LESSONS  ON OPERATIONS

from "Great CEO Within" by Matt Mochary  

"The greatest risk of a startup is not that they moved too slowly in dominating the entire marketplace, but rather that they spread their scarce resources too thin and ended up securing few or no customers at all."

- Matt Mochary 

This wonderful book was recommended to me at the perfect moment by one of my closest friends, my gratitude to him knows no bounds. I've reorganised the book into the following categories, which I feel flows better. I've tailored it for the folks over at the Contentment Foundation, whose work I am grateful for. May you benefit from it as much as I did!

Recruiting

Be efficient, this is a top priority for leadership. 
Start with telephone interviews before face to face interviews. 
Spend as little time as possible with candidates you don't hire. 
Spend as much time as possible with candidates you do hire.
Write down a 90 day roadmap of what the new candidate needs to fill.  
Share this roadmap with candidate and gauge excitement or resistance. 
All new hires must read the company wiki and lore. 

Team

Without physical health, nothing else really matters.
Prioritise practices for mental health and wellbeing.
Encourage everyone to have someone to talk to.
Find a therapist even if you don’t think you need one. 

Leadership 

Find a partner who has complementary skills to yours. 
If you have ownership, share a significant % of the company.

Do not create a 50/50 partnership, leads to deadlock. Assign ownership. 

Culture

Create a clear company folder system and Wiki. Assign caretaker. 
When you do a process twice, write it down for others. 
Values are what you do, not what you say. 
Values are only values when tested. 
Hire and fire based on values. 
If fun is not a value, rethink your values. 
Don’t forget to celebrate. 
Make an effort to publicly acknowledge achievements.

Don’t measure hours, measure output. 
Work physically together occasionally to foster serendipity. 
Train people on how to have healthy conflict. 
Don't hide negative information. 
Learn to adapt to optimistic reality, rather than fantasy. 
Model documentation culture, so other team members can step in quickly. 
Write down one process per week. 
Link all processes in a documented spreadsheet. 
Let junior people speak first and ask questions. 
Be more interested in learning than being right. 

Prioritisation 

Once a quarter, ask people to imagine they are leaders and ask the question:
“What are the 3 most important issues to solve in the next 90 days?

Operations 

When You Say It Twice-Write It Down
What do you need to document? EVERYTHING.
Ensure no one is indispensable, no single point of failure. 
Keep the group goal tracker high level.
Assign projects and define goals. 
Never assign someone work without their agreement. 
Encourage people to use their own tools to track projects. 
Encourage people to use company project management to update others.
Every successful company uses a variant of “Objectives & Key Results” 

Objectives and Key Results (OKR)
Set vision and goals for the company, each dept, and each individual.
Develop and Area of Responsibility List (AOR List)  
Make this visible to all team members in the company. 
When more than one person shares a responsibility, dilutes ownership.

Each person has 3 objectives with 3 key results for each.

Company > Department > Team > Individual… Ensure alignment.

The Objective = “where do we want to go?” Not necessarily measurable.
Key Results = “how do we know that we’re getting there?” Measurable.
Quarterly review of senior team on OKRs and alignment of team. 
Let team become invested by coming up with their own OKRs.

Tracking OKRs – Use a tool like 15Five or Better-works.

Create a traffic-lighted sheet to track status.
Encourage weekly reporting culture, and prioritisation. 
Elicit feedback on what’s going right & what needs to be changed.

Getting Buy-In
People must feel that they are part of the decision.

When people are given more influence, they feel more invested.

Three methods for getting buy-in. 
1. Manager decides, tells the team, answers questions.

2. Manager creates a straw man (hypothetical answer for discussion), 
Shares with the team, facilitates group discussion, then manager decides.
3. Manager decides to open discuss the dilemma from scratch
Final decision is made by consensus if possible.

First takes the least time, third the most. Second generally optimal.

Decision Making
Encourage a culture of raising issues by writing the issue down.
This helps people brainstorm a solution which will facilitate discussion.

Ensure that it is not a extraordinarily thorough analysis from the get-go.
Just write a simple draft that can be circulated to meeting participants.
While this takes effort, it yields wiser decisions in a shorter time. 
Extra work by one person yields savings in energy for the whole group.


Sloppy Agreements
Erodes dependability for team members for each other.

When people don’t show up on time. 
When people don’t complete the goals that they declare.

Use Impeccable Agreements. 1) Precisely Defined. 2) Fully Agreed To.
Analyse agreements for what is in and what is outside locus of control. 
There must be consequences to breaking agreements.
If you cannot meet an agreement, responsibility to share with others ASAP. 

Conflict 
Deep conflict emerges when people do not share their true feelings.

This may be because they do not feel safe to share. 
This contributes to them not feeling heard.

Practice reflecting what is said to you back to others. 
Do not jump into problem solving mode.

Allow time and space for the people to express themselves. 
When firing someone, take responsibility not criticising the other.
Cultivate awareness of power dynamics in meetings. 
To avoid influencing ideas, ask people to speak before you do.
A true conversation is a journey of truth together. 

Feedback
If you do not proactively collect feedback:

1. You will be in the dark about your company’s problems

2. Operations will grind to a halt. 
3. Communication will break down.

4. Your best talent will leave you.

Seek feedback by following the four A’s:

1. Ask for it

2. Acknowledge it (Repeat back)

3. Appreciate it

4. Act on it
Never give negative feedback on one way communication channels.

How to give negative feedback:

1. Ask for permission

2. State the behavior (fact)

3. State how the behavior makes you feel (feelings)

4. State the judgments you have around the situation (story)

5. Make a request – a change you’d like to see in the future

6. Ask if they accept the feedback

7. Strive for an agreement on a new way to behave or interact.

8. Short term pain, but long term wellbeing. 
 

- - - - - 

References: 

The Great CEO Within:

The Tactical Guide to Company Building

Matt Mochary