Probably the most popular startup book in recent history, The Hard Thing about Hard Things was written by Ben Horowitz and contains stories and lessons from his many years leading software companies from Loudcloud to Netscape. The lessons contained in the book span all parts of the lattice.
The book focuses on managing yourself, managing people, and some very specific parts of the application domain. There’s a very specific tip to take care of people first, products next and then profits.
In the domain of managing self, the book talks about the following concepts:
- Keeping a clear head, embracing the struggle of being an entrepreneur
- Enjoying the work
- Face the hard decisions head on
The lessons about self management are some of the best parts of the book. From experience Ben talks about the struggles of being a CEO and how managing oneself is the first (and many times, most important) part of the job.
In the domain of managing individuals, the book talks about the following concepts:
- Tell things like it is
- Rephrase the worst case scenario
- Some very specific hiring tips - like hiring for strength vs. lack of weakness,
In the domain of managing teams, the book talks about:
- How large Organisations are slowed down by single people
- Minimise Politics by hiring for the right type of ambition, maintaining strict policy on org design, promoting based on performance, and ensuring 1:1’s are held. Ben is a subscriber to the Andy Grove school of thought so OKR’s make their way into The Hard Things as well.
In the domain of products and markets, the Hard Thing speaks of:
- Good Product Managers vs. Bad Product Managers, a guide that continues to be relevant in the world of product management today.
- Wartime CEO (vs Peacetime CEO), a mode of operating (defined by competitive market position) that changes all the rules of operation
The Hard Things doesn’t fit neatly in the lattice, but it does fit. All the lessons fall within one of the domains. It takes a very unique perspective and offers some real, raw leadership advice.