Blitzscaling 16: Reed Hastings on Building a Streaming Empire

This is my 13th  blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling. Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

The previous blog related to Blitzscaling is here.

In this session, Reed Hoffman interviewing Reed Hastings, the Co-Founder and CEO of Netflix. And the most sought-after mentor of silicon valley shares his mantras of building the culture and scaling the company.

  1. Netflix culture deck is the most evolved culture decks out their. And here are the details of the deck for you :

  2. Putting your culture in writing not only helps you to get right kind of people in your team, it also makes the entire thing more debatable to get more understanding. At Netflix, every new employee goes through the deck to understand about the company.
  3. With the right kind of density of people in the company, you need less processes to manage them. More the people, more processes are required. Reed call this as “Right Talent Density”.
  4. Your manager should always be giving the context of why they are doing what they are doing. And then just give them autonomy to people to execute freely.
  5. Reed highlighted that NefFlix company culture is different from Google. And he emphasised that one company culture is different from another. Organization culture is an expression of what you and your senior leadership want to be. Thought I believe that while it’s important to define that expression of what you want to be, it is also very important that it should be aligned with what your customer wants from you as an organization.
  6. You can only have a strong culture in your company if you can have a strong & clear mission. The funny thing about mission statements/plan is that “it doesn’t wort rk out most of the time”. But one thing it for-sure helps in to help the current and prospective employees and customers see what company want to achieve in next 5 to 10 years.
  7. When attacked by the big competition, focus on your core rather than expanding the offering; because it will further lead to more fronts to fight the battle.
  8. Being too intellectual to your customer on why you are offering what you are offering doesn’t work, as customer care doesn’t care about that. Your customer care about value, price and service.
  9. “The only prediction about the future that comes out to be true is that prediction itself will be wrong”. When Netflix was seeking funding in 1997,  they thought that online video streaming will pick up in next 5 years by 2002. By the time 2002 came, internet bandwidth was still at the nascent stage. So they thought & projected that by 2007, online streaming will be contributing 50% to their business. But it was still ZERO after 2007.
  10. The right time to become an entrepreneur is when you got the idea that to make it work you are ready to go and touch the poverty line. Or other way around is when you can’t get that idea out of your head for next 1 to 2 years.
  11. You can’t let friendship come in the way of professional or business judgements. So when you are hiring your friends or friends of friends, just make sure of this thing.
  12. Use more data when you are picking stocks, but less data when you are picking your spouse or new hire.
  13. As a CEO, you have to invest in yourself on the continuous basis. Because when you become better, your company become better. As you grow your company, you focus on creating the culture, mission/vision, hiring right guys so that they can hire right guys further. To make this all happen, you need to improve every single day.
  14. There is no right answer whether you can become an entrepreneur or not. From Reed perspective, if you have got a strong grit and if you are a generalist who can do multiple things(most of it will be very boring) for many years to come, you can try your luck.
  15. The biggest mistake you can do in your life or as a founder is try and to be someone else. So all Steve Jobs lovers, it fine to read about him and get inspired, but dont want to be one.
  16. Successful teams and employees act like a sportsman/women. Treating your employees like family means you probably need favour’s from them or want them to work for you cheap.

Book Review: ‘Sell’ By Subroto Bagchi

“To sell is human”. But I used to hate sales and sales guys; because their commitments to customers have caused me and my team spend days and nights in the office working like crazy. Now learning and doing sales myself, I understand the importance of this profession and what it is NOT about.And what sales guys in my previous organizations were missing in their approach. And what we need to improve as a team on the sales front at qilo.

Copywriters Hachette, India
Copywriters Hachette, India

Read this book, if you are able to correlate with my challenges.

Who should read this book: The book will help people who want to improve their understanding of the B2B sales, specifically about technology B2B sales. This book will be more beneficial if you have been involved in sales function from few months, but looking for understanding it more from the perspective of

  • How to improve your prospecting, funnel management and sales process,
  • Importance of consultative approach in B2B sales,
  • EQ management in sales,
  • Impact of your company culture on your sales.

This book is not for: This book is not for people who are specifically looking for a manual or how-to guide on understanding and improving your sales process. But then you only need nuggets from the master like Subroto to tell you what is going wrong in your sales process or what you are missing in your approach.

