.

Strategyzer is a company that develops Innovation Software Management products, runs trainings and writes books about strategy, innovation and business models. I came across their most well-known book The Invincible Company because I like core idea they convey:

“Innovation is not a magic that happens by itself. It is a craft that can be analyzed and taught”

The other question how you do this and what patterns you should adopt and avoid.

What is in the book?

The Invincible Company book consists of four major pieces:

  • Business Model Portfolio. A great tool that guides a reader how to analyze existing products portfolio and what actions to take for both Explore (aka Innovation) and Exploit (aka mature products) parts of the portfolio. This is an interesting exercise that I tried to apply for AWS Support products – the line of business I am currently managing myself.
  • Portfolio Management – how to manage Explore and Exploit portfolios. This part was very interesting for me because it provides a workflow to design, test, scale and retire business ideas and models. Here you will find also has number of case studies where companies were able to successfully manage innovation process or transform themselves to avoid disruption. For example, Fujifilm had the same business model as Kodak but it survived photo industry digitalization and re-invented itself. Why and how? The book explains it.
  • Invent Pattern Library. Collection of patterns from successful companies. How they explored new markets, how they created new value propositions, how they found new revenue streams or changed cost structure. Every pattern has associated case study, assessment and trigger questions for leaders. These questions help to build a scorecard for existing portfolio and be a conversation starter to initiate a change.
  • Improve Pattern Library. Also a collection of patterns but related to business model shifts – “From Product to Recurring Service”, “From Low Touch to High Touch” and etc. What different companies did to improve their business models and how did they do it. The most interesting case study for me was TED – TED transformed from an invite-only, niche conference to a mass, online destination for the intellectually curious. Again, for every pattern there is a conversation starter – “strategic reflection”.

A combination of appealing graphical design, a lot of case studies and trigger questions make this book an excellent source of insights. I highly recommend it for everybody who is doing portfolio management or involved in any innovation processes creation or management.

5 out of 5.

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Atomic Habits

Book Review: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Every company is trying to build processes with predictable outcomes. Every company is trying to automate as much as possible routine operations. Why? There are multiple reasons, for sure. But one of the most obvious ones is – to save time and resources for innovation and expanding a business.

Habits play the same role in human life as processes and mechanisms play in a life of a company. We have a limited amount of mental energy, our attention span is short and we are distracted easily. All of us need a system that will efficiently maintain daily routines and help us move forward without visible conscious effort. It is not possible to focus and progress in ten different things simultaneously.

The cornerstone of such system is habits. There are two types of habits – those that make us better and efficient every day and those that hurt and degrade us with time. Let’s call them efficient and inefficient for simplicity. Why does it matter? A simple mathematical equation below gives the answer.

0.99^365 = 0.0255

1.01^365 = 37.783

Do 1% less every day for a year and you will degrade significantly. Do 1% more every day for a year and you will thrive. Progressive overload is a great example.

However, it is difficult to adopt new efficient habits and get rid of inefficient ones. I believe everyone had experience this challenge in some point of time. This is where the book Atomic Habits by James Clear comes to help. It provides exceptionally clear recommendations how to implement habits and break them. The book gives The 4 Laws:

  • The 1st Law: Make It Obvious
  • The 2nd Law: Make It Attractive
  • The 3rd Law: Make It Easy
  • The 4th Law: Make It Satisfying

How to create a good habit

It looks very easy and straightforward but I know from my personal experience that it is way more difficult to implement in reality. A couple of years ago I have read another excellent book – Pragmatic Thinking by Andy Hunt. I have implemented some of them and they stuck with me while others were abandoned over time. Now I understand why and how to fix it.

Somebody may ask, well, I have my goals. Isn’t it enough? I would like to quote the view of the author:

The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.

Clear, James. Atomic Habits (p. 27). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Overall, I highly recommend Atomic Habits book to everyone.

Social Architecture

Book Review: Building On-line Communities by Pieter Hintjens

As of November 2021 there are 28 million public repositories at GitHub. Internet literally runs on open source software. After recent log4j drama there were a lot of debates (here is a very good example) about how critical parts of modern IT world are maintained by online communities and how it can be improved.

So, I asked myself a question – how exactly you can build a thriving open source project and create community around to support and maintain it? I came across the book Social Architecture by Pieter Hintjens (a founder of ZeroMQ project) gives his view on processes and guidelines how to successfully achieve such goal.

The book starts with definition and description of 20 key ideas or tools that online community should have to be successful in the long term. Transparency, decentralization, strong mission and non-tribalism are among others.

