Blitzscaling 03: Session Notes[Michael Dearing on Capitalism, Creativity, and Creative Destruction]

This is my second blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling session. 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 03 has given inputs and insights which probably I have never seen in past 5 years of my start-up journey. One day I would love to meet Michael Dearing. Without taking much of your time, here are the notes from the session:-

  1. Entrepreneurship play an incredible role in growing industrial output and human wealth. But manager working for these entrepreneurs play’s an equally important role as they amplify the creative and execution genius of those entrepreneurs . These observations were first highlighted by  Alfred D. Chandler, who played an important part in founding and studying business history at Harvard.
  2. Money that comes to silicon valley that fuels innovation doesn’t largely comes from wealthy families. Most of it comes from first or second generation successful entrepreneurs who are able to scale & build profitable businesses. So if are trying to build a start-up and can or will be able to build a successful one, you will be helping future generations of entrepenures & will help in generating and enhancing human wealth.
  3. Michael shared the story about Daniel Macallum who was probably the first manager in the history of human mankind highlighted the problem of how to align people to organizational goals and priorities and how to make them more accountable for their work. It will be a complete injustice if  I write about the efforts of Daniel Macallum in few lines. I will be writing an entire post of this.I will be writing a full blog on this shortly.
  4. What is the right kind of idea that you can pick up for execution:- It’s the one which you cannot keep to yourself and share it with friends , colleagues and peers. And you are giving your irrational time , money and other resources to understand more about how you can make this idea work.  Another way to evaluate the idea is when your friends , colleagues and peers keep coming back to you and saying that your idea is awesome.
  5. To validate that your idea is worth anything is to find the smartest person who can act as the biggest critic of your idea. And then yu have to give him/her full rights to rip-off your idea apart.
  6.  Your competition will never be about what if the big companies create something similar to your product, but about what is the alternative of your product.
  7. Why big companies fail to innovate is because they become slaves to the product/services that are acting as the cash cow.
  8. To allocate resource on new product development or new feature development, the decision should be on the economic value of the new thing rather than on the ego of the founder or senior executives of your team. Net Present Value(NPV)  can be used here to evaluate the economic value. Along with this, held people accountable to the economic value of few features for better decision making
  9. Founder’s need to be the editor-in-chief of the product roadmap. They should listen to every idea, but take decisions on their own.
  10. Founders should have frequent discussion of why they are building what they are building.
  11. Having a contrarian view om your start-up help VC’s understand how entrepreneurs mind work.
  12. Turn your insights(either technical or functional) to product and business. You have to move very fast from insight state to product state to business state. Spending too much time on insights stage will turn your idea into science product.
  13. How good founding team looks like:- Its a combination of balck/white thinker with grey thinker. Black/white thinker have a very strong view on product,people and everything else in the word. Grey thinkers are rational thinkers who act as shock observers for balck/white thinkers.
  14. During the initial years of start-up, hire people who are aligned with the passion of what you want to do. And the one’s who can pick up multiple things to do. In the nutshell avoid doing shopping on hiring multiple people for single thing.
  15. First few people of your start-up comes from your network. So avoid hiring any recruitment agency initially.
  16. Once you have founded team and hired few people from your network, next challenge for the rest of your start-up life is to answer
  17. Things you should ignore in the first few years of start-up
    1. PR to show that you are a rockstar founder
    2. PR to hire people
    3. Board of advisors
  18. Respect the ownership you have in your company & bring those people or VC’s who can add value to that ownership & have skin in the game which is beyond money.

Blitzscaling 02: Session Notes[What Makes The Best Founders By Sam Altman]

You need lots of mentoring and guidance when you are start(ing)-up or taking your start-up to next level of growth. And the best way to learn and get mentored is to read lots of books or listen to someone who has already done that. Recently I came across an awesome content on how to take your start-up from 0 to 1 to n.

In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University along with John Lilly (a partner at Greylock and formerly the CEO of Mozilla), Allen Blue (cofounder of LinkedIn), and Chris Yeh (cofounder of Allied Talent).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 I got more excited as entire session is 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 1 is about Introduction to class. And Session 2 was with Sam Altman about “What Makes The Best Founders”.

Session 2 notes are extended with my inputs for better understanding. All these are common advice which most of us have heard again and again but often ignore.

