Blitzscaling 15: Diane Greene of VMware on Scaling Product & Culture

This is my 12th  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.

Diane Greene was a founder and the CEO of VMware from 1998 until 2008. Currently is senior vice president for Google’s cloud businesses. VMWare was the pioneer and the first successful company to provide software that can enhance the utilization of computer resources, called Virtualization.

  1. Organization culture is important when you scale your organization. And people whom you hire should be aligned with the organization culture.
  2. Help your people to leave if they are not culturally fit for your company. One way to check that is giving them the opportunity to be part of critical conversations early on and see if they are able to match with energies of people
  3. Hire ex-military people if you like them, as they are far more disciplined in their approach towards work
  4. How to bring discipline and reduce chaos in teams: Ask each team members of yours to share what’s going on in their teams by Sunday night. And as a manager, highlight what is important, collate all the notes and share it with everyone in the team.
  5. You can share the same notes with new hires so that they come to know what kind of things are going on in the team.
  6.  It is founder and leadership responsibility to put up a plan on how the team and individuals in the company should communicate with each other.
  7. When establishing your partner network, the strategy is NOT to give special preference to any one of them.
  8. If your salespeople are not giving results, its either you have a bad product market fit or your salespeople are NOT able to perform or messaging is NOT right.
  9. If you have a complex technical product to sell, put a team of 3 people in sales chasing same numbers. These 3 guys will be:
    1.  A guy, who is trying to sell product on phone
    2. A guy who is going & meeting clients and explaining things to customers from technical perspective(also called as solution’s guy)
    3.  And the third guy, who will be closing the deal. All these 3 guys should be chasing the same numbers.
  10. Establishing a partner network will act as your another direct sales channel, but make sure you have a win-win model with them. At VMWare, channel sales partners which are hardware vendors like HP & Bell, every VMware solution they sold, it leads to more hardware sales for extra storage and extra servers.
  11. To create a high-performance culture, hire people who are self-driven at all the levels in all the roles. Self-driven people who set high-expectations from themselves have high expectations from their team too.
  12. Appreciate the behaviors showcased by employees which as a founder you want them to display
  13. An advantage of under promise and overdeliver is not just it gives customers WOW, but also you decide your own pace.
  14. Best advice: “As CEO’s you never overcommunicate”

Blitzscaling 13: Shishir Mehrotra on Scaling YouTube and The 10 Things That Matter

This is my eleventh 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.  Session 11 notes here. Session 12 notes are here

In session 13,  Shishir Mehrotra, who helped guide YouTube through hyper growth shared 10 things that matter when you scale your early stage organization.

10things that matter

  1. Tailwind is an aviation industry term which means wind pushing the aircraft from its back; resulting in the higher speed of aircraft; opposite of tailwind is “headwind”, which means air is pushing the aircraft from its front, resulting in the slower speed. When applying this term to start-up world; “tailwind” means your start-up is or will be riding an existing wave of change, for example:-early stage businesses working in renewable energy which we taking advantage of society becoming sensitive about the environment.  “Highwind” means your start-up is or will be moving against a reluctance towards a change. for example:- Cloud based businesses 10 years ago was struggling to prove their point to CIO’s that cloud based hosting is way cheaper that on-premise server hosting. Success doesn’t matter whether your early stage business is tailwind or headwind. But being in tailwind, you can avoid many mistakes which headwind start-up businesses has done in past.
  2.  Purpose is one of the core dimensions that motivates people to do what they do. Mastery and autonomy are the other two dimensions. Purpose means connect what you do and why you do it. If you don’t communicate about your purpose, people will keep doing the transactions, which will never lead to WOW for your customers.
  3. Thesis matters means you have to focus on core & simple insights of your domain. Discovering those simple insights is going to take hell lot of time.
  4. Deciding which metrics to measure is very important. At Coca-Cola rather than measuring their market share vs Pepsi, someone at Coca-Cola suggested measuring Coca-Cola share in customer’s stomach. That measure resulted in Coca-Cola investing in packaged food products & drinking water. At YouTube, Shishir and team shifted measuring “Watch time Of YouTube” vs  “Watch time Of Television”. The previous metric that was measured at YouTube was the number of video’s uploaded to ad revenue to the quantity of ad’s coming to office. YouTube set a goal to increase its watch time from 100 million to 1 billion hours of watch time for Television. So setting the right type of metric to measure helps you to accelerate growth in the right direction. Pro tip: Use OKR to measure the progress on your business metrics
  5. Its often hard to make decisions in your business when you don’t have enough data. So you need more and more data to simplify your decision-making. The best decisions are those which simplify your life in making next 10 decisions.
  6.  Every business is a part of eco-system doesn’t matter how big you are. And there are set of people in that ecosystem on you have relied on to make you grow. And it’s very easy to presume their incentives if you don’t ask.Don’t presume things, collect data and/or ask hard questions, you might get more insights on this. For YouTube, their ecosystem is content producers. And YouTube worked hard to come up with the model on how to incentives the content producers.
  7. Value Matters as you grow. Think about your values well in advance before you become big enough that you can’t work on those & you can’t explain them or inculcate them in your employees.
  8. Talent matters alot for growing your organization. Divide your entire landscape of talent into 4 level as follows and compare them on their performance to decide who to take forward and whom to work with and who should be those who get out of the system.

