Amp it up

A continuación resumen y notas de un libro que me ha gustao AMP IT UP que está escribo por Frank Slootman que fue el CEO de Snowflake y founder de ServiceNow and Data Domain, todas ellas compañías super exitosas y que dos han salido a bolsa con valoraciones muy impresionantes.

Me ha hecho pensar en todas las gilipolleces que escucho a veces en las startups y scaleups, y de verdad lo mínimo que una startup necesita para funcionar son los basics: foco, rapidez y calidad. Y si acaso los futbolines, los coachs, los benefits, son un más a más, pero no marcarán la diferencia.

Mis notas:

  • Una empresa necesita subir el listón, urgencia, intensidad, y energía.
  • Los procesos son: elevar los estándares, alinear al equipo, hacer foco en pocas cosas en lugar de abrir muchas cosas, hacer las cosas lo antes posibles con la máxima calidad.
Elevar los estándares del trabajo que hacemos:
  • La pregunta a realizar a los equipos: realmente te encanta lo que has hecho, o solamente está bien?

Una de las cosas que yo me encuentro muchas veces en el día a día, es que los equipos, especialmente los equipos técnicos, te dicen que ir rápido es sinónimo de a veces no tener calidad. Creo que el libro, y un tio como el CEO de Snowflake, deja claro, se debe ir rápido, bajar burocrácia y además elevar el listón de calidad.  Si fuese fácil lo haría cualquiera.

  • Tendemos a abrir muchos frentes, pero con hacer una cosa bien hecha ya está bien. Conforme las empresas crecen se tienden a intentar paralizar, en lugar de profundizar.
  • La pregunta crítica, es si pudieras hacer solo una cosa en un año que cosa harías y porqué?

Recientemente me reunía con dos exCEO de dos empresas TOP que han escalado en España, y ambos me decían que hay que eliminar pesos muertos en las empresas, porque a más gente más cosas quieren hacer, y esas cosas desfocalizan del «core» e importante. P.ej. si fichas una persona de People querrá que le desarrolles un sistema que haga, «x», y como es un proyecto suyo, necesitarás más recursos, y más recursos más personas, sin embargo estás creciendo en personal (o sea en problemas) y justamente no estás haciendo lo que más va a impactar. Ambos me recomendaban tener el foco claro de lo que hay que hacer y solo gente haciendo el foco. Sé que es fácil decirlo y difícil hacerlo.

Pick Up the Pace:
  • Si caes en la típica empresa que no importa cuando salen las cosas y no hay sentimiento de urgencia, desapareces en el mundo tech.
  • Hay que comprimir los clicos, entregar cuanto antes, aplicar presión y ser impaciente.
  • When everyone on the team embraces urgency, we all move at a similar pace, without being slowed down by distractions.
  • Contrata conductores, no contrates pasajeros. Los pasajeros son peso muerto en la empresa. Los conductores son gente que son felices ejecutando y avanzando.
  • Diferencia entre pasajeros y conductores, y házselo saber.
  • Despide lo antes posible a gente que no esté en la cultura de la empresa. Si los líderes no despiden a los que toca, todo el mundo se da cuenta y perjudica a la empresa.
  • La figura del líder es estar buscando constantemente a la gente adecuada.
  • Cuando se trabaja en equipos, no pueden haber «silos» o grupos estancos, todo el mundo debe colaborar entre departamentos, porque solo hay un equipo.

Resumen (copia y pega de las mejores frases)

Raise your standards, pick up the pace, sharpen your focus, and align your people. You don’t need to bring in reams of consultants to examine everything that is going on. What you need on day one is to ratchet up expectations, energy, urgency, and intensity.

So let’s start with an overview of the five key steps in the Amp It Up process: raise your standards, align your people, sharpen your focus, pick up the pace, and transform your strategy.

