Start-up efficient

If you are coming from the corporate world, you would need at least the following to develop a new feature: A product manager, a project manager, development lead, a couple of developers, a QA lead and a tester and lastly one designer. If you are building a new product, the number in the project team at least quadruples. Given that, how a start-up with only 2-3 people can even operate? The simple answer is in their pure efficiency. So let’s talk about that a little.

Information transparency in the start-up setting is best described by the Japanese word Zanshin, or the state of total awareness. That means everybody knows everything. From how your teammate is doing emotionally to their progress with their current task, to the number of downloads or the new customers acquisitions. This level of awareness helps you constantly re-adjust your actions or cognitive power to what is important. This means new strategies or planning without hundreds of working hours wasted in meetings. This means no need for the pm role to communicate information & deadlines. This means delivery risk mitigation without planning.

Empowering is a good word but it’s gold in business & development. One of the great stories that I read about toyota management was that everyone in any part of the production line, if encountered any defect has the power to stop the production. In early stage  start-ups, everyone should be an active decision maker and participate in what to build or what not to. Examine that in your normal work. The product manager is coming with a new idea. Who in the delivery team has the power to confront your ideas? I don’t believe democratic decision making is always the best way to go but if you designed an organization that no internal voice can tell you that you are doing it wrong, you have a problem!

The next thing that good start-ups have is their focus on the results. They have one key indicator for their success and they do anything to bring that up. Can you achieve that laser focus in your organization? Do you follow through with the changes you made and measure things again? Do you revisit your ideas and re-adjust? These are the obvious thing that you expect every organization to follow but you would be surprised how organizational design disable employees to have focus and measure/revisit things from the past.

One last thing that I want to mention is passion. That’s the only thing that makes you work 12 hours a day or even the weekends and still feel good. This is probably the hardest that you can mimic in the corporate world. But you can try to give people a sense of accomplishment. Give them the feeling that how important their role was in achieving the new goals. Or try to be creative to give your employees at least one reason beyond their salary and material returns for the work and energy the put in. If you have some ideas for that, share those with me as well!