Level 1) Executors: People who do day to day execution

Level 2) How to execute: People who give instruction on how to execute the things

Level 3) Solution to work on: These are the people who identify the solution to problems                       and priorities to execute

Level  4) Which Problems to solve:  These are the people who figure out which problems to solve

When you are starting a company having a small team, people do everything. And if you got a people, specially co-founders who cannot think at all the level, it’s not good. But as you grow, you need people specific for each level. Where companies go wrong is when they compare the performance of people at level 1 with level 2, this means you lack transparency in your organization about the roles. Define proper roles and measure the performance of people among same roles.

9) Your roles matters in an organization and if that role is impacting the work of many people in the organization, you better avoid micromanage your people, or become a dictator or become a one who over empathizes.

10) When you are setting up your goal’s & objectives, your team members should have exposure to the bigger picture. You as CEO have to align every individual with the higher purpose of the organization. This will result in high level of commitment within your organization.

CEO vs Post 2008 Workforce

“What’s wrong with the kids coming out of college, why they behave like by working for the company, they are doing a great service to you”, said the career banker, an entrepreneur and ex-CEO of one of the FinTech company, an arm of largest telco network in India. He continued “Don’t they realize that they should respect the job they have got and should be working hard to excel in their careers”. I can correlate with his pain. As a CEO or as an entrepreneur, you want to execute things faster.  And its people in your organization who can help you achieve that.

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I was looking at the issue of “getting work done” especially in Indian context. To analyze this, I have divided the workforce into 3 generations, from “1965 to 1998”, from “1999 to 2008” and “Post 2008”.

The generation who joined the workforce after 1965’s till 1998, their basic need was to put enough food on the table that family can have it the entire month.The government was the major job creator and India has started moving from socialist to a capitalist economy.

From 1999 to 2008, people who joined the workforce are interested in making sure family moves from lower middle class to upper middle class. And growing sectors like IT & IT enabled services, Banking and Pharma helped many people achieve this. The job priorities are to get more and more money, bonuses, and higher level roles in the company. In a way, this generation was high on extrinsic motivation than intrinsic motivations.

Post-2008 workforce is prominently the part of the knowledge economy. For them, enough food was already there on the table. For post-2008 workforce generation, their needs and priorities are bit different. They want the purpose of their life to be largely fulfilled by their work. They are delaying marriages so that they can attain a certain level of achievement in their career. Thankfully it will also help India in controlling the growing population. Young generation today are much more career-focused than the earlier generation and are much more demanding of their employers. They want to listen more from their CEO about the purpose of the organization, from their department heads and managers where they are heading to as a unit. They want more and more autonomy at work and coaching to attain the mastery.  The minute they see the purpose of this organization is not meaningful enough, they are not getting enough coaching & flexibility to attain the mastery they will switch to your competitor. And it’s not that they don’t want money, but they are far less greedy than earlier generation. They are still high on extrinsic motivation, but very high on intrinsic motivations. To get a detailed understanding on this, I will highly recommend you to read “Drive” by Daniel Pink.

