He organized his warriors into squads, or arban, of ten who were to be brothers to one another. No matter what their kin group or tribal origin, they were ordered to live and fight together as loyally as brothers; in the ultimate affirmation of kinship, no one of them could ever leave the other behind in battle as a captive.Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
People are at the center of our purpose and principles. To achieve our Vision, we must surround ourselves with people who we can challenge and motivate, and who do the same for us. Technology and Ideas may change but we need a solid group of people who are constantly evolving and growing while getting shit done. We understand that not everyone will be around forever so we must prepare them to tackle our Vision wherever they choose to go. We must ensure that they grow into the role they want, stay long term in the role they are comfortable with, or become entrepreneurs in their own right and help advance them whatever path they choose to take and provide the incentives to succeed.
Good Ideas and Technologies are the results of Good People. Good ideas need to be shown merit and advanced while undergoing vigorous debate. We are here to Advance Humanity and “Ideas Deployed Faster” means always being on the forefront, building the future and making that future the present.
People make up an Organization, a Organization is an Imagined Community. People make up our Organization, an Imagined Community of People, provide value to another Organization, another Imagined Community of People. At the end it is People helping People. We must ensure that people are taken care, have safety, and trust whomever and whatever Imagined Community they are a part.
We will fall on the sword for our people and that means we need to ensure that the people we bring on are the people who will fall on the sword for us. We will not hire fast, fire fast. We will take our time to find good people who fit with our Principles first. People can learn new skills, but it is extremely hard to orient people with varying Principles. So we will optimize for Principles. We will need to find people with the appropriate Position, Responsibilities and Expectations. We cannot just hire based on skills since it will means that if the person cannot change their skills based on the changing circumstances we have people who many not be beneficial to our organization.
We will define Position for people and provide them with the Responsibilities they need to succeed and give them the power to make decisions and act within their realm. Every person has a set of responsibilities that they will be expected to handle and if failure happens they are responsible for. Lastly, every position has expectations of value generated. Every person needs to create value for the organization but they need to be sufficiently challenged to self-improve as well. We will develop people’s positions overtime to increase their responsibilities and expectations. The expectations will be measurable goals for each person.
We value those who serve and empower others before themselves. We value those who dedicate themselves to ensure that others are happy and cared. We want people who will not put themselves about the needs of their team. It is better to climb the highest mountain and bring others so we can all enjoy the view together than to climb up alone.
We will ensure that our People are Happy, Healthy and Productive in that order. Unhappy and Unhealthy people don’t lead to productive work nor are they fun to be around. Ensuring the team is happy and healthy is the first priority. We will practice healthy habits as part of our work including deep interruption-free work, exercise, and time for play. We must create an environment that is safe and where we can be vulnerable to one another. The leadership will speak truth and make themselves human, not all-knowing demi-gods by expressing their weaknesses to the team. We are all learning, and we don’t know everything, so we will create a space where we can all learn, express our mistakes and constantly review how to improve from each other and grow with a Growth Mindset.
We must create a place of diversity as diversity creates an atmosphere of critical thinking. Diversity paradoxically creates mistrust, but this mistrust leads to harder questions and deeper critical thinking since we must explain to others our thinking when they don’t think like us. This prevents thinking from becoming pigeonholed and this leads to the uniqueness of and depth in ideas to gestate and flourish. This means listening to ideas different from us even if those ideas aren’t consistent with our views. We need to have a healthy dialogue where we can look at things from different points of view. If we virtue signal or use cancel someone because we don’t agree with them that means we are not seeking to find why they think like they do, and finding constructive ways of reaching agreement or disagreeing on that aspect but working together in other parts that you do agree.
We must hire people better than us. We hire people who are better because they will tell us what we need to do that we didn’t consider. By hiring people better than us we are hiring teachers and mentors that complement our weaknesses, who can also teach others. A place where we can’t learn is a place where evolution stops, and when evolution stops is a place that dies. We must hire others who are better even if it makes us feel inadequate and strive to learn their lessons. Further, by hiring people who are smarter we will put them onto projects where we can maximize their strengths. Not everyone is made for every position, they may work better in other aspects and we need to figure out how to put them in those positions.
