Author: Peter Kang

Favorite Books of 2017

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As the year comes to a close, I wanted to share my favorite books list of the past year. Hope you’ll give one of these a try during the holidays. The Perfect Pass: American Genius and the Reinvention of Football by S.C. Gwynne If you love football and want to understand how the game evolved from a stodgy, run-first sport into one that relies more and more on passing and spreading the field, this book […]

Netflix Culture Deck: 7 Slides to Remember

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After listening to an NPR podcast about Netflix’s legendary culture deck (read here), I decided to take a look through the 125-slide presentation to get a better understanding. There were a lot of great points that resonated with me. Last week, I printed up the entire presentation for the Barrel leadership team and we read the slides together out loud. I know we’ll continue to discuss and adapt certain lessons in the coming weeks and […]

Managing Complex Change Applied to Projects

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Mel shared the Managing Complex Change model with me a couple years ago and it’s something that’s stayed in the back of my mind. I had trouble recalling all of its components, so I decided to make my own graphic version to help me remember it better. I like this model because it breaks collaborative change into five distinct elements: Vision, Skills, Incentives, Resources, and Action Plan. I also like it because I think it applies as […]

The Spiritual Journey

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I read Homo Deus by Yuval Harari back in March and one passage that stuck with me was his take on spirituality and why religions are anything but spiritual. Harari defines religion as such: Religion is any all-encompassing story that confers superhuman legitimacy on human laws, norms and values. It legitimises human social structures by arguing that they reflect superhuman laws. Religion asserts that we humans are subject to a system of moral laws that […]

Favorite Quotes from The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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I recently finished reading The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, a novel about a double spy agent during and after the Vietnam War. It was one of the more memorable fiction reads I’ve had in a while. I really enjoyed Nguyen’s style of writing and found myself highlighting a number of passages. I’ve been trying to get better in general about revisiting books I’ve read and re-reading my highlights. With The Sympathizer, I found it a very […]

The Importance of Training in an Organization

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Training is, quite simply, one of the highest-leverage activities a manager can perform. Consider for a moment the possibility of your putting on a series of four lectures for members of your department. Let’s count on three hours of preparation for each hour of course time–twelve hours of work in total. Say that you have ten students in your class. Next year they will work a total of about twenty thousand hours for your organization. […]

Level, Listen, and Leave Yourself Out

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“Preparing and delivering a performance assessment is one of the hardest tasks you’ll have to perform as a manager.” – Andy S. Grove, High Output Management I’ve been re-reading sections of High Output Management by Andy Grove of Intel fame (he was president and then CEO at Intel during its years of incredible growth; Grove passed away in March 2016). There are a lot of valuable nuggets throughout the book. I wanted to highlight a section […]

How (and Why) I Built an E-commerce Store in Under 8 Hours

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AgencyDocs is a collection of documents and templates based on our work at Barrel. It’s an e-commerce store where other agency owners or managers can buy things like our employee onboarding checklist, our project brief template, or our functional spec document. Back in 2013, I wrote how I would gladly have paid for access to another agency’s documents to see how they did things. Over the years, we’ve seen bits and pieces of various documents […]

My Personal Finance Stack

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I’ve been revisiting the way I handle my personal finances in recent months and thought it would be good to list out my “personal finance stack” – the different accounts, tools, and workflows I have in place to handle my finances. Back in March 2015, I wrote about how I had missed golden opportunities in my twenties to invest earlier (see blog post). It was only when I turned thirty that I seriously considered putting my […]

Tower Defense and Business Management

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Tower defense (TD) is a subgenre of strategy video game where the goal is to defend a player’s territories or possessions by obstructing the enemy attackers, usually achieved by placing defensive structures on or along their path of attack. – Wikipedia I wanted to put my mind on auto-pilot for a few hours this weekend, so I downloaded a tower defense game on my iPhone. It’s called Pirate Legends and it reminds me very much of […]

Thoughts on “Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact” by Phil M. Jones

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Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact by Phil M Jones is a very quick read. As in, you can probably finish it in under 1 hour if not less than 40 minutes. But its value was in making me think about the words I use in my day-to-day conversations and what kinds of adjustments I can make to shape conversations in favorable ways. I’m not going to give a detailed summary of […]

Personal Accountability and the Pursuit of a Boring Culture

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In QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life, author John Miller offers a simple framework for handling ourselves day-to-day, both at work and in our personal lives. The Question Behind the Question is built on the observation that our first reactions are often negative, bringing to mind Incorrect Questions (IQs). But if in each moment of decision we can instead discipline ourselves to look behind those initial Incorrect […]

The Fundamentals of Knowledge Workers

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Whenever I think about fundamentals, I’m reminded of an interview that basketball player Andrew Bogut had on the Bill Simmons podcast in which he talked about the Warriors and how they practiced: I still remember the first training camp we had under coach Kerr. We were doing basic passing drills into the passing net, like left-handed passes, right-hand, overhead, and doing dribbling drills through cones, and a lot of guys were pissed because they were like, […]

Lessons from The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker: Know Thy Time

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Effective executives, in my observation, do not start with their tasks. They start with their time. And they do not start with planning. They start by finding out where their time actually goes. Then they attempt to manage their time and to cut back unproductive demands on their time. Finally they consolidate their “discretionary” time into the largest possible continuing units. This three-step process: – recording time, – managing time, and – consolidating time is […]

Process is Habits for Business

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I recently re-read “The Process Component” in the book Traction by Gino Wickman. These two paragraphs summarize the chapter nicely: A typical organization operates through a handful of core processes. How these processes work together is its unique system. To break through the ceiling and build a well-oiled machine, you need to possess the ability to systemize. That is what this chapter is all about: helping you systemize what you’ve built. You’ll discover different ways to […]

Revisiting Good to Great and the Stop Doing List

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I spent an hour or so last night flipping through and re-reading parts of Good to Great by Jim Collins, the popular classic business book about the qualities that make companies successful. I first read the book over 5 years ago. That was a time when I began to pick up books on business with the goal of extracting lessons I could apply to Barrel. I remember a specific part of the book that I […]

Avoiding the Effort Heuristic in Client Work

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The effort heuristic is a mental rule of thumb in which the quality or worth of an object is determined from the perceived amount of effort that went into producing that object. In brief, the effort heuristic follows a tendency to judge objects that took a longer time to produce to be of higher value. – Wikipedia When it comes to managing a team that’s producing work for clients, it’s critical that everyone working on the […]

11 Years of Barrel, Some Lessons

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Every June 1, we celebrate the incorporation of Barrel. Most years, it’s a simple toast at the end of the day. Last year, on our 10-year anniversary, we had a nice party at one of my favorite restaurants. This year, we had margaritas and ice cream. We also launched a brand new website. What I most cherish about June 1 is that it gets me thinking about lessons I’ve learned in the past year. Over […]

Pointing the Finger Inward

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This brief article in The New York Times on cognitive dissonance and why’s it’s so difficult to admit that we’re wrong got me thinking about an important lesson that Sei-Wook and I learned some years ago–that it’s always better to find fault with what we did or didn’t do rather than trying to blame someone or something else. Over the years, we’ve gotten better and better at developing a decision tree on how to handle […]

Basic Decision Patterns

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I’m grossly oversimplifying what author Venkatesh Rao puts forward in his book Tempo: Timing Tactics and Strategy in Narrative-Driven Decision-making, but I liked his part on Basic Decision Patterns so much that I decided to create a more graphic representation of his 2×2 quadrant to help me remember it for later. His quadrant shows “Information Location” across the x-axis going from Internal to External and “Visibility of Mental Models” on the y-axis going from Low to […]