As CEO and as an organization, you want to get work done. And to get that done with utmost excellence in execution and quality. And you want to identify people in your company who can take your vision & priorities to next level.  You are absolutely right in your ask. But the ways in which you want to get things done from post-2008 generation has just changed. The attention span of digitally enabled generation is far shorter than previous one. By

  • Communicating you purpose, beliefs and expected behaviors,
  • Defining right kind of performance metrics transparently,
  • Enhancing your managerial effectiveness and
  • by giving balanced flexibility, you will be able to take your organization to next level of growth.

The Younger generation doesn’t mind putting up extended hours of effort for your vision & purpose, only ask is to communicate that vision & purpose in a colloquial way and to make them feel the part of it.

Summary of Learnings:

  • Post-2008 work generation doesn’t want corporate emails from your PA’s about your organization purpose, progress, and expected behaviors.
  • Town Halls don’t work. Ask your leadership team to find a more colloquial way of communication.
  • Define performance metrics transparently.
  • Enhance your managerial effectiveness and help them become better coaches

Blitzscaling 12: Nirav Tolia on Growing Nextdoor and the Path to Monetization

This is my tenth 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.  Session 11 notes here

Nirav Tolia is  the Co-Founder and CEO of Nextdoor. In session 12, Nirav shared his insights into building Nextdoor and his insights on how to grow fast. Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. The median time required to take your start-up to do break even, take it public has increased from 5 years to more than 7 yo 10 years(Stanford Research).
  2. The faster your product/app moves in ranking in app store, the faster it comes down. So slow, steady growth and consistency is still the success formula.
  3. Before scaling your way, do the manual dirty work yourself. This is to validate if what you are going to offer will work or not in offline mode. If it works in offline mode, then put in resources & money to automate the things.
  4. Initially, focus on the quality of your product that solves a problem. Then focus on scaling your product & then sales. Google calls this toothbrush test, which means “Can you create a product which people use at least once a day”.
  5.  Your interpretation & intuition about ‘what is working & what is not’ may be wrong. But if you can define the metrics to challenge your intuition, then you may find the correct path.
  6. Think of your start-up as treadmill where every morning you have to wake up & run on it. You won’t get any credit for the miles covered and remember that you have to run on it again every morning. And if you are not feeling like running a particular morning, and if this starts happening more, than its a serious problem.
  7. If you read the newspaper’s (especially English ones) today, you don’t know what is happening around you in your local communities. The best way to do that is crowdsourcing that news from people living in the local community. That’s what Nextdoor is helping local communities to achieve.
  8. You build user growth, then usage engagement and then revenue scale in that order. But user growth, user engagement & monetization, each of these problems are unique in their own nature & equally difficult. And the way to solve this problem is to divide this problem into stages. That’s the path Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, & Whatsapp has taken.
  9. Five management objectives to focus on at any given point of time. Review these objectives quarterly or annually depending on the stage in which your company is. A framework to implement this is OKR. At qilo, we help organisations by implementing this.
    1. Growth
    2. Engagement
    3. Monetization
    4. Infrastructure
    5. People
  10. As you start to scale , have more and more people in your organisation, you have to start thinking about your people, the various career paths they will have and organisation structure to maximise people performance.
  11. Hire a great HR leader for your growing organisation. Because HR will eventually help you to execute those big goals backwards.
  12. It’s all about your people that will help you move the mountains. CEO’s job is to tell why people should move this mountain.
  13. Your title doesn’t make you leader or entrepreneur; your team and your people do.
  14. Get your mentor who has been there and done that. Ignore theory consultants who throw our jargon’s.
  15. Be extremely cautious about every penny going out of your company while you are on the path of earning revenue.
  16. The basic difference between Google and Facebook is demand fulfilment and demand generation.Google follow’s demand fulfilment model where you come up and search say “digital camera”. And it shows ads related to that. Whereas Facebook follows demand generation, where you see ads of “digital camera” which your friends have shown interested in. This will help you identify which platform suits you for digital marketing.

Blitzscaling 10: Selina Tobaccowala on Building a Global Business at SurveyMonkey

This is my eighth 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.