My learning from this book:-

  • Best sales people never give-up on follow-up’s & having conversations. And in you are an introvert like me and lacks the ability to have conversations, you will have a tough time initially in the sales job. Read a-lot on different topics, about your prospect and what’s happening in the world in general. And slowly you may learn the art of sales.
  • Don’t take rejections at heart. You will get plenty of that in your sales life.
  • Your funnel size decides your conversion rates.
  • As a salesperson, you need to be good at understanding people and what makes them successful.
  • The best line of the book is “The prospecting process has changed. Your future customers are already doing prospecting about you and your company“. Read the book to understand this in detail.
  • There is a thin line between selling and helping the customer find a solution. The minute you sell, your prospect goes to the shell of not sharing their problems and challenges. People like to buy the things rather than being sold the things.
  • Be yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously. Customers want to buy from people who are genuine and comfortable being themselves.
  • The best read is when Subroto shares story “The Naked Burger” when he attended the Apple sales conference. I will buy this book again just to read this chapter.
  • Never ever lose hope while making a deal. But you should have a strong belief in your product and its value, if you don’t have, don’t sell it.
  • We may be living in a digital world with bots and AI, but people still buy from people. Simply quoting data and facts will not appeal to your customer. Humans are beings. Connect to a being to allow your customer to open up. Best line “Authenticity is in short; hence in demand”.
  • Another gem in this book is this chapter “DO IT LIKE SWEDES”. It talks about how progressive companies around the world are embracing the different set of behaviours to influence their organizational culture. Customers want to buy products & services with a certain culture at its core.
  • To build a successful profitable organization, it’s not enough to win few wars (customers). You have to do it for many years to come without excreting yourself. A successful salesperson learns to be effortless by planning well, choosing their turf wisely and prepare themselves to play a long game.

There are only few books on B2B technology sales. And specifically from those who have done sales, and that too large deal sales. It’s definitely worth a read without much heavy weight jargon.

Practical guide to identify and establish your organization culture

ROI of establishing a unique organizational culture is equal to ROI of gaining the intellectual capital. Think of it as you are able to discover a life-saving drug and you can capitalize on that for next 20 years.

The biggest problem is the understanding of what makes a culture. Culture is not about fun Friday’s, yoga sessions and allowing unlimited holidays.Here are the 7 recommendations that can enable you to identify and establish your organization culture.

1. Identify your core: this means answering questions like

  • What you want your customer to achieve?
  • What are the means of achieving your core?
  • What should be the outcome of achievement?

qilo coreCredits: balsamiq

We keep answering these questions within our team as we are evolving. I always thought and confused this exercise with “marketing”. It’s Vipul in our team who is always able to identify and guide us internally on identifying the core.“Identifying your core” will help you to define your purpose, short term & long term priorities.

2. Identify the habits and behaviors that will help you to achieve your core, short term & long term priorities. Identifying behaviors and habits is not an easy part. And there is no standard steps or process for this. But if you have answered the questions stated in “Identifying your core”, it will also help you to come up with those behaviors. You have to keep your customers in the center while identifying your expected behaviors.

3.Communication about your core and expected behaviors: Once you have identified your core and behaviors or on the path of identifying it, you have to communicate this with every single person in your company. You want people to inculcate those behaviors while they are achieving your organization priorities and while they are working in teams.At qilo, we are able to articulate in well after 2 year of our journey.

qilo values

4.Recognize your people when they showcase those behaviors: Once you have identified those behaviors, it’s imperative to recognize those people who showcase those behaviors. And do not link it with incentives, gift cards or bounce. Recognizing people is different from identifying an employee of the month because here frequency should not be the criteria. And make sure that the recognition is visible to the entire organization so that it can influence others on showcasing those behaviors

5.Keep evolving your core and expected behaviors: Nothing is constant in this world, not even your core and expected behaviors. They need to be evolved or changed based on the competitive landscape.

6.Define process on how your employees are evaluated: The way you evaluate your people is the way they will perform. Giving performance review is a very complicated and difficult business. And managers don’t do an especially good job at it. The fundamental purpose of performance reviews is to improve the person performance in future. The review process also represents the leadership thinking. Current practices of performance reviews are discovered in industrial age, its not apt for this digital age

7.Share customer feedback (bad for sure) and success stories constantly: Customers are the reasons your organization is surviving. What she thinks, feel and experience should be far more important than anything else. The feedback they are giving should not be just restricted to your customer facing team, but to people at large. It’s your customers who will at the end enable you to evolve you on your core, your expected behaviors from people, internal communication and how people are evaluated.