After that book moves to explaining the idea that innovation is not done by a small group of people but rather it comes from a well-defined process:

The innovative nature of the Internet comes not from a small, select band of Einsteins. It comes from RFCs anyone can use and improve, made by hundreds and thousands of smart, though not uniquely smart, individuals. It comes from open source software that anyone can use and improve. It comes from sharing, remixing, and scale of community. It comes from the continuous accretion of good solutions, and the disposal of bad ones.

Hintjens, Pieter. Social Architecture: Building On-line Communities (p. 38). Pieter Hintjens.

Basically, the book states that well-defined protocols how community members interact with each other is a mandatory pre-requisite for Collective Intelligence and, as outcome, successful open source product.

The author explains what types of licensing exist today and what are the pros and cons for each type. Other practical explanations about watermarks and how to register them are also in place.

The second half of the book describes how ZeroMQ community has been built and operates today. The most interesting part for me was dive deep into Collective Code Construction Contract (C4) that describes in RFC-like format how community should build, distribute and maintain open source software.

One more refreshing idea that I found in the book is that ZeroMQ community does not use roadmaps and do not release features. They use Simplicity Oriented Design and see a product as an endless chain of patches stack one on top of another. Every patch represents the most simple solution to a very specific problem. This idea, probably, not new but allows to look differently on traditional approach with long roadmaps and constant prioritization of engineering resources.

Overall, the book has number of interesting ideas and real life examples. 4.5 out of 5.

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Reading List 2022

Reading List 2022

Welcome to year 2022!

Last year the list had a decent mix of professional, fiction and non-ficton books. In 2022 I am going to concentrate to learn more about following topics:

  • Psychology of decision making and influence. How we make decisions? What can persuade us and why? Answers on these questions help to understand how to build inter-personal communication and inspire people.
  • Organizations’ efficiency. It is quite astonishing to see how different can be efficiency of organizations. This year I continue to study this area and learn about mechanisms that creates “1+1=3” effect.
  • Visual story telling. Even I work today in a company that heavily relies on writing texts instead of creating slide decks, visually compelling content is a king. Structure, composition, color, size of picture and text are key components to keep audience’s always reducing span of attention on the topic.
  • Personal efficiency. Last year I was trying to implement several useful habits to my daily routine and was only partially successful. I have realized that I need to learn how to create habits more efficiently. And, of course, continue to train ability to concentrate.
  • Plus, some non-fiction titles as an entertainment.

Hereby I present you the Reading List 2022!

Leadership and communication skills

  1. Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion
  2. Social Architecture: Building On-line Communities
  3. Slideology
  4. Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences
  5. Atomic Habits
  6. Concentration: Maintain Laser Sharp Focus and Attention
  7. The Invincible Company: How to Constantly Reinvent Your Organization
  8. Crossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers
  9. The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability
  10. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter
  11. Nudge: The Final Edition
  12. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade


  1. Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts
  2. New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World–and How to Make It Work for You
  3. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World


  1. Project Hail Mary

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Book Review: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Wikipedia defines cognitive bias as “systematic pattern of deviation from norm and/or rationality in judgment”. And the list of biases in the same article is impressive. Humans are quite irrational and our judgement does not always follows rules of logic. The one cannot remove biases and mental shortcuts – it is not possible to override thousands years of human brain evolution. But, the one can detect situations where biases are triggered and stay alerted.

Daniel Kahneman got his Nobel prize back in 2002 for his prospect theory that basically created behavioral economics. The theory also challenged assumption that Humans are economically rational species. Here it is in a nutshell:

  • Faced with a risky choice leading to gains, individuals are risk-averse, preferring solutions that lead to a lower expected utility but with a higher certainty
  • Faced with a risky choice leading to losses, individuals are risk-seeking, preferring solutions that lead to a lower expected utility as long as it has the potential to avoid losses

A book Thinking, Fast and Slow provides detailed explanation how this theory applies to various situation in our daily life and how it impacts our decision making process. (Spoiler: it impacts a lot and we not even aware about it). However, this is just a small part of knowledge that I got from the book.

The book starts with a description of simplified version of a human “thinking” mechanism that consist of two systems that play different roles in cognitive process. It explains how associative machine works, how cognitive ease derails us from original question and makes us to substitute it and etc.

Then the book goes into details of selected biases and heuristics – availability, anchoring, stereotyping, framing and others. There are a lot of mechanisms that allow us jump to conclusions without mental effort and the book gives overview how they work and how small change in a question’s frame can sway an answer to an opposite direction.