Selina Tobaccowala was President and chief technology officer at SurveyMonkey. She has contributed alot in taking Survey Monkey global. In session 10, she shared the insights on how she managed the technology and tech people @ SurveyMonkey.Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. When you architect your software application, not only it should scale on handling traffic, but it should also be able to handle more developers working on it. This basically means that if tomorrow you have to add more technology people in the team, they should be able to work on your code.
  2. Even if you have ended up with software code base which is monolithic( All software layers are mixed), rather than re-creating the system in new technology, pick up the part of the system which is most difficult and try to rearrange and refactor those blocks in existing architecture.
  3. When you have to take your SaaS platform globally
    1. Localisation- which means displaying data and numbers in local language, number system, and currency
    2. Integrating different payment gateways
    3. Your messaging
    4. More technology and customer support people
  4. A/B testing is important part to validate & improve the user experience of your web and mobile app
  5.  For subscription-based businesses like SurveyMonkey, important metrics to measure is (a) Number of free subscribers (b) Number of subscribers converting from free to paid
  6. While hiring, focus on behavioural interviewing to reduce bias in selecting candidates. The question in behavioural interviewing aims at learning about your past behaviours in specific work situations. In a traditional interview, you ask general questions such as “Tell me about yourself.” In behavioural interviewing, questions will be like “How would you handle XYZ situation?” Try this in your next interview. At qilo, we have adopted this and it has helped me pick up really good team members.
  7. Finding up people who can help you scale up the things is damn hard. Pick up people who have both start-up and big company experience.As your company grows, keep people motivated, focused on their role/job & engaging them for the next level of the journey is a challenge.
  8. To reduce the churn rate, look at the insights from the data produced by your customer. And present that on the continues basis to right stakeholders in your company.
  9. A tech engineer looks for following qualities before joining a technology lead company:
    1. The product(s) should excite them as they will be spending many years in building and maintaining it.
    2. They will be getting the right mentor or people there to work with.
    3. Other that engineering, what other things they will learn their.
  10. Anything that is critical to run your business should be in-house. If its outsourced, bring it in-house as soon as possible
  11. Once you have money, hire a BI analyst who looks at the data and tells you: “what you have built”, “how well it was doing” and “how well its is doing”
  12. Service oriented architecture helps you to scale the software system. And as well as helps you to strcture your backend and frontend engineering teams in the proper way.
  13. People management is not for everyone. Put only those people to managerial positions who can serve their teams by acting as servants. For people who want to remain technical, define a roadmap so that they can see how they will grow in your company.
  14. Successful manager’s get satisfaction by influencing people. Technology people get satisfaction by deliverng the product.
  15. Plan every quarter what you want to achieve. And track the progress on that every week.If you don’t do it when you are small, adopting that when you will scale will be much more difficult. On tool to implement this is OKR.
  16. Reduce the time it takes to take your code from keyboard to production. To achieve this automate the deployment process.

Objectives and key results: For executing your CEO’s priorities

The best way to achieve excellence in execution is a ongoing debate. But the discussion is becoming more and more relevant as every industry is on the verge of being disrupted by new age companies, digital solutions and fourth industrial revolution of AI and robotics. In this article, we will discuss OKR, one such tool to achieve excellence in execution.

The major challenge for any CEO is to manage short-term objectives based on long term plans. As organizations grow, the speed of execution decreases. And at a same time duplication and inefficiencies around planning and resource allocation increases.

“As Andy Grove, Intel’s former CEO said, “I have seen far too many people who upon recognizing today’s gap try very hard to determine what decision has to be made to close it. But today’s gap represents a failure of planning sometime in the past.”

Objectives and Key Results (OKR) is a management tool that brings in the discipline to achieve excellence in execution aligned with organization and CEO’s priorities. OKR is a goal setting framework originally created by Intel and later adopted by Google in the way back in 1999 when it had had not even celebrated its first birthday. OKR has supported Google’s growth from 40 employees (when it first started using OKR) to more than 60,000 today, proving that it can be used by small organizations as well as large corporations. Today, both technology and non-technology companies are moving fast to leverage OKRs to enable a high-performance work culture.

What is OKR?

OKR_Image_1_recyie

Here are a few examples of what could be objectives:

1)  Reduce the variable cost in production by 2.5 %.
2)  Increase revenue from product X by 10%.
3)  Become a more effective sales machine.
4)  Move to the new office by December end to provide a happy environment to employees.
5)  Solidify brand and position as market leader.

And following are some example of ‘Key Results’ with respect to above-stated objectives. There can be more than one key result(s) that can define how one will achieve one’s objectives.

