Leadership, Management & Organisation
‘Give Away Your Legos’ and Other Commandments for Scaling Startups
"If you personally want to grow as fast as your company, you have to give away your job every couple months."
The Phases of Scale
- 30 to 50 employees - Success at this stage is about developing the right principles.
- 50 to 200 employees - Hiring is a network effect. The first 100 people you hire (and fire!) will define the next 200.
- 200 to 750 employees - You have to pounce on any bad habits that could become part of your company's DNA. Whatever your company looks like at this stage is how it will be, floor to ceiling, when you're older and bigger.
- over 750 employees - Typically around this point, individual people’s identities shift away from the company and toward their team. This is also where politics (when people start to act in their own self interest rather than the best interest of the company) start to emerge, gradually at first and then with greater momentum. -> Everyone has to feel that they and their work are clearly tied to the broader goals of the organization.
Founder's growth checklist
- Make a list of the qualities you want your company to embody. Who do you want to be? How do you want it to feel to work there?
- Write down what you’re doing in the world. What’s your vision for the change you want to make?
- Communicate these things again and again and again. Through all the channels. All the time. You can’t overcommunicate these ideas.
- Focus on hiring quality people rather than speed. Don’t lower your bar because you need to grow faster. It will come back to bite you.
- Fire people. Just do it!
- Hire amazing leaders as early as you can and help them grow their capabilities as the company grows.
- Prioritize principles over process.
- Keep giving away your Legos! And tell everyone around you to do the same. It’s going to be okay.
Meetings, Bloody Meetings
- Plan – What was the meeting intending to achieve? What would have been the consequence of not holding it?
- Inform – Make it clear to everybody what is being discussed, why it is being discussed, and what you hope to achieve from the discussion. And anticipate the people and the information that you need, and make sure that you got them.
- Prepare – Prioritise logical sequence and time allocation
- Structure & Control – 1. Evidence before 2. Interpretation before 3. Decision/Action
- Summarise & Record – including next-steps owners
- Specific – target a specific area for improvement
- Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress
- Assignable – specify who will do it
- Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources
- Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved
Great managers still matter: the evolution of Google’s Project Oxygen
- Is a good coach
- Empowers team and does not micromanage
- Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being
- Is productive and results-oriented
- Is a good communicator — listens and shares information
- Supports career development and discusses performance
- Has a clear vision/strategy for the team
- Has key technical skills to help advise the team
- Collaborates across Google
- Is a strong decision maker
How to develop soft skills
- Advanced communication and negotiation skills
- Interpersonal skills and empathy
- Leadership and management skills
- Entrepreneurship and initiative-taking
- Adaptability and continuous learning skills
- Teaching and training skills
How to Write a Strategy Your Team Will Actually Remember
Strategic planning is a necessary process but, ultimately, distributed teams need to make decisions with limited time and information.
Busy teams need simple heuristics, or rules of thumb, to guide their decision making. One tool we recommend is an "Even Over" Statement. These are simple phrases that teams can pin up on a wall and use as strategic touchstones in their work.
Change involves change management
1. Denial - Create Alignment
Share the broader vision and develop resources like data dictionary capabilities
2. Frustration - Maximise Communication
Set up email and other communication channels and provide support
3. Depression - Spark Motivation
Find champions and elevate them by celebrating the things they do with data
4. Experiment - Develop Capability
Organise internal contests to encourage people to try to do something new
5. Decision - Share Knowledge
Share progress against key goals and showcase new capabilities
Tuckman's stages of group development
- Forming - The team meets and learns about the opportunities and challenges, and then agrees on goals and begins to tackle the tasks. Team members tend to behave quite independently. They may be motivated but are usually relatively uninformed of the issues and objectives of the team.
- Storming - When the group members start to work with each other they start to learn about individual working styles and what it is like to work with each other as a team, it also identifies different hierarchy of status of positions in the group.
- Norming - All team members take responsibility and have the ambition to work for the success of the team's goals. They accept others as they are and make an effort to move on.
- Performing - The team members are now competent, autonomous and able to handle the decision-making process without supervision. Dissent is expected and allowed as long as it is channelled through means acceptable to the team.
One-on-ones are my most valuable meetings; here’s how I run them
My two favorite questions to ask direct reports are “if you were me, what would you do differently” and “what don’t you like about the product?”
An agenda for the talent-first CEO
"People allocation is as powerful as financial allocation." - Greg Case, Aon CEO
The platform play: How to operate like a tech company
- Customer-journey platforms ("journey as a service")
- Business-capability platforms (to enable journeys, "company as a service")
- Core IT platforms ("IT for IT")
The Four Limits of any Business
- Task Management
- Priority Management
- Personal Knowledge Management (PKM)
Hiring & Management
Senior Executive Performance (Bill Campbell)
- Result against objectives
- Working with peers
The 6 Decision-Making Frameworks that Help Startup Leaders Tackle Tough Calls
Operating Principles vs. Values
"Your principles should be clear and explicit enough that the people who consult them will make the same decisions a founder of your company would."
RACI framework and RAM (Responsibility Assignment Matrix)
"WHEN a decision is made is much more important than WHAT decision is made."
SPADE decision-making framework - Setting, People, Alternatives, Decide and Explain
"After a decision is made, each participant must commit support out loud. Pledging support aloud binds you to the greater good."
The Secret to a Great Planning Process
- Context: Leadership shares a high-level strategy with Teams
- Plans: Teams respond with proposed plans
- Integration: Leadership integrates into a single plan, and shares with Teams
- Buy-in: Teams make final tweaks, confirm buy-in, and get rolling
Speed as a Habit
"All else being equal, the fastest company in any market will win."
"Deciding on when a decision will be made from the start is a profound, powerful change that will speed everything up."
""Why can't this be done sooner?" Asking it methodically, reliably and habitually can have a profound impact on the speed of your organization."
Ignite the Fire - How Managers Can Spark New Leaders
Share my problems to the team and potential leaders will step up to offer solutions