The author concentrates a lot on two important topics – overconfidence and choice. I was surprised that there are numerous studies which clearly demonstrate how bad we are in predicting the future and how often experts’ intuition is wrong. The book also gives an explanation how overconfident view, planning fallacy and optimism are important drivers for economy.

Choice, risk assessment, value assignment are parts of prospect theory and covered in the book as well. These chapters helped to understand my own thinking process when it comes to risky decisions and gambling. It also gave an insight why the same outcome may have different psychological effect depending on the context and framing.

The last part of the book is about two selves – experiencing self and remembering self. This part gave me rational explanation why our memories of events are more important than actual experience we had during the events.

After finishing the book I became even more critical to my judgements and intuition. So, I am more prepared now to employ critical thinking when it is necessary. There are several mechanisms that I will keep for my professional life – pre-mortem to fight planning fallacy, outside view and base rate. Read the book and I am sure you will find it useful too.

Overall, 5 out 5. Thinking, Fast and Slow is a perfect book for everybody. I highly recommend it.

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Technical Blogging

Book Review. Technical Blogging by Antonio Cangiano

Summer break is over and I am back to my favorite post type – book reviews. This time I want to share my thoughts about practical guide how to create, maintain and evolve a technical blog. This book covers all steps – plan, build, promote and scale.

Writing is not easy. Formulating ideas in a concise and clear matter requires efforts and time. But even if you are great in writing it is not enough to make you voice heard and opinions spread. There are around 600 millions blogs on the Internet today but only 32 millions are active. It means, that blogging is “easy to learn, difficult to master” thing.

When I decided to start my blog, I had close to none knowledge about how to do it. I knew how individual pieces of technology enable and simplify blogging, but I never tried to create one on my own. So, I had to find “installation manual”. Luckily, I came across Technical Blogging by Antonio Cangiano book that helped me tremendously.

The book focuses specifically on tech or close-to-tech blogs that distinguish it from thousands of other materials that mostly talk about personal blogs, online retail and etc. The book starts with guiding a reader through a planning phase and helps to find a proper niche, estimate audience and generate initial list of topics for your blog.

The next step is more technical – how to build a blog. Even if a WordPress (and the book’s focuses mostly on it) is super user friendly and straightforward, you better have more detailed explanation how key elements of the platform work, how they are integrated and etc. And the book does a good job in doing that.

The cornerstone of a blog – content – is covered in a great details. The books answers on questions how to find ideas for new posts, when and how often to post and other nuances. Probably, it is a key chapter of the book. Then the book concentrates on topic of a blog promotion via multiple sources and benefits of each of them. I have to say that I did not implement even a 30% of promotion advises. Some of them are outdated, others are not applicable for my niche, but you will find something useful for you for sure.

The last two chapters are about monetizing and scaling a blog, but for most of readers there will be long and effortful journey before they come to the need of finding additional authors or making money out of the blog.

If you are looking for a beginner guide how to start a blog, this book is for you. I rate if 5 out of 5.

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Book Review

Book Review. The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders by Camille Fournier

There are 27 million Software Developers world wide according recent estimations. If we will take average span of control as 10, we will get roughly 2,5 million Engineering Managers. That is an impressive number. But who are those people?

While it is clear what a Software Developer should do well (write good quality code), it is not that straightforward what set of skills an Engineering Manager should have. Or how career path from a Developer to a Manager may look like in tech companies today. Of course, every mid- or large size organization has a blueprint that describe career ladder and number of job descriptions for Engineering organization. But it does not help a lot in practice.

The book outlines a path from Software Developer to a VP of Engineering/CTO in today’s IT world. It describes all intermediate states – Technical Lead, Engineering Manager, Manager of managers and etc in a very structured way. It starts from very basic fundamental knowledge and takes a reader to more complicated topics, like organizational culture, stakeholders management and etc.

If you are a manager today, this book most probably will not give you a lot of insights. But if you are in the beginning of your career and looking for a management position, it will be definitely useful. The book indeed gives a path that is almost the same in every enterprise that has an Engineering organization.

The author spends a lot of time explaining technical leads/senior engineer role in a team. IMHO, this role is underestimated in a lot of companies and the book has ready to implement guidelines.

Overall score – 4 out of 5. I can recommend this book to folks in the beginning of a career in Engineering organizations or Senior Engineers who would like to make a step to a management role.

Write in comments – how a good manager should look like?

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