Category Archives: Leadership

Virtuous Cycles, Platforms, Flywheels, Snowballs, and Tidal Waves

I’m working on writing down my thoughts on space. I’ve learned a ton since deciding space would be my next mission. Some pretty clear thoughts are forming, and whenever that happens, I’ve trained myself to write, write, and write to really solidify things. Space is big. In fact, it is, literally, the largest domain. Given the vastness of the domain, I need to formulate a Taxonomy and Lexicon that resonates to gain clarity. I’m a …Continue reading

I’m Advising Carv Because It Improves My Skiing

Last Christmas (2019) my daughter gifted me Carv. I fell so in love with the product that I stalked the CEO and begged him to talk to me to see if I could help. I’ve been working with the company since December and last week he asked me to join Carv as a Strategic Advisor. Initially, I assumed Carv was a gimmick. The abbreviated 2019/20 ski season meant I only got 6 days using Carv, …Continue reading

From Servers, Phones, and Voice Assistants to Space…

Last week I joined my good friend  Den Delimarsky and his colleague Courtny Cotten hosted me on The Work Item podcast. “In this episode, we dive a bit deeper into Charlie’s approach to product ideation and design, discuss the importance of having a principled organization, and ask questions about his most recent adventure around space.” Czech it out here (I love that the transcript is available along with the audio): From Servers, Phones, and Voice Assistants to …Continue reading

Find the Crux by Debating Excellence

No, don’t debate excellence; become excellent at debating. “It is better to debate a decision without settling it than settling a decision without debating it.” – Joseph Joubert Vigorous debate is critical to clear thinking in an organization. Debates garner the full intelligence of an organization. For decisions of great import, rigorous debate depersonalizes the decision. People are predisposed to focus on symptoms or minutia. Arguing over extraneous details is inefficient and is often the …Continue reading

How to be a Secret Agent (of Change)

This post documents some essential tools I’ve collected in my “change toolkit”. By sharing them, I hope more leaders will become even better change agents, or at least be better at dealing with change.Continue reading

Do Your Job – Don’t Use Placeholder Text

If you are a UX designer, Software Developer, or Product Manager, and you use placeholder text anywhere but where it’s impossible to know what the content will be (user supplied) then you are doing it wrong. And you are not doing your job. I learned this from @joebelfiore: Using placeholder text defers decision making. It’s a cop-out by the person using it and gives reviewers an excuse to also not debate what’s right. It’s far …Continue reading

Open Office Hours with Charlie

Last month I offered “office hours” to anyone who wanted to chat with me. It was an experiment to see a) if interesting people would reach out, b) if I could be useful to these people, and c) if I’d be exposed to domains where I could spend more of my time in the future. All three hypotheses have turned out true. Thank you to all of you who utilized this so far! I still …Continue reading

Interview with Authority Mag: Homes Of The Future

Jason Hartman recently interviewed me for Authority Magazine. Check it out. Homes Of The Future: “The Future Of Smart Homes” With Charlie Kindel of SnapAV Some quotes: One of the things that really motivates and drives me professionally and personally, is the idea of how technology can improve people’s lives in their homes… I realized then that I was doing it all wrong and that everybody around me was doing it wrong and that they …Continue reading

Broken Windows – Right Idea, Bad Analogy

It is well understood that no product is perfect and small issues will always exist. Without an ongoing mechanism to fix those issues, not only do they not get fixed, they pile up. Having a clear Lexicon and Taxonomy is critical to getting large numbers of people moving forward towards a vision. Having the lexicon be composed of terms that make logical sense, disambiguate, and are memorable is important. Over the years of building many …Continue reading

Mechanisms

Mechanisms are complete processes built around a tool, owned by a leader that gets adopted broadly and regularly inspected and improved to ensure things get done, not because everyone has good intentions, but because the mechanism’s elements structurally force the desired behavior. “Good intentions never work, you need good mechanisms to make anything happen.” — Jeff Bezos I’ve written previously about how Good Intentions are Never Enough and why mechanisms are needed, but I didn’t go deep into how to make mechanisms actually work. …Continue reading