We cannot expect another person to improve without giving them the feedback they need to improve, so we will give feedback about the work with candor. We cannot assume the person knows where to go if we don’t give them the feedback to get there. This does not mean micromanaging it means coaching them on their journey not taking them to the destination. This feedback should be used to improve oneself. However, before we give critical feedback strive to understand where people are first coming from and find common ground. Whether our team, customers, partners or vendors look for common ground and create trust and security. Seek to help and understand first before casting judgement. To make it easier to work together we must express our vulnerabilities and weaknesses to each other. We are good at some things and need work on others, but it is hard to change those if we don’t inform others that we need to change those. Be vulnerable, state when you don’t know something and strive to improve.
Being people oriented does not mean lowering standards. It means having Extremely High Standards. We always ask, “How can we improve?” We should ask this to our Team, Customers, Society and Investors. We must always be taking feedback and creating the ideas and improvements to address our weaknesses and make them into strengths. It is everyone’s responsibility to help improve the team. Politicking will not be tolerated, if something is wrong or not living up to high standards it needs to be relayed to the person (in private). This does not mean personal attacks but guiding the other person into doing better. It is the responsibility of the person receiving the feedback, to take the feedback and incorporate it into their Individual Mental Model and understand where the feedback is coming from. If we need help request it without holding an ego.
We are a people-first company where we put the needs of people first. However, we must also acknowledge we can’t help everyone. Not everyone is going to like us, accept it. No use trying to move a mountain, when we can push a sled instead. We will strive to help improve both the strengths and weaknesses of an individual.
Each Position need to know their Role and Responsibilities. What is their expected role, what are the KPIs that they are responsible for optimizing. The entire goal of each person should be to optimize certain tasks for growth and overtime improve the KPIs. Each KPI needs to improve the metric of the Parent task.
Our team will be evaluated on how well they follow these Principles. A weekly 1:1 should be had with the manager and team member with the following questions:
- What’s on your mind this week?
- On a scale of 1 to 5 how do you feel? Why do you feel that way?
- On a scale of 1 to 5 how do you feel about work? Why do you feel that way?
- What one thing can make you happier?
- What feedback do you have for me? How am I fucking up?
Further, we need to understand Organization Psychology and figure out how to make each of our team members happy, healthy and productive. We must implement and reinforce the behaviors that make people happy while not overindulging. People don’t always need perks to be happy, they need purpose. We must ensure that everyone’s Maslow Hierarchy of Needs are met and that they are able to achieve their Self-Realization. We must allow this to happen whether they are our team, our crowd or our customers. We must ensure that we can address as much of the Hierarchy as possible.
We will organize into self-contained, autonomous, cross-divisional, functional teams that fit the “Two Pizza Box” principle. The teams act independently and autonomously to progress towards our Vision with whatever Idea they are executing. These small units (6-7 people) ensures communication is clear and ensures everyone on the team is responsible for each other while fulling the Key Performace Indicators that work towards the company’s Vision. Each team needs a clear leader and division of responsibilities, and reports to up the chain to another “Two Pizza Box” team. Each team needs to fulfill the following: Repeatability, Focus, and Iteration. Overtime, a team may break up to fulfill these criteria.
The leader and manager’s role are to sacrifice self for the betterment of the team. It is the leader and manager’s job to empower those closest to the information to make the call and trust that they will make the right call. To do this we must constantly better our team and prepare to be Anti-Fragile. Further, each team will develop its own set of Principles over time and it is important that they do so that build off the Principles we have here. It is important to encourage them.
A leader is a good follower. We will bring on the best people so that we can follow what they tell us to do. This means the weakest need to have their voice heard. Have people who are more junior, more quiet speak first before moving to others.
Give and Take
Should give some and receive some.
One of the primary ways to be people first is to incentivize them to think like owners. If you want to grow yourself you need to incentivize them to think like they have ownership over the entities that they’re building. So a company needs to give ownership or profit sharing some mechanism of incentivization that will allow people to work harder and still benefit.