Raise Your Standards

Try applying “insanely great” as a standard on a daily basis and see how far you get. People lower their standards in an effort to move things along and get things off their desks. Don’t do it. Fight that impulse every step of the way. It doesn’t take much more mental energy to raise standards. Don’t let malaise set in. Bust it up. Raising the bar is energizing by itself. Instead of telling people what I think of a proposal, a product, a feature, whatever, I ask them instead what they think. Were they thrilled with it? Absolutely love it? Most of the time I would hear, “It’s okay,” or “It’s not bad.” They would surmise from my facial expression that this wasn’t the answer I was looking for. Come back when you are bursting with excitement about whatever you are proposing to the rest of us.

Align Your People and Culture

Where alignment matters further is in incentive compensation. We pay everybody the same way on our executive team, and we have a very select, focused set of metrics that we pay bonuses on. Our sales exec does not get paid on a commission plan if the rest of us aren’t. Everybody knows what we are aiming for. Another source of misalignment is management by objectives (MBO), which I have eliminated at every company I’ve joined in the last 20 years. MBO causes employees to act as if they are running their own show. Because they get compensated on their personal metrics, it’s next to impossible to pull them off projects. They will start negotiating with you for relief. That’s not alignment, that’s every man for himself. If you need MBO to get people to do their job, you may have the wrong people, the wrong managers, or both.

Sharpen Your Focus

Leaders can do two things that bring almost instant benefit. First, think about execution more sequentially than in parallel. Work on fewer things at the same time, and prioritize hard. Even if you’re not sure about ranking priorities, do it anyway. The process alone will be enlightening. Figure out what matters most, what matters less, and what matters not at all. Otherwise your people will disagree about what’s important.

The questions you should ask constantly: What are we not going to do? What are the consequences of not doing something? Get in the habit of constantly prioritizing and reprioritizing.

Most people have a relatively easy time coming up with their top three priorities. Just ask them. As an exercise I often ask: if you can only do one thing for the rest of the year, and nothing else, what would it be and why?

Pick Up the Pace

Leaders set the pace. People sometimes ask to get back to me in a week, and I ask, why not tomorrow or the next day? Start compressing cycle times. We can move so much quicker if we just change the mindset. Once the cadence changes, everybody moves quicker, and new energy and urgency will be everywhere. Good performers crave a culture of energy.

Apply pressure. Be impatient. Patience may be a virtue, but in business it can signal a lack of leadership. Nobody wants to swim in glue or struggle to get things done. Some organizations slow things down by design. Change that—ASAP.

Transform Your Strategy

While everybody else has their head down, you need to have your head up, to confront both the need and the opportunity for strategic transformation. Develop a healthy sense of paranoia about your business model because your competitors are surely trying to disrupt you.
Time is not our friend. Time introduces risks, such as new entrants. The faster we separate from the competition, the more likely we are to succeed. Urgency is a mindset that can be learned if it doesn’t come to you naturally.

When everyone on the team embraces urgency, we all move at a similar pace, without being slowed down by distractions.

Declare War on Your Competitors and on Incrementalism

Good leaders explain that none of us are ever truly safe in our roles for any length of time.

The War Against Incrementalism

But in most fields, incrementalism is merely a lack of audacity and boldness. Maybe you won’t lose, but you won’t win either. Larger, established enterprises are especially prone to incremental behavior because risks are not rewarded—but screwups are severely punished. Many of these companies end up killing themselves gradually, through stagnation. That’s why very few enterprises that were in the Fortune 500 just 50 years ago still exist. A living organism like a business needs to reinvent itself all the time, rather than just consolidate and extend past gains.

Rather than seeking incremental progress from the current state, try thinking about the future state you want to reach and then work backward to the present. What needs to happen to get there? This exercise can be inspiring and motivating, as you become guided by your future vision. Don’t try to steer the ship by looking at its wake!

I often ask CEOs about their growth model: how fast can the company grow if they pull all the stops? Can the business start amping up and go asymptotic at some point? When? Rarely have they thought about their outer limits

Put Execution Ahead of Strategy
Great Execution Is Rarer than Great Strategy

Hire Drivers, Not Passengers, and Get the Wrong People off the Bus

Passengers are largely dead weight and can be an insidious threat to your culture and performance.

Drivers, on the other hand, get their satisfaction from making things happen, not blending in with the furniture feel a strong sense of ownership for their projects and teams and demand high standards from both themselves and others.