The concluding note: To identify and improve your culture, you have to think beyond chasing numbers and doing daily transactions. For a while get out of it and spend some time on this. Defining, evolving and fixing culture has helped many companies accelerate the growth, beat the competition and gain more market share. It’s not a theory and it works.

Are you game ?

Getting ready for your purpose

Do you believe that universe orchestrates incidents to get answers for questions that matter to you? I never believed in this till recently. In the last 2 months, series of incidents has happened which provided clarification to the question that matters to me: “Is purpose really required in life?”. I am sharing 4 such situations from the series of them.

I was watching a session by Shishir Mehrotra on scaling YouTube and 10 things that matter when you are scaling up. He mentioned about the importance of purpose and suggested to read “Drive” by Daniel Pink.

Screenshot_1

The central theme of the book is about how to unlock your intrinsic motivation through Purpose, Autonomy, and Mastery. As per Daniel “Humans, by their true nature, seek purpose- A cause greater and more enduring than themselves.” The book has done its job of helping in identify what motivates people and what will motivate people in future to achieve extraordinary results. But my conclusion about purpose was still like “It sounds good like mission and vision statements which companies put on their websites, but does it really works in real work?” My understanding & belief till recently was: Your purpose keeps changing based on the stage of your life.

Another incident happened when  I recently visited the upper Himalayas area “Lahaul and Spiti”.This part of the Himalayas is NOT much populated and also crowded by tourist. We took a road trip from Keylong to Baralacha pass. Balaracha pass also connects  “Lahaul and Spiti” valley with Leh and Ladakh. It was mesmerizing and the connectedness which I felt with the mother-nature & the entire cosmos lead tears in my eyes. At the same time, I was realizing that what we humans have done to this beautiful place, called earth, because of our never ending greed.

IMG_20170607_184631221_HDR

While moving from one mountain valley to another, and looking at the size of mountains, the torrent of rivers and scenic beauty, why the hell someone will even be bothered about purpose. You and your size don’t even matter here.

Back to the office from the Himalayas, I have put in purpose at back burner & was back at work. And then Arun and Vipul(other co-founders a qilo) insisted me to join them in a leadership workshop at Bangalore. And I was like, what impact will another leadership program make? But then, I have to surrender against the students inside me. And the worst case scenario of  4 days program will be we end up spending more time with each other if the program doesn’t turn up to expectations.  I submitted the fee and was ready to attend the program.

While on my way to Bangalore, I meet Virender, the taxi driver who dropped me at the airport. Virender also works part-time for an NGO where he helps in rescuing girls who are forced into prostitution at GB road(a red-light area in Delhi).

IMG_20170707_135931275

The kind of details he shared with me was spine chilling. Few details which he shared with me : 70% of young girls and women are forced into prostitution, they sleep just 3 hours on daily basis and they serve on an average 105 to 140 customers per week or higher,  are enough for anyone to think, Are we really evolving as a society? And the problems we face at the professional or personal front of life are far smaller that problems faced by many people out there in this world. I landed at Banglore with a heavy heart. And with lots of thoughts on how things can improve in this world, and my never ending quest of “Is purpose really required in life?”

Program “Mission Impossible(MI) Leaders“ started at 8 in the morning.The first question asked on the first day and within the first-hour was “Who all want to identify the purpose of your life?” Dear Mr. Purpose, you are back again in my life within 12 hours. I answered to facilitator “Is purpose really required in the life? I think purpose keeps changing based on the stage of your life”.

Facilitator smiled and replied back “But do you really want one?” I questioned myself “Are you really open to getting one?”

Next 4 days of the program was very tiring: physically, mentally and emotionally.  MI leaders program turned up as NOT just any regular leadership program where you will learn some key leadership skills. It provided much-needed clarity on my quest to get an answer for “Is purpose really required in life?”