Hire Fast, Ascertain Fast, Fire Fast
I’ve been resisting this facet of the job. Hiring people. It is the most important part of a business. But I feel like I’ve been treating the problem of being wrong.
Coding has an interesting aspect you can ascertain fast. You type some code, run it and figure out if you are going in the right direction or the wrong one. However, as a business owner, spending my own capital the hiring has been the biggest challenge. There is something freeing about using someone else’s money to grow your business. You derisk it. Someone else paying for the interviewing time.
However, when you are running your own business spending a lot of time on interviewing affects the bottom line. You need to ascertain that someone is actually good at the job that they will be doing, not some hypothetical problem sets.
So I’m trying a new technique to hiring: Hire Fast, Ascertain Fast. This technique is not new or novel. I stole it from Matt Mullenweg of Automattic. The idea is simple:
- Find a range of people who can do the roles and responsibilities you need of them.
- Hire multiple of them quickly after a shallow 10-15 minute interview.
- Have them do a quick training of how you work and how they should accomplish tasks.
- Assign them open source or otherwise simple tasks that you need to get done.
- If they get tasks done quickly then assign them larger still risk free tasks that need to be accomplished.
- Finally, based on their ability to execute either give them larger tasks or let them go.
The primary different here is that workers start with tiny tasks as soon as possible to feel accomplished and contributing. Once they are contributing they should hopefully be driven towards larger tasks and get into a cycle of contribution.
- Know the mindset of the people you hire.
- Are they Growth Mindset or Fixed Mindset
- Give them a trial project
- How do they respond to feedback?
- Do they shutdown?
- Do they take it and update it?
- Do they learn by reading, writing or talking?
- Ask what their ambitions are when hiring people. Where do they want to be?
- What are my strengths? My weaknesses?
- What can this person do?
- Don’t look at weakness if there is one strength that they have
- How can I most effectively deploy this person
- Will this person help you compound your growth?
- Will this person work well with others on a team and help the team grow in a compounded way?
- If this is a sports team would you want this person and if so what strengths do they bring?
- At what point do you think they will be less effective?
- Give your team a chance to improve but cut members who don’t perform
- Completion gives a measure to live towards. Give people competition to attain.
- What drives the person you are hiring?
- Where in the Maslov Hierarchy of Needs are they?
- At what point do you think they will be less effective?
- What is the strength in the other person that you want dilespite their weaknesss?
- How can you use that strength?
- Design the job and figure out what values fit that job.
- If you are designing a machine what attributes do you need for that person to do well?
- Don’t design jobs to fit people. You need to be objective and it may not make sense to keep someone who doesn’t have the criteria to do that job well.
- Freelancers / Upwork
- Create a small paid project for them to do that shouldn’t take more than 2 hours. If they don’t do it then not don’t move on.
- See how they deal with the feedback given.
- If they don’t take feedback well then they are likely not a good fit.
- If they are not at the level they say they are after you have given them feedback then they are not a good fit.
- Ask them what their current commitments are. If they have a lot just expect work to take longer.
- When hiring ask what of their skills they can bring to the table.
- You have to create trust and belonging
- There needs to be a way to bring people into the family
- Ask them what specific skills they have that helps them work better
- Have them somehow belong to the group.
- This will allow them to feel like they are belonging to the group in a bigger way. Creates a ritual.
- Have to reinforce this behavior over time.
- When hiring ask what of their skills they can bring to the table.
Roles, Responsibilities, and Ownership
All jobs are created in with the following information:
- Job Description
- Responsibilities: What does this Position have ultimate responsibility and decision authority over? Clearly define the products, services, assets, activities, and subordinates assigned to the Position.
- Expectations: Expectations specify the results required of a Position if the Firm is to achieve its objectives. Expectations should be clear, specific, and measurable. They should focus on the desired outcomes rather than on the activities that might be required to produce those outcomes. Expectations must also be open-ended and challenging enough to expand a Position’s vision of what can be contributed. This encourages experimentation and innovation.
- What are they given access to and how do they use it.
- Each Person is given the least amount of access needed to accomplish their jobs.
- The information they need to be most effective at their job including anything particular related to how they perform their job, the set of principles we adhere, etc.