  1. Getting things done quickly is one trait differs successful founders from those who have gone back to do job.
  2. YC prefer startup’s with 2 or more founders
  3. Issue with solofounders :- There are too many things to do at fast pace that doing it alone is tough . Second reason is start-up journey is too tough to travel alone
  4. Founding teams break-up if they don’t have an agreement on what kind of company they want to build
  5. Best start-up hire least
  6. Next successful start-up companies will never be building next Uber, Facebook, Linkedin, AirBnB(Ya I know Peter Theil also said this originally)
  7. Launch quickly and focus that users get addict to your product
  8. Whatever you are building, get 10% better every week
  9. If your users are telling you that your product sucks and new users are NOT coming, it’s time your startup is entering into the dead zone
  10.  Pivoting is not about bragging how many times you went wrong. Failure should not shake you up , but at the end failure is a failure.
  11. Pivotes work when
    1. When you leave existing thing and build something you are passionate about
    2. When you are building something which is not working & got insights which doing this that people might need.Slack started as Gaming company pivoted to a messaging company
  12.  Want to learn how start-up works, get a job in start-up that’s about to grow
  13. From product perspective, focus on LOVE not LIKE
  14. Founders’ should spend 10% to 20% of their time in solving organizational and technical debt problems. Manjor focus will always be on sales and growth.
  15. Many start-up focus on everything like getting the best logo, website, Lawyer, VC but fail to build a product which users love and get hooked to.
  16. Distractors while growing/doing start-up
    1. Focus on getting PR to show you are super hero
    2. Going to networking events
    3. Focusing on raising money than building product which actually solves a problem
  17. One mistake which every successful founder does is “Waiting too long to fire poor performers”
  18. Future belong to start-ups solving clean energy and affordable health
  19. Physical and Mental intensity required to work on start-up is HUGE, thus starting early to do start-up makes more sense.
  20. How to fire your friend from your start-up:- Remain human, treat them with respect, help them find a job

Session 1:- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3RrVmv5WwA

Session 2:- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxKXJWf-WMg

In the subsequent weeks, I will be sharing notes for all the session. So keep watching this blog for more…………

Manager need to be better coaches

99% of the time managers are bothered about numbers and delivery dates. But they fail to coach their team which leads to low performance and attrition. If you are a manager, right away think when was the last time you had a word with your team members about:-

  • What they want to achieve in their life
  • Are they enjoying their work or not
  • And what you can do to enable them to be better professional

Image credit:- whatedsaid.wordpress.com

As a manager, your growth depends on the growth and progress of your team. It’s your team who will achieve those number which will lead to the achievement of your numbers. So I have given you enough reasons why you should be coaching your team. Let’s understand what type of managerial coaching works really well.

Most of the time managers are involved in reactive coaching. Reactive coaching means you are giving your inputs or reactions after the outcome. Please note that outcome may or may not be complete. Example of reactive coaching

  1. Sales manager:- “This is not the type of prospects you should reach out”
  2. Marketing manager:- “These are not the channels which will help us generate more leads”
  3. Technology/Product manager:- “This is not what customer is expecting from our product”

Proactive coaching means you are giving your inputs or helping your team-mate in defining what can be done to achieve the desired outcome. As a manager, here you are not spoon feeding or doing micromanagement, but giving directions that this is probably how we should approach the problem in hand. Example of proactive coaching

  1. Sales manager:- “These are the type of prospects you should reach out”
  2. Marketing manager:- “These are the channels which will help us generate more leads”
  3. Technology/Product manager:- “Here are the high-level requirement and use case customer is expecting from our product”

You are a manager because you have seen more in world than your team mate. At least that’s what companies assume or your team-mates perceive. Now let’s talk as manager, what are common barriers in providing the proactive coaching:-

  • As a manager you are not on top of your team members work, tasks & to-dos , work partners and challenges.
  • Your team member is expecting coaching in area where you lack experience.
  • As a manager, you are so much evolved and skilled that you can’t imagine what could go wrong or what could be challenges faced by your team member.

 

Following proactive coaching in my team has shown results for me. My team is more engagement and performing far better compare to when I was the reactive coach.  Unless you keep yourself into the execution and NOT onto the execution, you will never realize the importance of coaching and enabling your team to achieve more than what is required.

What I learned in Asia’s biggest techHR conference

Last week, we at team qilo participated in the Asia biggest techHR event. We got an amazing response for our cloud-based technology solution. But rather than talking more about how it went for us, let me share top 10 learning from techHR -2016.