Path To Green

A Path To Green (PTG) is a clear, crisp, and complete statement describing a team’s plan for getting a project from red or yellow status to green. This post describes the concept and provides some tips on how to be excellent at articulating a PTG. Organizations that routinely deliver great results hold individuals and teams accountable for delivering those results. Ensuring everyone is clear on projects’ status is key to this (e.g., is a project red, …Continue reading

Tenets

This post was inspired by a LinkedIn post by Dave Glick who was apparently the “Godfather of Tenets” at Amazon. Much of the content of this post is from notes I took in a class on Tenets at Amazon. I’ve subsequently used it to teach others how to be excellent at writing and using Tenets. Tenets are a few, carefully articulated guiding principles for a program or business area. They act as a guide for the team, …Continue reading

Work Backwards From The Customer

At the 1996 Microsoft Professional Developer Conference (PDC) I stood up in front of 8,000 customers and announced what I’d been working on for the previous two years: the Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM). On stage, in front of all those people, we wrote and demoed code running on one Windows 95 PC talking over the network to code on other PCs. This was back in the day when being able to write programs that worked across a …Continue reading

Have Specific Conversations, not General Conversations

If you are discussing a topic with colleagues, it’s almost always better to have a specific conversation instead of a general conversation. General Conversation Specific Conversation “We need to figure out how to scrub all open bugs.” Followed by a lot of non-specific debate… “There are 42 open bugs. 42 bugs fit on one screen in Excel. Lets look at them all right now and see if there’s a pattern.” “Customers are angry. We need …Continue reading

Kindel’s 2nd Law

Kindel’s 2nd Law – Companies with a subscriptions-based business model eventually behave in ways hostile to that company’s customers. Charlie Kindel – July 2019 Woot! I now have two laws named after me. This law was originally coined in a tweet: This law is a law due to companies’ getting focused on a made-up LTV (lifetime value of a customer), CAC (cost to acquire a customer), and churn rate. Especially churn. Once a subscription business …Continue reading

Taxonomy and Lexicon

How many times have you been in a heated discussion only to find out that the two sides were talking past each other because they were reading from two different dictionaries? I bet you can also remember situations where just a little more structure got everyone aligned quicker. Creating, explaining, and re-enforcing a strong Taxonomy and Lexicon is a critical skill for all leaders (reminder: everyone in our business is a leader, not just managers). Taxonomy …Continue reading

One-Way and Two-Way Doors

Effective decision making starts with understanding; in the long-term, very, very few things actually matter. The vast majority of the decisions made day-to-day are either minutia or easily reversible and can be made quickly. However, a small number of things (about 1 in 10) matter a lot (in the long term) and are worthy of serious pondering, discussion, investigation, investment, and decision making. Back when I was at Microsoft, a mentor introduced me to the pithy phrase 90% of …Continue reading

Mental Models

You’ve probably noticed people you work with who are effective at leading can frame complex ideas simply. They’ll lead conversations like this: “Well, I think there are three things we should focus on, not 15, and they are…” “Folks, I think there’s another way of looking at this problem. What if we viewed the problem through these four lenses…” A key to doing this effectively is to be conscious of the concept of Mental Models. …Continue reading

Lead Without Authority

There are two forms of influence in the world: Influence by authority Influence without authority When a ‘boss’ (a manager or someone with a big title) attempts to influence change or drive action using only their authority, it is rarely successful in the short term, and never in the long term. “Because, I told you so” may work a few times on a kindergartner, but doesn’t inspire confidence or long-term results in the business world. …Continue reading

Focusing on users is not Customer Obsession

Let’s talk Customer Obsession and how it is different than user obsession. My definitions: Customer: An individual (or entity) that pays you, directly or indirectly, for value you provide. User: An individual that is forced to use something you provide. Users fall into three buckets 1) people unhealthily addicted to something (heroin), 2) employees forced to use something in order to do their job (IT systems), or 3) people who are products of services that sell them …Continue reading