Your purpose of life cannot be limited to yourself. Most of us keep putting our priorities in life as our purpose. Do you really think the purpose of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Henry Ford, Mother Teresa, J.R.D Tata, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandella, Thomas Edison and many others like them are limited to themselves? Your purpose is your means to feel connected to this universe.And it will push you every morning to do good for every species on this earth.

Next time when you are listening to any talk on YouTube or TEDx, or visiting a place where you feel connected with nature or meeting your Virender, consider that you are getting prepared for your purpose.

So have you found your purpose? If not, it’s worth an effort to find one.

Summary of Learnings

  • The priorities in your life are NOT equal to your purpose of life. Don’t mix them up.
  • Your purpose is your means to get connected with the universe at large and live a more meaningful life. If it’s limited to you, it’s not a purpose.
  • This world is driven by unreasonable people. Your competencies and capabilities will not help you being unreasonable, but your purpose will.
  • Once you find your purpose, is it 100% that you will be able to achieve it? Doubt is good.

Blitzscaling 11: Patrick Collison on Hiring at Stripe and the Role of a Product-Focused CEO

This is my ninth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here. Session 9 notes can be found here. Session 10 notes here.

Patrick Collison is the co-founder and CEO of Stripe that allows both private individuals and businesses to accept payments over the Internet.In session 11, Patrick shared learning of being a CEO and production guy. Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. For your hiring and other processes, people just copy paste processes of bigger companies.People keep following it assuming that it will work for them. For example- Google hire’s people from top universities with highest GPA’s . This might work for Google, but probably will not work for your company. Even ex-CPO of Google accepted this that there is no correlation between higher GPA and higher performance at work.
  2. Think and take as much time as possible in hiring right guys. Effort spent is worth because that way you will hire the one’s that will suit your organisation culture.
  3. If you get one great A player, there is a high possibility that your next hire will also be an A player.
  4. If you are an engineer and don’t know how to do business development, hire or get a guy on board as a co-founder to do that. At Stripe, because co-founders didn’t know how to sell, they hired BD guys very early who has helped them crack big accounts.
  5. CEO and founding team needs to be involved in the day to day decision’s on the product, at least for the first 5 to 7 years. Because no one else can better understand what should go in the product to solve customer need than founders.
  6. The reason why product innovation stops in growing start-up is that of people who you hire to support growth adds complexity to the system called the organisation. With more people comes slower decision making and its lowers down the sense of accountability of innovation.To support innovation and keep building new things, create a separate small team of 3 to 4 people to execute the new innovations. And the decision of what kind of new product, idea or feature should this team focus on should be based on NPV or net economic value of that new thing.
  7. Talk to your prospective customers base as many times as possible before you start building or before you ship the product out of the building. At Stripe, for every new line or feature of the product, they talked to the developer community(their customer base) before the new things go in production.
  8. As you grow, most of your time as a founder will be spent on communicating with your different teams and defining priorities for them. The transitioning from “Thinker + Doer” to “Thinker + Getting People Think + Getting People Do” is very difficult. And that’s where you have to invest your time in defining processes.
  9. As company grow, founders and CEO need to shift the way they communicate. You can no longer put all those people in the room to talk to them. You have to pick up the habit of writing in an informal way about what you are thinking, how business is going, what are your learning and even failures that you are encountering in your journey. Written words have much more clear and longer impact. And it gives your employee more one-on-one feeling than those town halls and virtual meetings.

Blitzscaling 09: Session Notes[Reid Hoffman and Allen Blue on Why and How They Scaled LinkedIn]