1)  Hire a consultant to review and improve the six-sigma process.
2)  Ensure at least 75% of the sales team members achieve their quota.
3)  Hire three sales managers by end of June.
4)  Identify an office that facilitates company and employee growth for 250+ employees.
5)  Hire a new branding agency by end of Q1.

Benefits of OKR

OKR improves alignment with organizational priorities and helps business leaders identify what is important to be achieved and how to achieve it. It brings in accountability and ownership among employees and helps in achieving operational excellence.

Implementing OKR

OKR_Image_2_mmpsjm

Once you are convinced that OKR can help you get to the next level of business growth, the question that you should be answering is, ‘What is the best approach to implement OKR in my company?’

One of the biggest challenges in implementing OKR is not having a clear approach to implementation. You can’t adopt what worked for Google or Intel or Twitter or Sears. Your organization is unique and your challenges are different from another. You need to understand that OKR is not a methodology, there is no step-by-step guide that you can follow. Instead, OKR has a set of practices that you should understand and customize according to what works for you and your company.

Usually, OKRs are set on a quarterly basis and progress is measured weekly or monthly. But again, it depends on your business priorities and you can set them at a calendar that works for you.

You can start implementing OKR in incremental steps, one role or one business unit at a time.And research shows that it makes more sense to start the implementation at the top of the organization. Start creating objectives (what needs to be achieved) on a monthly basis. Don’t create individual objectives at the start of the implementation. Once that is done, start creating Key Results (how you will achieve the objective) involving team members from same or different business units. This will also help in breaking organizational silos and enhance business communication.

You probably will fail at first attempt, don’t stop there. It takes 2 to 3 quarters to understand how you should structure the objectives for your organization and how it can help you achieve your organizational priorities. The effort spent is worth as it gives the organization and leadership visibility on where the organization is going on their priorities, every week. Teams and individuals will adopt this because it’s linked to their day to day work, and help them see the big picture of their work.

At the end, please remember that OKR is not a tool to measure employee performance. It’s a management tool to align execution with organizational priorities and track the progress of execution for those priorities. As Intel’s Andy Grove, wrote, ‘It is not a legal document upon which to base a performance review, but should be just one input used to determine how well an individual or a team is doing.’

From 1855 to 2017, leaders still face same issue: performance accountability

1855 was an interesting year. This was the year when for the first time someone thought seriously about how to bring execution closer to organizational priorities, measuring employee progress on those priorities and enhance overall employees effectiveness. If you talk to any of the CEO’s or business leaders, they will be stating the same kind of challenges. The credit for seeding the initial idea of enhancing people effectiveness goes to Daniel McCallum, a railroad engineer at the New York & Erie Railroad Company.

Daniel Craig McCallum was a Scottish-born American engineer known as one of the early pioneers of management.

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Daniel McCallum. Image credit: Wikipedia

He set down a set of general principles of management and is credited for having developed the first modern organizational chart. The of the major problems faced by then large railroad companies like “New York & Erie Railroad” was the rising cost of operations compare to smaller companies. He wrote a letter to highlight this issue to his higher-ups and CEOs. And he presumed that the root cause of this problem was people performance issues and inefficient internal organization.

McCallum’s letter outlined five key challenges posed as questions. Read them carefully, and you will realize that they still hold true even today.

  • How do you get a group of people to work together to common business priorities & goals?
  • How do you give people the right amount of responsibility?
  • How do you make sure the job gets done?
  • How do you know how things are going?
  • How do you do all this with respect for others?
Lithographic_Drawing_of_McCullam_s_Patent_Timber_Bridge_akfkvc
Lithographic drawing of McCullam’s Patent Timber Bridge, 1852. Image credit: Wikipedia

Because of his constant focus on enhancing execution excellence, McCallum retired as General Manager controlling over 5000 people.

Take a pause now and think about the questions McCallum has highlighted 161 years back. These questions were asked more than a century ago before Peter Ducker started helping organizations understand management science. The astonishing bit? Even after 161 years and three industrial revolutions later, McCallum’s questions are still valid and relevant for today’s corporate world. The need of the hour is to answer these questions for your organization and find up an appropriate solution to avoid losing the market share to small companies and start-up’s, or the repercussions could be huge.