- If the job involves only doing a singular task then it should be located here.
- Link to the recurring task that the role is responsible for accomplis
- The manager who is responsible for this position.
Ideas are cheap. Execution matters. Ideas we have must be tested quickly and cheaply. This is to prevent bike shedding. We can spend endless time to figure out if an idea is good or not but at the end all people care about is seeing the idea in reality and being able to see it. So we need to ensure our ideas are not just ideas but that good ones quickly see the light of day. We need to encourage new innovation even if we are just bringing ideas into the market to create competition.
Since we create a place of vulnerability, trust and safety where we will not punish for mistakes we will expect there to be some Good Conflict where ideas are debated vigorously. People need to speak with candor about problems, commit and be accountable for fixing things. People should speak freely without fear of interpersonal conflict if they are debating ideas, and let people know where they are coming from. We need diversity of ideas, but we also have to be free to say that the emperor has no clothes while focus our execution on the ideas that are critical to our Vision. It is just as important to say no to things as to say yes. We must deploy ideas that help the most amount of people and for which we have expertise in. The success of our ideas is not in how much money they make but how many people they can potentially help.
We need to generate a lot of ideas and execute based on Critical Thinking and Creative Destruction. To do this we need to consider the Industry, Opportunity and Competitive moves that are happening and respond to them. We need to think of completely new Blue Ocean ideas that lets us own a market where we define the rules. We cannot execute on everything though, but we must do the research on the ideas anyways, so we understand our weaknesses comparatively. We should execute in adjacent markets to where we are already executing and keep doing this ad infinitum. Not everything we do will be successful, and some of our bets may fail spectacularly, but we must understand and internalize our learnings into our Shared Mental Models so we can adapt.
Every idea we decide to compete in needs to be able to stand on its own. It cannot rely on eternal or subsidized funding; it needs to be able to stand and earn profits on its own. There is nothing worse than throwing money at a problem that never has a way of recouping its investment. We need to ensure that our bets have a chance of being self-sustaining and earning a profit quickly.
We work on ideas by first writing a Two to Six Page Narrative on the Idea. The following needs to be answered:
- Explain what you are doing in 75 characters or less.
- Start with a Story of a single person using this idea and how they benefit. Why would they would choose this idea over something else?
- What is the idea? What are the products & services we will need to provide? What is the value being generated? Who will be empowered by this idea? How are we vastly better than the competition in relation to this idea and are not limited by the 5 Competitive Forces?
- How are we going to approach the task of bringing the idea to the world?
- How is the idea the same or different from other companies who do this? How can they retaliate?
- How does the idea fulfill our Vision?
- Why are we the ones who need to bring this idea to light? What do we have that makes us valuable to release this?
- What are the positions and procedures we need to do to be effective? Who are the partners we can work with? How can we use the Crowd?
- What is the high-level Assembly Line?
- If applicable a blog post/press release introducing the idea. Describe the Microcommit, the smallest feature set needed to test this idea. Who, What, Where, When, Why, How.
- How is this idea Anti-Fragile? What are the risks? What are the failure? What can go wrong? What are the assumptions that may prove to be incorrect?
- What is the game theory and prisoner’s dilemma in the market? How will our competitors respond?
- What happens if this completely and utterly fails? What are the repercussions?
- What are the KPIs that need to be tracked?
- How will it make money?
- How does this match with our competitive strategy? What competitive stage is the market? What is the industry analysis?
- What is the First Principle breakdown of the idea? What are all the components that make it up? What is changing about each of the components in relation to time?
This document must be updated with Feedback, Research and Clarity. After it is written it needs to be debated. The team will debate the efficacy of this narrative where they will look for the Strategy, Falsification, and 80/20. The goal of the debate is to figure out what is wrong, what the holes in the logic are, and if something is missing. Falsify it to verify that it is something that needs to done by us versus letting other people do it. Figure out if we can do it simply by using the 80/20 rule. If all is well then it should be executed if not then then the Narrative needs to be rewritten to address the concerns or if the idea is shown to not fulfill the Vision then it will be shelved.