This is my seventh blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here

In session 9, Reid Hoffman and Allen Blue shared the insights on how they scaled Linkedin.Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. The key thing about establishing an organization culture or creating a distinctive one to identify what kind of people will not fit into your culture.
  2. Most elite organization are able to establish this very early. For example:- Google was able to identify that folks from top degree colleges with highest CGPA will fit in the collegial culture which Larry and Sergey want to create. Now want works for Google will not work for your organization. You have to identify what kind of culture you want to create.
  3. Part of establishing a unique culture is to answer questions on
    1. How you will communicate internally and externally
    2. how you will develop your leaders
    3. how you do decision making in the company
  4. The entire Blitzscaling sessions are divided into 3 parts addressing 3 stages of start-up called as Family, then Tribe and the village
    1. Family: – It’s about identifying a non-obvious market opportunity where you have a unique insight or strength or approach to capture market share. And then building your initial team to build the initial offering to address that market.
    2. Tribe: – Execute and iteratively improve a plan which gets you to achieve a market share.
    3.  Village: – In this stage, you are now able to identify, plan and execute the core business that you will be able to scale up and take it globally. 
  5. The goal of the core business is to
    1. Create continued growth
    2. Generate growing revenue
    3. build competitive advantage
    4. Grow strategic assets for later opportunities.
  6. From time to time in company lifecycle, founder’s need to communicate the same language which people can follow while they are doing their day to day jobs.
  7. When your organization is growing from 15 to 50 to 500, as founder’s you will not be the part of each and every conversation in your company. But as founders, you have to make sure that those conversations are aligned with big picture/directions and priorities you have decided.
  8. Communicate about your (a) mission (b) vision (c) competitive advantage (d) strategic objectives (e) business model (f) operating priorities with your companies on the continues basis. But especially when you are moving from family to tribe to village
  9. All the above communications should be simple, clear & easily repeatable. If you will be able to crack this, you will be able to create an effective organization.
  10.  At the family stage and somewhat at initial stages of tribe stage, you hire generalist. But as you grow to become a full-fledged tribe or village, you have to hire specialist.
  11. A good generalist is someone who can come and pick up skills & things without founders doing many interventions.
  12. Specialist have good analytical skills and problem-solving skills with respect to specific area of business
  13. Tips on hiring and managing talent
    1. Fire fast low performers
    2. When hiring look for the long term probability of the guy who will be able to evolve as company goes from family to tribe to village.
    3. “Given a chance, will you hire a person again? ” – Answer this question if you have difficulty in firing your low performer or even co-founder.If answer is no, fire ASAP.  But always make sure to remain humble & human while you are parting away.
  14. Following is the screenshot of Linkedin product plan. During the family stage, you have to get just one thing right. But when you are moving to tribe and village stage, you have to get many things right at the same time. To achieve this, you need an altogether a different approach for the execution and people who will execute that plan.
  15. Look at the below metrics. It shows the kind of analytics and number crunching successful companies do to move fast. CEO’s and senior folks of the company see these numbers on daily basis
  16. When you move to village stage, as a founder you have to answer few fundamental questions about:
    1. Are you the right CEO for this stage?
    2. What is the core mission, culture, and values to enable rapid distribution scaling?
    3. How to fire the right HR guy that can support the hyper growth?
    4. Who are those key executives required to support execution in critical areas?
    5. How to develop tobust reporting to allow you and your senior team to learn about where execution is going and how that can support in creating future plans?
  17. Embed communicating about your core values & culture in your hiring & onboarding processes. Or you will end up being a culture less company
  18. Here are the Linkedin culture & value details. When your sales head links those values and organization culture, that’s where it will give you the competitive advantage.
  19. As a founder, put down points why people should join your company. And make this communication visible internally & externally. At qilo, we have taken an alternative approuc, where in all JD’s we put in “Why you should not join us”. Here are the points from latest JDWhy you should NOT join us
    • If you don’t put in efforts in identifying and/or pursuing your passions in life
    • If you cannot put in extended working works to achieve WOW results for the customers.
    • You don’t believe in taking ownership and accountability of assigned work.
    • If you are NOT a good self- learner.
    • You don’t know how to crack jokes 🙂
  20. Getting your technical, HR and operational process in place is essential to make the large team work together properly. And keep optimizing these processes to improve efficiency.

 

Keep watching this blog for more notes and awesome articles. I personally feel this session has given me a very good level of understanding what I should be focusing on as one of the co-founders of qilo. Hope you have enjoyed this article too.