Screenshot_5

 

  1. Gerry Crispin, one the recruiting industry veteran, shared that “give a good experience while hiring,  and get more candidates. Give a bad experience, and you’re losing candidates before they even apply”.Start treating your prospective employees in a way you will treat your first customer, and you will start attracting awesome talent.
  2. Josh Bersin shared his views on how new age technology tools are changing the way people are managed, assessed, engaged and learn at the job.
  3. More and more business and HR leaders in India are realizing the importance of people focused technology solution and how it can enhance their business success.
  4. Organizations are adopting cloud-based solution more than the in-house solution to reduce the time and cost in implementing the technology.
  5. HR technology 3.0 is on the way and big ERP vendors are not able to invent and innovate at the same speed.
  6. New age solutions need to be employee-centric and should be habit-forming products which enhance day to day professional experience of the employee.Design think is what is missing in all the tools which are today consumed by employees.
  7. Performance management is changing for sure. It has to a continues process, more meaningful , should enable managers to become coaches and enable employees to be more productive.
  8. People analytics solutions are improving at a very fast pace. And rather than just showing vertical bars and pie-charts, technology solutions should throw meaningful data to the leadership of organizations to drive their talent strategies.
  9. Employee engagement needs to move beyond the surveys. It has to be real time and it has to bring impact at the bottom of the pyramid.
  10. Organization who will understand the way people want to work,engaged and deliver will succeed in future.

And by the way, did I mentioned that we got High-fives from Josh Bersin, the guru of HR technology. Josh’s word’s like “this is the kind of solution organizations needs and I am glad that startup’s like you are doing it here in India” was music to our ears.20160804_145853

Dear HR leader, Why can’t KRA be more meaningful?

Over the weekend, I was discussing with my friends how critical it is to define goals in the organization. The discussion became more meaningful as in few organizations where my friends are working , mid- year goal defining exercise has started. And every time goal setting and performance activity come up, this entire exercise seems to be meaningless and wastage of efforts.

KRA-KPI-OKR

Employee

Our discussion became more intense when we started seeing specific goals & KRA’s assigned to them in their organization.

One of the friends who is working in one of the top 5 IT MNC highlighted that following KRA’s are assigned to him :-

  1. Help delivery managers in selling services to clients

  2. Focus on retention of existing clients

  3. Enhance CSAT score

  4. Enhance quality of technical solutions

One of the friend who was working in a software product development company highlighted following KRA’s:-

    1. Deliver excellent quality in deliverables

    2. On time delivery

    3. Contribute in innovation at organization level

Another friend was working with a manufacturing organization has following ones:-

  1. Meet quality targets on monthly basis

  2. Regularly check the physical quality of the raw material

  3. Enhance supplier relationships

And one friend was working in a consulting organization has following KRA’s:-

  1. Develop and inspire people by sharing experience and insights

  2. Enhance operational efficiency by managing timelines and profitability

  3. Contribute in business growth by spending time about industry trends and competitor movements

  4. Achieve high CSAT score by developing new methodologies and processes.

There are 3 major problems with the above defined KRA’s:-

  1. These are NOT KRA’s, but parameters on which employees should be assessed.Throughout the year, employees are involved in different engagements . In the case of ITES, Software product development and consulting organization, they are involved in different projects and consulting assignments.Their actual goal should be those projects and those consulting assignments. And probably when these assignments are over, they should be evaluated on parameters currently defined as KRA’s:-
  • “How much they have contributed in consulter delight”(Rating on the scale of five)
  • “Have they done deliverables in-time, on-time or delayed those”, or
  • “Have they done any innovate in this assignment”
  • “Did she contributed towards process improvements while executing these goals”
  1. For employees, it’s difficult to give data points against above defined goals that how they have performed on these KRA’s.

Think from employee perspective that if you have to enter details about what you have done throughout the years to achieve these goals, what all points you will enter? And will you be able to collect all those data points which will justify that you have performed well in achieving those ? This is precisely the reason employees give them highest scale when putting data against their achievement against goals which are not defined properly.

     3. For manager, it doesn’t enable them to evaluate and give feedback to employees properly .

Consider this, as an employee if I have worked on two assignment through the year, I will keep mentioning same points in above KRA’s. Will this give enough data points to the manager about how his team member has performed with respect to that KRA. Will it give manager enough data on which things she should recognize the employee or coach the employee on for her better performance. Again employee will be evaluated on the basis on perceptions and not on actual data.

Every problem has a solution. Here’s what I think few solutions for the above problems:-

  1. Define KRA’s and KPI’s which employees are able to correlated with their day to day work. Or why can’t the KRA’s be same as project or assignments which employees get involved in. These KRA’s should push employees to aim high. When aiming high, even failed goals tend to result in substantial advancements.
  2. Left the exercise of defining KRA between manager and employee. As an HR leader, you should focus on enabling the team on defining the relevant KRA’s. Off course, you need to keep an eye on whether KRA defined are relevant or not from organization respective and within defined boundaries or not. Leaving these exercise between manager and employee will also enhance the employee engagement.
  3. Use a proper tool to automate the entire process of defining KRA,KPI. And monitor the progress on those in real time basis.