We do this because ideas are cheap so good ideas must be strengthened with hard critical thinking, learning, data and experimentation. We must commit to ideas slowly but once we commit, we must execute rapidly. Ideas can include anything that improves the running of the organization including product and services, the customer experience, processes, mistakes, etc. When executing an idea always start with a small strong core and put it in front of the people using it. Iterate to regularly release new updates to this core. Further, we won’t agree with all the ideas and some ideas may be crazy to us but we all come from a different understanding of the world and so we need to Disagree and Commit if the time comes for moving forward. We are not afraid to cannibalize if it means taking us to our Vision.
What we do will undergo change and obsolescence and that means embracing Creative Destruction. While we can improve existing businesses with Continuous Improvement, we need to also find ways of killing ourselves with new technology, processes, etc. Never hold anything we do sacred if there is a better way of doing something that reduces waste and increases output. There are no sacred cows and we acknowledge the only constant we will hold true is evolution. We must collect all our Ideas in a centralized location and have them be shared. Whether the ideas are good or not is not important. Maybe an idea is not good at the moment but it is great in the future, we need to have these ideas available for others to reflect on in the future.
Ideas will also be executed from our mistakes. We will not seek to punish mistakes if they were not intentionally done but will use them as learning opportunities. How did the mistake occur? What can be done to address the mistake so it doesn’t happen again? What is the root cause of the mistake that led to it happening? All of these must be handled completely.
All ideas must start as a Microcommit. It is the smallest working solution to the problem which we can use to test our idea. Unless we need to build something, try to do it with the smallest amount of effort and input serving the smallest amount of customers. We need to work like an Inductive Proof. Make it work for x=1, before making it work for x=n. Further, execute ideas in the industries we are participating in already and enter adjacent industries where we see a Competitive Advantage. We cannot just address all markets at once as it leads to poor execution and a diffusion of resources. This diffusion leads to not executing anything well.
Note when something is an experiment versus when it is scaling. The methodologies of both are different. An experiment is trying to prove something and it is like an inductive proof of n=1. Scaling is when what you prove is used for n=k. We are trying to make it applicable across the board.
Make things simple as possible, remove unnecessary steps, remove unneeded interactions, and increase the possibility. Do things by removing and simplifying to the core values that are high not doing everything. All microcommits are the smallest number of steps needed to do something.
Use writing to think deeply and express and complete thoughts in complete sentences. Writing is thinking and to be effective at what we do and plan for the long-term and evolve as we go along we need to think clearly and deeply. Writing will be used across all aspects of the business as the preferred medium of expression. Ideas will be thought through deeply, mistakes and root cause analysis will be dissected in paragraphs, and we will always be writing to clarify our thoughts.
Strive first to think through in writing what you are going to do before you do it. This clarifies the intent and purpose of your actions which are more important than doing the actions. The intent must be communicated as that is the purpose of any action, there is an underlying intent behind it. This clarifies the purpose for those below you and above you “Why” you are doing something. The How and What will evolve but the communication of the Why is always paramount.
Further, when generating Projects from Reviews, Retrospectives and Mistakes really find the root cause of a problem. We must get to the core of the problem and fix it at the root otherwise the problem just arises again.
For ideas to matter they must be understood simply. We are living in a world of complexity where complexity is done for complexity sake. We must understand and spread ideas as simply as possible. Use the Feynman technique.
Ideas. Work on things that are difficult and create value.
Change Your Mind
When you tell someone that their idea is wrong, even if they know rationally that it is wrong they will disagree and believe in their idea much stronger. It is easy to fall into this trap where our ideas become our existential outlook. However, our ideas are beliefs can change. If you find an idea that has proven to be wrong you want to stop. Hold your ideas and beliefs loosly. If you are proven wrong or there is evidence supporting the other side then stop.
This means looking at things from opposite perspectives. You can’t only look at ideas from your side only. You have to look at things from the opposite point of view. You have to wonder why the other side believes something and why they hold onto that belief. Sometimes it is not obvious. It may be something completely different than you assumed.