Blitzscaling 08: Session Notes[Eric Schmidt on Structuring Teams and Scaling Google]

This is my sixth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here

Who doesn’t know Eric Schmidt. He is the one who has contributed A LOT in making what Google is today. In session 8, he shared his insights on how to structure the teams and scaling Google.Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. As a young manager, observe and do everything to learn various aspects.
  2.  The first 10 years of your career is too crucial & that’s where you learn all the s**t. Thus it’s important that you focus on getting right kind of learning.
  3. To make a better decision, keep asking yourself “What should be happening in your career/start-up in next 5 years”. I know this advice might sound like a theory to you or you probably have heard from yogis to practice living in the moment. But that doesn’t mean you should not try to foresee or plan where you what to go and how probably you can reach out there.
  4. Making faster decision is one single trait that CEO’s should focus on developing.
  5. How to handle issues and situations between founders and outsiders(probably older than founders) who are part of the company: – Outsiders should understand that it’s not his company. This means to avoid being the face of the company or getting media coverage. That’s what Eric did when he was leading Google and Larry Page, Sergey Brin. He focused on running the company & making it profitable leaving Larry & Sergey to be the face of it.
  6. The way you build great products is by building a small team, work really hard, push the team & get the product out which just barely work. Example:- Original iPod just barely worked initially. From there, Apple improved it before it was taken to mass market. As a founder, you have ti have a judgment when your product & start-up is ready to scale.  At qilo , we faced the same challenge. Where I want to speed up the scaling, Vipul(another co-founder) slowed the things down to make sure that product actually solves a problem, before we scale out and hire sales guys.
  7. Great products are built from self-use. As a founder, you know your product really works or not. And if you don’t know, get the data from your initial set of customers and analyize it. Making sure your product works before you take VC money and start expanding in all directions.
  8. Tips on hiring
    1. Hire experience over intelligence
    2. Hire best guys to get job done. Take your time to hire the right guys. And if things are not working with new hires even after doing multiple interventions, fire them fast.
    3. Sell your dream to prospective candidates. Hire those to whom it make sense. If you have to convince the guy, he/she is not the right hire.
    4. Hire ordinary people who have done extraordinary things.
    5. Hire people who can work better in teams. Give a person an exception to be an individual contributor if she is an exceptional talent.
  9. Next generation of successful programmers will be those who can write programs os that software themselves can learn how to solve a problem. This is also called as machine learning 🙂
  10. At finance side, hire CFO’s who have gone bankrupt because they have seen what should not be done to become bankrupt
  11. In every successful company, you got to have someone
    1. Who has very good product sense
    2. Has emotional intelligence for all the stakeholders
    3. Move fast
  12. All successful start-ups do one thing right:  Hire right people
  13. Strong values and beliefs take company to the next level of growth
  14. If you got a large team of programmers and s/w engineers to work on your product, then probably your s/w architecture is not right
  15. Advice to entrepreneurs who want to build a great company
    1. Have an incredible founding team & right founders to address right kind of problem
    2. You need to have some luck
    3. Passion, lots of hard work and hiring awesome people

Moving from performance management to enablement (Part 2)

In the two-part series of “Moving from performance measurement to enablement”, part 1 highlighted the problems we have with current performance management process. In part-2, will be discussing on how you can get organization ready to move from performance management to performance enablement. As stated in part 1, the annual ritual of performance management is dead, future belongs to performance enablement.  Companies who will not leverage this change will potentially lose an opportunity to increase their revenue by up to 9% and reduce cost by up to 7%(Source:: Mckinsey).

The outcome of enabling performance are clear. Done right, it can lead to employee far more engagement at work and with their work and will be more effective as their careers progress. Now let’s look at how you can enable the performance.

Re-focus on the Core: Organization Culture

Organization culture is not about dogs at work or yoga (Ben Horowitz). Organization culture is about “how works get done when manager’s or leadership is not there”. To understand your culture, start with analyzing or doing diagnosis with your people about what kind of culture or subcultures have been created in your teams in all these years.  And then put down on paper what kind of culture is required or expected. Once this is done, then only you can define and communicate expected behaviors from your people while they are doing their daily jobs. This may sound like a theory to you, but believe me, it’s a science. The only difference is, the secret of this science and how to implement it was till date was available with a handful of companies.

Enabling Business Heads and Managers to be Better Coaches

There are two aspects which can enable managers and BU head’s to be better coaches:

  • The way communicate is handled
  • The way conversations are handled on giving feedback

The way communicate is handled

Your business heads and managers are continuously focused on getting transactions done. They occasionally communicate with their team members about what they are feeling and what challenges they are facing. The medium of communication is right now: ‘Town Halls’ and ‘Corporate Emails’, which are not effective. Managers and business heads need to be more colloquial with their communication so that people in their team feel more connected to them. The art of chasing numbers are easy, but the art of communication is difficult. You need to enable them to think creatively to communicate well.