These qualities make drivers massively valuable. Finding, recruiting, rewarding, and retaining them should be among your top priorities. Recognize them privately and publicly, promote them, and elevate them as example of what others should aspire to.

Celebrate people who own their responsibilities, take and defend clear positions, argue for their preferred strategies, and seek to move the dial.

Making the Distinction

This distinction between drivers and passengers can be subtle to discern, and therein lies a problem.

Whenever I bring up this notion of drivers vs. passengers at an all‐hands meeting, I can see that it makes some people uncomfortable.

People who realize that they’re mostly passengers have essentially two options. They can try to stick around without changing their pattern of behavior, which might be possible if they work for one of those large companies that spend decades decaying and declining before finally going out of business. On the other hand, when such a company is struggling, passengers are the first to be thrown overboard during a so‐called reduction in force (RIF), better known as a mass layoff. It is not unusual to see organizations actually perk up after a RIF because all those passengers are no longer dead weight.

Getting the Wrong People off the Bus

If you don’t act quickly to get the wrong people off the bus, you have no prayer of changing the overall trajectory.

The other advantage of moving fast is that everyone who stays on the bus will know that you’re dead serious about high standards.

Leaders who do not act will soon find out that their leadership is in question. Everybody is watching: not just what you are doing but also what you are not doing.

Finding the Right People

Of course getting the wrong people off the bus is only half the challenge. The other half is finding and recruiting the right people for the right seats, which is much harder. This is not a process that can be rushed. The cost of a misfire in time, money, and reputation is huge. Leaders are expected to have well‐developed networks, the ability to recruit, and the sharp critical eye to judge talent. Here are my thoughts for building a strong talent posture.

Do not rely on acute sourcing tactics such as recruiters and LinkedIn. You will only see the active job seekers, who are unlikely to be the candidates you really want. In high growth companies, functions and individuals can easily get overrun, as the expanding needs of the organization exceed their capacity. So you must staff ahead of need. Recruiting never stops.

Build a Strong Culture

High‐growth enterprises are not easy places to live. The pressure is relentless. Performance is aggressively managed. There is no let up. I have seen employees depart after a short time because the intensity and pace just wasn’t their cup of tea. Culture is not about making people feel good per se, it’s about enabling the mission with the behaviors and values that serve that purpose. It’s unlikely that a strong, effective, and mission‐aligned culture will please everybody.

Culture needs to become a cohesive force in the enterprise.

That’s the pattern in places with a weak culture: lots of fiefdoms that spend their days fighting each other more than they fight the competition.

Many successful organizations rightfully point to their culture as a key source of that success. It’s often the one differentiator that others can’t copy.

Culture doesn’t just happen because of a CEO’s declaration or because senior management exhibits the willingness to act on core values. It happens when most of the organization is willing to defend and promote those values and call out deviations on a day‐to‐day basis.

Teach Everyone to Go Direct and Build Mutual Trust

The Dangers of Silos: el problema es que la gente quiere tener su hueco y controlar sus departamentos, y a veces la gente se pelea por sus departamentos y no colabora entre departamentos.

Many companies are plagued by good execution within individual silos but terrible execution across silos.

A Better Option: Going Direct

We have a saying we often repeat at our companies: Go direct. If you have a problem that cuts across departments, figure out who in those other departments can most directly help you address the issue, and reach out without hesitation. Everybody, and we mean everybody, has permission to speak to anybody inside the company, for any reason, regardless of role, rank, or function. We want the organization to run on influence, not rank and title. We want everyone to think of the company as one big team, not a series of competing smaller teams.

Going direct will only work as a strategy if your people default to trusting their colleagues in other departments, even though they don’t have a direct reporting relationship with them.

Trust is foundational to team effectiveness—it’s impossible to overstate how important it is.

People always monitor the variance between what you say and what you do

But as leaders, we need to offer up an honest accounting of our behavior. Trust goes up when people see that we are self‐aware about our own shortcomings and areas for improvement. An honest accounting of your failures will work much better than denying those failures and expecting people to ignore them.