Disagree and Commit
When an idea is presented not everyone will agree to execute it. It is easy to become a gatekeeper and say and idea is stupid. It is better to Disagree to an idea and Commit to it. This allows for the idea to be tested and tried on its merit. We may personally disagree with an idea or have anecdotes, hearsay, or are personally not interested in the problem. However, this does not mean it doesn’t have value so it is better to disagree with an idea, but also commit to it if the majority are in agreement to move forward with it. However, ensure that others can see from your point of view as well so they understand where you are coming from.
- [ ] Figure out the positives and negatives.
- [ ] Weigh the pros and cons
- [ ] Cons aren’t bad. They are just there in terms of compromising
Figure 1 https://xkcd.com/1205/ Figure out if something is worth coding based on this.
“A fool learns by experience. I profit from others’ experience.” -Bismark
We will take new technology and find where the puck is going and hyperstandardize and bring down the cost of its delivery. Further, we must figure out how to apply technology to reduce the steps in any system. Complexity makes things brittle, something with a lot of pieces can fail in complex ways, but something with simple pieces makes it easier to build and scale. If we can figure out how to reduce costs, by removing pieces from what people are doing that would allow us to scale our tasks and make technology work for us. If on the other hand we integrate a technology and it adds additional steps then that is less valuable.
We are the operational team that makes the technology usable for other companies.
Technology is only as useful as it benefits People. However, we must stay attuned to the changing nature of technology and use the technology that will enable us to solve the problems for humanity, better and faster. However, if we prioritize the technology over the people we will be stuck with obsolete people. We must pick people who can evolve with the ideas and technology.
We will be conservative when picking technology unless it gives us a clear Competitive Advantage to use it immediately, otherwise we will let it gestate and mature for a period to mature. It may not always be certain who is winning a battle so it is better to wait until there is a winner then to move quickly to use that technology completely. This means we may not pick the technology as it is ascending, but this also means we pick the technology that is largely winning and technology that has a lot of the warts fixed before we use it. Once this has happened we can trust the longevity of the technology we will embrace it fully. If we see a paradigm shift towards a new technology over the Long-Term then we must start testing that technology immediately and playing with it internally before we move forward with it.
Further, when creating scripts and other tools prioritize simplicity. Frequently this may mean using bash, Ruby and Excel. If we can get stuff done quickly doing that then do that. We must experiment with new technology in a small way to to see where the world is moving and get a better understanding of where the market is heading. We need to understand the technology and shifts in the market even if we do not actively incorporate the technology within our stack. However, what we put into production and the services we choose to work on need to have longevity.
When picking technology use the criteria of has it been in production for a couple years, does it have more than one or two major users, has it matured to the point where there are one or two ways of doing things, does it have a lot of operational complexity that is not a core advantage? We may need to at times bet on the future of a technology even if it is immature at present, this could be because of the behavior of a major vendor so we should plan backwards to when we can fully embrace the technology and what needs to be done to get to the point of full adoption.
Prioritize using off the shelf tooling, open source, etc. first and make it work for our needs. If things don’t exist that fit our use we will develop internally. But we will not fall for Not Invented Here Syndrome. Further, if there is a vendor that benefits us then we will use them and build our own if the benefit changes. We will use external tools if the benefit is immediate. We will create internally if the cost benefit changes.
We are not going to reinvent technology over and over unless there is a clear Competitive Advantage to doing so. We need to push forward with what we have and make it work and change things once they no longer work. Constantly changing the technology stack for the sake of technology change is a waste of time and does not create value. Technology should always be picked and adopted based on the notion of how does it affect People, does it better them?
If data and the narrative don’t match up don’t assume that the narrative is wrong. People are complex and no machine can tell is what beauty is, or justice or morality is. Thus far. So it is important when the data doesn’t match up to understand the behavior. Do not fall for the Ludic Fallacy.
We must take new technology that has crossed the chasm that can advance humanity significantly and apply it to the world and bring down the cost as much as possible as fast as possible that others can use it. We must take all technologies that can bring ideas to market faster and make them applicable to everyone. We cannot jump on every bandwagon so we must figure out if a technology has crossed the chasm before using it. Future use technology that is widely used and has more than one vendor supporting it.