The way conversations are handled on giving feedback

How many times your manager give feedback to their team members. Either it’s annual during the performance management process or when deliverables/targets turn red. You have to put in a discipline throughout the company to enable these conversations to happen more frequently (at least quarterly).  And remember, this entire exercise should be employee and manager centric otherwise, they will again fail at adoption end.

Implement a Dynamic Goal Setting Framework

The business world is dynamic where targets are changing continuously. But the goals to be achieved remain static throughout the year. And they largely don’t get connected to the day to day work of the employee. An ideal goal setting framework gets connected with the daily, weekly, monthly & quarterly deliverables. It should be simple enough to change and track. It should have the ability to define the performance metrics for every role in the company. OKR is one such goal setting framework which acts more like a management tool.

Enable More Transparency

Transparency can be enhanced at two level: – team level and company level.

Transparency at team level

There are 3 types of team members. One who think he is a Hercules, one who know he is Hercules and the one who needs to know whether he can become Hercules or not. Within the team, if you can show this data (or gamify it) and enable calling a “SPADE a SPADE”, it will not only help you in achieve excellence in execution, your real heroes might be able to help those who need help. What is the different between a non-performer employee of corporate and start-up? In start-up, the shelf life of non-performers is maximum 2 month, in the corporate its 12 months or more. By enhancing transparency, you will be able to identify non-performers in lesser time and can start working with them faster.

Transparency at organization level

An employee always keeps guessing how my work is affecting overall organization progress. And few of them want an exposure to more opportunities availability to enhance their career growth. A simple way to achieve this is by implementing team goals and making all goals transparent at the company level. Employees who want to grow will be able to figure out their path for growth. You just need to show them path.

To conclude, as an HR leader, being an early adopter of initiating the journey of performance enablement,   you will be stand to gain significant advantages and help you to contribute towards business growth in a tangle manner. Newly empowered employees of the digital age are constantly looking for the value proposition from their employers. Companies, new and old alike, and their HR leaders cannot afford to sit on the sidelines.

Summary

  1. Focus on how you can determine your sub-culture(s) and fix them.
  2. Enable your managers to be better coaches with continues feedback.
  3. Implement a more dynamic goal setting framework with goals making sense to employees.
  4. Enable transparency in teams with data to identify non-performers by implementing shared goals.

Moving from performance measurement to enablement (Part 1)

If an organization is spending 2 million hours of effort on measuring performance, an annual activity that’s doesn’t make sense to anyone, we have strong reason to relook at the cost and effort spent on this activity. The countless number of hours spent on filling self-reviews, manager review forms, meeting, arranging and collating performance data is certainly not justified.

During my corporate career, my team and I always expected two outcomes from performance review (mid-year and annual):

  1. Feedback from my manager on how I have done
  2. What will be the increment in my salary

While both the reasons are strong enough to hold my team’s and my interest in performance reviews, it was always disengaging. You have to follow up endlessly with people is a strong enough proof that people are not looking forward to this. A study by Willis Tower Waston says that only 20% of employers believes that merit pay is effective in driving higher levels of individual performance in their organizations.  Here are the top 5 reasons of dis-engagement with performance review process:-