The Benefits of a High‐Trust Environment

High‐trust workplace cultures tend to correlate with high‐performance organizations.

People don’t need to defend bad decisions in a high‐trust environment. They can acknowledge a failure and move on quickly.

By declaring my own mistakes, I signaled to everyone that it was safe to admit their mistakes too, without fearing extreme consequences.

Sharpen Your Focus

9 Put Analysis Before Solutions The Problem of Racing to Solutions

In business, I’ve found, has the opposite cultural tendency. We tend to be “solution centric”—we spend most of our time discussing solutions rather than diagnosing problems.

It’s easy to be irrationally confident in our judgment and anxious to move forward with implementing solutions. But if we are wrong in understanding the problem, our solutions won’t work.

Another cause of jumping to solutions is groupthink, which discourages new, creative, unexpected ways of thinking.

I redirected the conversation to the nature of the problem rather than fast‐track the proposals already presented.

My preferred tactic is to start with so‐called first principles. Break problems down into their most basic elements. Ignore what you think you already know, and imagine you are facing this kind of situation for the first time in your life. The more you have seen, the harder this tactic gets, but it’s worth the effort.

This brings me back to one of my favorite sayings, by Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems: “Fail fast” (which I already mentioned in the “Getting Strategy Right” section in Chapter 5). If you find out that you were wrong, correct it immediately. Build a reputation as a rapid course corrector. You don’t need to be right all the time to succeed if you can admit quickly when you’re wrong.

Analysis Is Especially Important for People Decisions

Customer Success Is Everyone’s Business


PART V Pick Up the Pace

12 Grow Fast or Die Slow Why Focus on Growth?

A higher‐probability path to growth at scale is to leverage your proven strengths to adapt your original offering for adjacent markets.

13 Stay Scrappy as You Scale Up The Paradox of Scaling Up

If you try to run a mature, 500‐person company like a 10‐person start‐up, you will almost certainly fail. But, paradoxically, if you lose all the scrappiness of a 10‐person start‐up, your mature company may never reach its full potential.

But the most valuable leaders are those who can combine the scrappiness of a start‐up leader with the organizational and diplomatic discipline needed in a big company.

Most companies lose their original scrappiness as they get bigger. They lose the eye of the tiger, the instinct to focus relentlessly on the core drivers of the company’s success. As they add more and more organizational layers and staff who are neither making nor selling the product, it gets easier to waste time

Your mission as a leader is to figure out how to hang on to your early‐stage dynamism and avoid the lethargy of mass and bulk. One technique I use is to challenge key people with this question: “If you could do just one thing for the remainder of the year, what would that be and why?” The reason is that as companies get bigger, they start advancing numerous initiatives simultaneously. Before they even realize it, people start moving like molasses and lose their sense of focus. Try to regain that by narrowing the aperture on priorities.

Transform Your Strategy

Takeaway 1: Attack weakness, not strength.

Takeaway 2: Either create a cost advantage or neutralize someone else’s.

Takeaway 3: It’s much easier to attack an existing market than create a new one.

Takeaway 4: Early adopters buy differently than later adopters.

Takeaway 6: Build the whole product or solve the whole problem as fast as you can.

Takeaway 6: Build the whole product or solve the whole problem as fast as you can.

Takeaway 9: Prepare to transform your strategy sooner than you expect.

Personality Tips the Scales

Start‐ups typically need hard drivers, passionate leaders, goal‐oriented and achievement‐focused personalities—the kind of people who are easily frustrated in larger, more rigid, slower to evolve enterprises. We often liked people with a chip on their shoulder, who had a lot to prove to themselves and others. But it is easy to see how others would be less enamored by such personalities.

We valued traits such as strong task ownership, a sense of urgency, and a “no excuses” mentality. People who get things done rather than explain why they can’t. This personality type lines up with our obsession with hiring drivers rather than passengers, as we saw in an earlier chapter.

Develop Your Communication Skills

The spoken word is another big deal for anyone on the management track. Your career can easily stall out if you can’t speak well, or at least competently, in front of groups large and small.

It helps a ton to be authoritative on your subject, to know exactly what message you are conveying and why.