While you process the story of Mr. McCallum, here’s another interesting story, this time about Andy Grove, known as the ‘guy who taught Silicon Valley how to do Business’. Grove was Intel’s former CEO and mentored business superstars, the likes of Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison. He was among the first business leaders to implement the MBO (Management By Objectives) model – a management model popularized by inimitable Peter Drucker.

Andy Grove, with his team (1978). . Image credit: Wikipedia
Andy Grove, with his team (1978). . Image credit: Wikipedia

At Intel, Grove and team later gave birth to OKR (Objectives and Key Results), which according to Grove had two important components.

  • What do I want to achieve? (The Objective)
  • How will I pace myself to see if I am getting there to achieve that? (a set of Key Results)

OKR which over the years has been adopted by leading organizations across the world such as Google, Uber, Sears Holdings, Vox Media, Zynga, etc, helps in creating a culture of high performance that is focused on results. The core concept in OKR is to align the organization with the CEO’s priorities. OKR is very different from traditional goal setting frameworks which lately are showing signs of aging. Adopting OKRs enables organization, teams, and individuals to:

Work together for common business priorities & goals.
Helps in ensuring that the job gets done and done well
Enables you see in real time the progress people make while achieving their targets.
The bottom line is, every thoughtful business leader, be it McCallum or Ducker or Grove are able to re-invent the processes to enable better performance in their people. They were able to identify new ways to make people accountable for their own performance. Organizations that don’t focus on building or re-inventing themselves to leverage people power will always lose the battle to their competitors.

Originally published at: People Matters , India’s leading HR focused media company

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

Blitzscaling 07: Session Notes[Mariam Naficy on The Dot Com Days and Knowing When To Blitzscale]

This is my fifth 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.

Mariam Naficy is an American entrepreneur who is founder and CEO of Minted, an online design marketplace. In 1998, Naficy co-founded Eve.com, the first major online retailer of cosmetics. In session 07, she shares her journey and challenges while building marketplaces/ecommerce start-up.

  1. Always think long term when taking decisions from building product to hiring to raising money
  2. Get mindshare of the customer as soon as possible when you are into defining a new category
  3. It will always take more money & more time than what you think as founder to achieve all those things from launching MVP, to getting your first customer, to raising money
  4. Marketplaces are about people on both sides of the platform. Leverage the power of community to get competitive power for your marketplace start-up.And to leverage community power, more than focusing on money, focus on giving value or personal growth.
  5. Taking point 4 forward, the Internet and digital tools have and will keep enabling creative talent to earn more money & praises. Giving a platform to these creative people to earn money and build their reputation is how your marketplace will become successful.
  6. When your start-up is growing and you need people to handle operations at the larger level, your first preference should be people who joined you initially. They are the one’s who understand your core business in much better way than outside hire.
  7. You need capital to survive and grow your start-up, because you are bound to make mistakes. So focus on making money and not just raising money.
  8. To make employees more accountable and more skilled, make peer feedback work in your growing start-up.
  9. When your start-up is small, you will focus on getting the product right, getting numbers and customers. But as you become more growth-hungry and scaling up, you need not know everything that’s going on in your company. Don’t micromanage or get into every detail. Instead, delegate and focus on building ownership and accountability for your teams.
  10. To achieve focus on execution and on building ownership and accountability, get data/metrics on the table and review them every week. Here the key is to decide what kind of metrics is applicable for your business. For example:- At qilo, on technology end, we focus on (a) time taken to deliver new functionality or defect (b) Number of defects detected in delivered functionality in production. At sales end, we focus on (a) number of outbound prospects to reach every month(b) no of conversation going on with prospect & demo’s given (c) revenue numbers
  11. Keep reviewing your metrics till you get them right. Invest in technology that gives you dashboards about those metrics. Otherwise, it will impact the decision making and performance of your team’s.
  12.  To create a marketplace, make sure that you have much more diversity in your product line.
  13.  Advice for women entrepreneurs
    1. Start as early as possible as life will start putting trade off’s to you very soon.
    2. Get male mentor’s as much as female mentor’s
    3. Focus on earning revenue and VC’s will have no reasons to chase you as they also want to make money from you
  14. Reaching out to VC’s, best way is to reach out through reference by someone they already trust.
  15. In a marketplace, focus on supply and demand side at the same time. Focusing on supply side will more revenue and value from your platform and focusing on demand side will help you get customers.