This post lists the key insights from this article written by the co-founder and CTO of Yammer, Adam Pisoni.
As a founder, you’re probably focused on building a great product. But you need to shift earlier your thinking away from building a great product to building the company that builds the great product.
Conway’s Law says this: Companies create products and services that are a reflection of themselves, the way they’re organized, communicate and work.
As a leader, your goal should always be to build structures and processes that don’t depend on you and ideally don’t need you.
So how do you build a system that allows big, important things to happen on their own without your managerial oversight? Pisoni’s number one piece of advice in this article is Battle rhythms.
Roles & Responsibilities
Create a public document that anyone at the company can read which defines roles and responsibilities. For each role list: important metrics for that role, which person(s) hold it, how long the term for that role should be, and what areas of accountability that role owns.
As a leader, commit to never undermining the people who are assigned accountabilities. You have to give them full control. Remember, if you make a mistake, it’s easy to change.
It’s OK to accumulate technical debt up to a certain degree as long as you and your team are fully aware of it and have a concrete plan for improvement in the short- and mid-term.
“I absolutely hate status meetings. Worse than status meetings are status reports that roll up,”
He ended up creating a process where every single day for 90 minutes, thousands of people from all over the world would dial in to a rapid-fire update meeting. Each group had 90 seconds to say what they did, what they’re doing next and what the risks or blockers are. Then there’d be a couple minutes for quick, clarifying questions.
The most reliable way to avoid repeating mistakes is to get involved in everything to make sure people stop making the same errors. This doesn’t scale. So, what can you do instead? Hold regular retrospectives.
If you do them frequently, they don’t have to be as detailed. Done well, each project can be limited to 5-10 minutes. It’s the practice of it that has the impact.
Planning & Prioritization
Pisoni recommends having an all day, or even multi-day planning and prioritization meeting at least once a quarter. This meeting is part uber-retrospective and part planning and prioritization. What did we learn last quarter? How should that influence our strategy moving forward? Then, global priorities should be set across the whole company. Everyone should be focused on the same high level goals.
No matter how good you are and how tightly aligned your team is, there’s going to be tough, ongoing tension within your company, and you can’t ignore it.As a leader, you can’t make decisions as fast as you’re faced with them. You’ll just accrue decision debt and think it’s your job to get out of it by making decisions faster and faster. Instead, make it your job to build structure so decision debt doesn’t accrue in the first place.