Goal setting and defining KRA impacts talent engagement the highest level, as it impact how employees should perform their jobs and are evaluated. Making KRA more meaningful will NOT only help engage employees but will impact overall organization growth.

When starting again, things to take care

This is what I have written and shared internally with other co-founders, when we were starting with qilo. Learning came from previous start-ups I was part off. Thought of sharing this with larger audience

1) Biggest learning is either start developing a product with long term vision to create and build a sustainable business out of it, OR do not start it.
2) Hiring a technical delivery team or technical partners for product development doesn’t work. It’s required to have in-house core team which is aligned to long term vision from day one.
3) Focus on sales motivates technical team that what is created has now paying customers. At a same time, good product motivates Sales guys that product is good. But Sales driven approach is far better than product focused approach. With this I mean, let’s start selling from day one or at least when design print of product is ready. Why to wait for the product to get finished and then start discovering actual customers?
4) To reduce conflicts, precise roles need to be defined. This doesn’t mean that people are NOT going to wear multiple hats initially.

Why teams fail at execution

In all these years , I have been part of many projects and deliveries. Most of them succeeded, few of them failed. But in most cases,it’s been rare that execution has finished on time or even in time. Off course, in addition to poor planning, changing business condition was also part of the  problem. But let me put in bullets what are the exact reasons when projects got delayed or failed overall.

  1. Multiple managers for the team :-You always want to utilize most of their resources . But somewhere during this utilization, you stop thinking about how to organization teams for faster and better execution. Putting two managers means no one is responsible. Each of them will wait for other to perform.
  2. Not selecting team members carefully :- How many times managers evaluate people skills carefully before inducing them into team. Or worst, how many times manager provide adequate training to people before the execution starts.
  3. Team manager giving more importance to specific team member(s):-  Manager might be primarily doing it because he/she want to play safe. But then not giving enough opportunity to everyone will demotivate other team member and will impact the team dynamics.
  4. Not focusing on building trust but execution from day one:- Execution will happen if you take care of softer part of team building. Building trust within team member will enable them to execution in a more collaborative way.They will discuss their problems with each other more freely by putting aside their insecurities.
  5.  Not taking complex problem upfront :- Focusing on the easy part of problems leads to delay at the end when complex problem start getting more complex.
  6. Doing more meeting with team members with no specific agenda:- Managers love to stand in front of whiteboard and talk about things which are not specific and actionable. Stop doing that and stop getting status updates in meeting. You can use 10,000 tools out there for that. Decide agenda and stick to time limit of meeting.
  7. Team fails to execute because of manager:- I firmly believe in this. Projects or deliveries fail if you are not on top of your execution. It will fail if you are INTO the execution , but not ONTO the execution. It will fail if you keep working with people who are not performing even after giving number of chances. It will fail if you as leader don’t appreciate team members efforts or put yourself first as compare to your team.

Best of luck for your next execution!!!

Yin and Yang in organization

Have you heard about terms called Yin and Yan? In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang describe two halves that together complete wholeness. “Yin” & “Yang” is the concept of duality forming a whole. We encounter examples of Yin and Yang every day. As examples: night (Yin) and day (Yang), female (Yin) and male (Yang).

From the organization perspective, Yin can be aligned to the softer side of the organization. It means:-
• How leadership is communicating with employees, and enabling employees to communicate with each other.
• How your organization is taking care of the employees.
• How your organization understands employees problem, and offer help in resolving them.
• How managers and leadership recognize employee efforts and reward them.
• How organization identifies employee skills, strength and enables them to be more competent.

Yang can be aligned to execution side of the organization. It means:-
• How you can align organizational goals with employee day to day work and help them perform better.
• How you can priorities employees day to day work to help the organization achieve its long-term mission and vision.
• How you can enable managers to understand and manage their team members in a better way.
• How you can enable employees to work as better team members and
• How you can bring the sense of purpose to employees in the organization.

Focusing on “Yin” will enable your workforce get clarity on leadership thought process and style of working. Leader who focused on the “Yin” were manage to transform their organization. HCL is one of the largest IT/ITES service provides from India. At one stage HCL was struggling was missing required revenue targets. Then Vineet Nayar, CEO of organization shifted focus from customers to employees. He started connecting with employees at various levels, started listing to their ideas and problem, enabled and pushed senior leadership to listen to their tem member. From a time where HCL was lagging behind from competitors in 2000 to 2005, Vineet transformed HCL with a 35% growth in revenue per employee and a sector-leading 25% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through the 2008 to 2010 recession.

