Friday, August 28, 2020
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
At the height of our growth in the Battlefy engineering team, we started practicing different ways to positively reinforce open communication (core value). Open communication meant being frequent at high quality communication. In the military, communication is absolutely critical; however, it is not just any communication -- it's really about distilling down the most critical piece of information to relay to your team so decisions can be made to stay on course or adapt.
In daily engineering standups, we practiced the following
- stating what the blockers are and what they need from the team
- what they will commit to by end of day
- why they're working on it
At the end of the round table, we would randomly choose a person on the team and ask them to repeat what another person's status update was. Not only was it a forcing function to pay attention and ensure that your team actually understood what your status update was (so a teammate could maneuver on your behalf), but we always get a laugh out of it when someone wasn't able to answer the question.
But why? Well, we wanted to positively reinforce one of our core values (open communications) and make standups more engaging.
At Y Combinator (W16), we did this exercise in group office hours. The reason why we did this exercise was to prepare founders for demo day. Ultimately, there will be hundreds of teams doing demo day and you have to get used to trying to make your company more memorable (this include investors!). Incidentally, it was always super intimidating to be in group office hours because you would have amazing founders who really go above and beyond in their updates (eg/ "this week we closed a customer for a 200k contract") and then I'd look back at my co-founders with a surprised facial expression (and of course, they'd look back in shock). My imposter syndrome felt like rising waters.
Creating a sense of urgency to perform by creating a group environment is both exciting and scary but super effective. After the first group office hours, the following week everyone's' status updates were super memorable.
For remote teams wanting to make standups more engaging, try it out! You'll be surprised and you can even keep score!
Thursday, June 18, 2020
Things always go wrongThere has never been a company in the history of the world that had a monotonically increasing stock price. In bad companies, when the economics disappear, so do the employees. In technology companies, when the employees disappear, the spiral begins: the company declines in value, the best employees leave, the company declines in value, the best employees leave. Spirals are extremely difficult to reverse.
So how does a CEO get out of the spiral? Here's a few things I would think about
- Identify whether your company is actually in a death spiral: high attrition. It's important to not be in denial about this. Be objective about the state of your business and react accordingly.
- Identify friction in how the makers of the organization (engineers, designers) are able to contribute to the product. If you find an engineer waiting on a decision, you'll soon realize how much more delayed the feature will become. Every decision delayed causes more delays down the road. The goal here is to identify major inefficiencies within your organization.
- Identify initiatives that do not have an impact on your primary objectives of being default alive (profitable). Communicate and shut down those extra initiatives to focus on hitting your targets. The goal is to identify effort that is being invested in areas of the business that should be allocated towards the new direction.
- Identify teammates who aren't aligned with your direction of focusing the company on a clear set of objectives. Some teammates enjoy startup peace time as a way to build new products but during war time, you need your team to be extremely focused.
- Clarify to the organization what changes must be done in order to stop spiraling out of control. Generally, this can be done in all hands.
- Conduct 1on1s with your executives and managers to ensure they understand why the company needs to have extreme focus on getting out of the spiral. This will help them explain your new direction to their direct reports.
- Keep yourself open to office hours. Employees will have questions regarding the company's health and direction, always ensure they have a way to reach you.