What is the most common mistake you’ve seen entrepreneurs make when building their squad to scale?
I think of building an organization a bit like how you should build a house.
First comes the hard but foundational things — architectural plans, the right contractors, foundation pouring, framing, electrical and plumbing. It’s tempting to rush through these things since it’s more fun to see drywall, fixtures, window coverings, furniture, pool tables, paint etc take shape. Using this analogy, capital, product, customer delight and a solid team of passionate and talented people should be the ongoing foundation priority.
From there, scaling is really about managing cash flow decisions between foundational and window dressing investments: Is the foundation strong enough to support our current plans or should we invest more? Or are we really ready for finishings and window coverings?
It’s so easy to get distracted by shiny objects as being somehow the key to success for other companies when all the real work is invisible to the outsider.
What is the best advice you’ve been given when building your own business?
The best advice I have received and now evangelize is the importance of setting the plan and then driving to relentless execution.
Developing organizational core competencies around goal and role clarity, alignment, execution & accountability — with the occasional plan of record refresh — is the best advice to grow and scale your business successfully.
Anything less than that is inefficient and just makes star talent roll their eyes in frustration.
What is the future of workforce development?
We’ve spent a bit of time envisioning Workforce 2020 — but in reality the changes are already well underway. The fusion of traditional employment and the gig-economy ‘on demand’ trend is going to be transformational.
We’re already seeing tenure in Silicon Valley averaging less than 2 years in the fast growth companies. People are taking ownership of their own career development and work life balance. The impact on the nature of work is a shift towards a more fluid supply and demand series of give-and-take relationships.
Organizations that offer more training, development, mobility, mentoring and meaningful purpose will have a more durable advantage — being more magnetic than their competitors while leveraging explicit and tacit knowledge more efficiently.
In your opinion, what will be the biggest challenge businesses will face when shifting to a more fluid workforce?
I honestly think it’s learning to manage the fluid. In change management models we talk about storming, forming and norming as new groups of people unfreeze and refreeze group behaviors, relationships, accountabilities, workflows and more. But what if the pace of talent flow into and out of these next generation work groups — Squads — is so fast and contextual that there is no norming or freezing? The manager needs to adapt their approach and tools to a more agile reality. Goals, roles, alignment, engagement, accountability and performance coaching becomes an ‘always on’ management necessity.
What’s a highlight from your experience at The Breakout Project?
Those who were there will remember the flow of ideas and enthusiasm for what’s possible — happening in a fort! Silicon Valley is based on ideas and enthusiasm for what’s possible. When I got back to the Bay Area I gave the same talk to a group of people but I had to tee up the location and context. For me the highlight was the reminder that innovation can be sparked anywhere – no one location can claim to be the only innovative hub.
If you could kickstart your own world-changing project what it be?
Ha. I guess I’m already doing it with Squadley? I’m fortunate to be working with a passionate group of people who see the fluid Workforce 2020 changes already underway, and we kept asking ourselves – how will managers be successful in this chaotic and distributed mess? Like so many other industries, technology enables us to work smarter, better and faster.
We’re taking a holistic approach to solving planning, alignment, engagement and performance coaching in this new world and have integrated our solution into an always on coaching platform. Like Salesforce (Sales Success) and Gainsight (Customer Success) – Squadley tackles a significant management problem – Workforce Success. But unlike so many large platforms, we insisted on building it around the manager and the Squad.
The simplicity of the interface and integrated workflows hides the complexity of the data that Squadley collects and synthesizes. It just also happens to work at larger scale. We spend so much time frustrated in our jobs trying to answer what are we doing, why are we doing it, who is doing it, are we excited about doing it and when will it be done? If we can help the fluid workforce answer these questions with technology enabled connective tissue – I think we’re going to see engagement AND productivity go up. Both employers and employees win around the world.
That, for me, is a noble cause filled with purpose and it guides our mission: #MakeManagersAwesome.