  1. Performance review process is not employee centric: The process and system are designed to get top 10, average 70 and bottom 20 percentile of people to facilitate C&B (Compensation & Benefit). In achieving that activity, organization and HR’s have lost focus on employees and managers (now day’s it’s also called as design thinking). As an employee, if I know that outcome of this activity is money, my projections about my performance will always be high. And the manager will be more focused on justifying the hike(and/or rating) rather than giving feedback on how a team member can improve the performance in future.
  2. Measurement on KRA/KPI/questioners which doesn’t make sense: KRA’s are static in nature; today’s business world is way too dynamic. Team’s priorities and targets keep changing on day to day, month to month and quarter to quarter basis. And team members are not able to correlate their day to day work with assigned KRA’s and KPI’s. And even if they are able to correlate, who much progress they have done to achieve that KPI cannot be measured quantitatively and qualitatively. Don’t believe me, ask your employees. At the end, the current process leaves the judgment of how well I have performed on the KRA/KPI to individual and then on the manager.
  3. Lack of clear communication on expectations and what should be done to grow: – When was the last time your organization has clearly communicated to your employee on competencies they need to excel in the current role. And which competencies they need to acquire to grow to next level. Team members often come up with an assumption that they are ready for next role, without realizing whether they are even ready for that or not. And managers don’t have enough wisdom and data to tell the team member that why they are not getting promote to the next level.
  4. Recency bias in evaluation: – How many times you have observed that when performance reviews and appraisals are approaching, team members suddenly become more proactive, disciplined, showcase best of their behaviors and start delivering things on time beyond expectations. I still remember one such incident: One of my team members who was sitting in different office location started sharing the status update on time without follow-ups, was calling me on regular basis to tell me how lucky she is being in this project and in this team. As a manager, you will tend to take the decision based on recent events and perceptions.
  5. No transparency: – Organizations lacks transparency in the entire performance review process with too much dependency on manager’s decision. While manager’s role cannot be denied in the process, it’s the employee peer’s who know how the team member has performed throughout the year and whether the team member was a good team player or not. Further to this, though increment has always been dependent on the how a company has performed and on macroeconomic conditions, managers give feedback to justifying the bell curve rating or to justify the rating communicated to her from the top down.

The way you measure performance defines the core culture of your organization and it will define how your people will perform in the future. In part 2 of this post, I will share how you can take the journey of moving your organization from performance measurement process to performance enablement process.

Blitzscaling 05: Session Notes[John Lilly on Leveraging Community to Scale Mozilla]

This is my fourth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.

Here are notes on session 5:-

  1. Following are the points shared & highlighted in the previous sessions by Reid Hoffman, Sam Altman and Ann Miura :-
    1. Faster decision making
    2. Avoid being solopenures
    3. If you are asking about product/market fit, you haven’t got it.
  2. While session 2,3 and 4 were focused on sharing learnings & best practices on how to validate the idea, how to build team and what should be the priorities when you are starting up, session 5 onwards it’s about how you can start creating team for execution & start executing.
  3. If you have to pick between product and growth, pick product
  4. If you are building something where you already have market leader, you have to play asymmetrically.For example:- When Mozilla team thought of building browser, IE had 95% market share. Mozilla team cannot compete directly with Microsoft, so they have to compete asymmetrically by leveraging open source community to build the browser and spread the word about it.
  5. Hiring right talent is critical for your start-up success. Hire the best who believe in your story & passion and can put in those extended hours and year’s to make your idea a success.Avoid those guys who come’s up and say company ABC is giving me $X and if you can give me $X=Y, I will work for you.
  6. Fire non-performers ASAP.You will make those mistakes in hiring, but correcting those mistakes is in your hand.
  7. Setting goals/OKR’s will help you realize what kind of goals will be correct and working for teams and individuals and what kind of goals you should have in future.
  8. To get better in goal setting, review them regularly(at least quarterly) and talk about the progress every week. Build transparency in the team about who is executing what and focus on lead indicators rather than lag indicators
  9. Once your product has proved that it is solving a problem for which customer is willing to pay or user can’t live without, get to know which services and products lead’s to the usage of your product. Google came with their own browser because they realized that it’s the browser that connects users with their product(search), so it’s crucial to control that part also.
  10. Even if you got an awesome product, nothing scales on its own.
  11. Network effect(where people refer your product to others) will only happen if they see a TRUE VALUE in your product. Linkedin was able to leverage the network effect because people saw value in networking with other professionals, thus they invited others on the Linkedin platform.  Firefox browser gave the value of better security, Chrome gave better speed, that’s why users referred those products to other users.
  12. Avoid building a nice to have product and focus on building must have product. Because for nice to have products, your users and customers will NOT contribute in your growth. And you will be spending hell lot of money in acquiring users & customers.
  13. Once you have found the product/market fit, to accelerate the growth:
    1. Improve product/market fit for the customers for which your product is still nice to have.
    2. Take advantage of users/customers for which your product is must have.
  14. To get B2B growth:
    1. Grow in your decision makers.
    2. Focus on your beta customers. Successful beta customers will become your lead generators
    3. Build awareness by:
      1. Trade marketing in Gartner and Forrester
      2. Pitch reports, insights and case studies to your audience.