Focusing on “Yang” will help your organization achieve required operational excellence. Your employees should have crystal clear agenda on “items to work on” when they are coming to office in the morning. They should know how their day to day work impacts organization at larger. And as leader, you have to enable your execution managers to facilitate this agenda to your workforce. And make manager accountable for lack or delay in execution. The minute your employee don’t see impact of their work or your managers see lack to willingness in leadership to enable them to facilitate execution, they will leave.
Now sit for a while and think is your organization “Yin” or “Yang” focused? Or you are struggling to find which side of Chinese philosophy you are taking care right now. Let’ analyze this in more detail by plot a graph with “Yin” and “Yang”:-

 

pic for blog

As an organization, if you focus more on “Yin” and less on “Yang”, you end up creating a workforce which is motivated but directionless. If you focus more on “Yang” and less on “Yin”, you end up creating a workforce who knows what and how to execute but are not motivated enough for the same. Taking care of “Yin” and “Yang” can help the leadership of organization achieve wholeness in employee engagement.

Importance of sense of urgency in execution

It remains one of the most discussed topic internally at our startup Qilo. Sense of urgency should always be there on all fronts , be it:-

a) In product delivery

b) In recruitment

c) In acquiring customers and generating revenue

d) In getting funded

e) In decision making.

Lets see what happens if you don’t executing fast enough :-

1) Most of the startup ideas are not truly innovative in nature. Most of the time you are NOT bringing something totally NEW to market. You might be giving one to ten percent twist to an existing idea OR you are bringing something which is way cheaper then existing product OR you are just copying a product/idea which is successful in developed economies. This means that your idea which you think is unique, might be getting executed or about to go in execution phase by so many other aspiring entrepreneurs out there. One of the parameters which decides who will win depends on who comes to market first. And that can only be achieve if you execute fast. If you DON’T execute fast, it means you will launch late and might miss the opportunity or what is called as right timing.

2) Most of the startup ideas has very low entry barriers. Are you thinking that completing the development of your tech platform will make you next rich guy? Even a high school students can now days code and develop  one. If you don’t execute fast enough, you soon will see your competition increases and you will end up in pricing war OR will fail to capture enough customers to create a sustainable business.

3) Launching product late or going to customer late or generating revenue late means you are delaying the epiphany of product/market fit. To understand what Product/Market fit is, check this post.

4) Delayed execution means that you are not learning fast enough. Not learning fast  enough means you will not be able to success-ed faster OR fail fast.

At a same time I want to provide clarity on sense of urgency in execution. This should not get confused with you end up working 18 hours a day or making your team work like crazy. If you will do that, you end up getting sick or create a team culture where no one will be willing to work for long term. With sense of urgency in execution, I mean :-

  1. Not sitting on decisions or waiting for the time to take perfect decision
  2. Not delegating the work which you should not be doing
  3. Waiting for the communication from others to complete the job in hand
  4. Not focused enough for the job in hand
  5. And not waiting for the perfect product to start selling.

Faster execution is what makes a startup different from big organization. Faster execution is required consistently for a long duration of time.Faster executing is what  has made Steve Jobs and Apple different from other companies. Executing faster is what made Elon Mask challenge big organization like NASA and Boeing in Space/Rocket launching industry. If you read and listen to co-founders of failed startups or successful one, they will tell you how important sense of urgency is in execution.

Fire co-founders or employees who don’t understand this and trust me you will move closer to success in your startup.

 

Manager matters

“You will leave your job because of bad manager”, this is what you hear most of the time in job world. And that’s 200% correct too. Manager matter in your initial career life . Its very critical to work under a manager or boss from whom you can learn :-

  1. How you can improve core skill of your domain
  2. Personal management
  3. How to communicate well
  4. How to manage teams

And this is what exactly billionaire founder of Alibaba ,  Jack ma suggests. Watch this video and listener carefully for at least 1 min.

If you are not working under a manager who is not self motivated, who is not aspirational towards his career, who is not passionate about what he is doing, who is not able to manage himself well…change your manager or change your job.But what are the traits of a good manager:-

  1. He personally takes interest in your career development.
  2. He treats every team member equally.
  3. He manages the execution well and knows what needs to be done. And who can do what.
  4. He pushes you and pushes you very hard. This is where most of the time reportee’s get dis-engaged with manager. Believe me a manager who pushes hard is the one interested in getting things delivered fast. And that’s how knowingly or unknowingly you will improve you skills or ability to manage yourself.
  5. He accept your mistakes and encourages you to improve.

And at the end as a reportee if you can contribute towards your managers career success, you will also succeed.