Accelerate Time-to-Market with a “Chief” Mindset

Chief Mindset First Principles Blog

Paul McNamara

People operating with a “chief” mindset are capable of seeing the world differently and more powerfully.  They can escape the cultural biases that get people stuck in habitual ways of thinking.  They act from first principles, not their gut.  Elon Musk claims that those operating in a “chief” mindset must understand the requirements of every component of their system and how they work together to enable the system as a whole to produce outcomes.  The system can be a rocket built from hardware and software components or a business with its array of people, tools, commitments, and practices.

A Video Case Study:  Drive Time-to-Market with First Principles Thinking

We’ve applied the “Chief Mindset”/First Principles thinking to asset management.  The video linked here — Digital Transformation:  Asset Management 5.0 — goes into great depth about how we partnered with one customer to accelerate their results. Listen as our customer explains the successes he achieved at 27:48 of the video.

  • 50% reduction in costs
  • 400% increase to utilization
  • 35% reduction in time-to-market
  • Higher levels of employee satisfaction and success

We think if you watch him talk about the results you’ll want to watch the rest of the video to see how we did it.  The thinking included in the video goes into detail about the use of first principles from economics and other disciplines that help business designers analyze what is thwarting speed and cost competitiveness.  These same principles also lead to the design of new and often counter-intuitive approaches that produce significant competitive advantages….as they have for Elon Musk.

The “Chief” Mindset Enables Time-to-Market

Elon Musk hires engineers who think like chiefs.  They have to have built things using their hands and be naturally curious.  From the video Elon Musk:  The Scientist Behind the CEO,

Chief MindsetJust because an engineer has deep expertise in their specialized area of the rocket or car, they won’t be able to tell if the work that they are doing, the ideas and the improvements they come up with, are for the good of the system as a whole unless they know how the whole system works.   Mistakes and design flaws happen when people don’t understand the systems working in the whole machine.

It is no longer possible for a few managers “at the top” to direct action to reduce time-to-market enough to win.  They simply can not keep up with how rapidly situations change and then make the wave of new requests required on an hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute basis. When the people that work for them don’t know how their business operates they will either do nothing and wait for a request or they will make costly mistakes,  Neither option is good!

Acting in a “chief” mindset people know how the business operates, the results it is committed to, and how those results are produced.  Teams of “chiefs” are resilient, fast, and low cost.   When people work inside a system or organization they don’t understand, they will make costly mistakes.  This is why team members must develop a “chief” mindset.

Sente uses the “Chief” Mindset to Help Companies…

  • Increase time-to-market by 25% to 35%
  • Reduce Capital Investments by 50% and
  • Grow revenue by 2X

Our asset management solutions have been designed with in-depth knowledge of how businesses operate and the key competitive advantages they must produce.   They free up their time to work on what is most important for their company and their individual careers. It is these results that helped Sente win our various industry awards for software and services.

Chiefs Require “First Principle” Knowledge to Drive Time-to-Market

Elon Musk also talks quite a bit about “first principles reasoning” as he does in this video, Elon Musk First Principle Reasoning TED.  First principle reasoning is an essential “chief” skill.
He describes this type of reasoning as boiling things down to their fundamental truths and then reasoning up from there.
Musk claims that when you are trying to do something new, you have to apply this approach because it helps you discover new things that are counter-intuitive.

Examples of First Principles Use

Much of what Musk talks about are first principles from physics which is essential for design in the physical world of rockets and automobiles.  When designing new business processes and the software that supports them, first principles are required for the human world.
Economic Principles are a primary source of first principle knowledge.  One principle of economics is that people respond to incentives.  Organizational delays and conflicts are often the result of perverse incentives that produce behaviors opposite of those intended and slow time-to-market.   Methods for managing costs along with demands for speed produce perverse incentives that result in people hoarding equipment and knowledge.  Rather than reducing cost and cycle times they both increase.
Cognitive Science Principles describe how human mental processes lead to behavior.  It includes the study of languaging and communications. Everyone quickly acknowledges how poor communication is costly but nobody seems to know what to do about it.   Jeff Bezos believes in what he calls structured memos.  These memos contain complete narratives that help people think things through in “high-resolution detail” that is critical to both design and execution.

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“What I like about Sente’s approach is how it has turned my engineers into businesspeople.  They think it terms of investments and returns now.”

VP of Engineering