Manage your effort

OKRs are a super efficient way of setting short term objectives and define key initiatives to reach them. It is perhaps the most simple way of ensuring that your startup is at all times outcome-driven that you can get.

But there is one key element to setting your OKRs that you should keep in mind when setting them: The amount of effort that goes into the Key Results necessary to reach the objectives.

When you define your key results right, you instantly have a feel that they are ambitious yet achievable within the short term.

But sometimes you look at your key objectives and get the feeling that even if they are measurable they are still kind of fuzzy and essentially the tip of the iceberg with a lot of dependencies down under.

That’s where you should sound the alarm and ask whether it’s really a short term OKR goal or rather a more significant ongoing project that should be handled in a different way.

If you fail to do that, the risk is that you end up chasing a bunch of OKRs that are draining ressources from you above and beyond what’s reasonable in order to be efficient across the board. People will start feeling fatigued, get frustrated and basically abandon the OKRs – and perhaps even the method, if you’re really unlucky.

There is no reason to get to that point, so make sure that your OKRs are not only structured right but also takes an amount of effort that is ambitious but manageable in order to move your startup fast forward.

(Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash)

The corporate talent gift

In the startup environment it is not uncommon to frown upon people with experience from the corporate world. They are either too old, too conservative, to0 expensive or just too corporate to make it in the startup world.

But is this really true? I don’t think so.

In fact I think the right corporate profile is a gift to any startup. Why? Because corporate profiles with an interest in startups often come with two attributes, you could easily slot into the team.

First of all, if they are interested in startups, they’re likely to be more entrepreneurial than most corporate profiles in their approach to getting things done. They will likely have years of experience navigating opposition all around them from the big incumbents and with that also experience in how to get things done despite serious adversity.

That experience is gold for your startup.

Second, they are also likely to know a lot about spotting and managing risk. Everybody knows that in corporate life, the riskiest path to choose is the one challenging the norms. And unless your ambition is a fast forced exit, you will need to manage that and perform in order to stay alive in the organization. That takes some serious risk mitigation and sometimes even almost near death-experiences.

That experience is crucial to your startup.

Having said that there is one type of corporate profile that you should probably be wary off joining your team:

The one whose main motivation is a big personal payday courtesy of your startup.

While they may be willing to work hard at achieving it, having financial compensation as a sole major motivation can backfire. Because corporate profiles with that motivation will tend to do what serves their own needs and career progressions best, and that might not necessarily be what’s in your or your startups best interest.

So be on the lookout for that and be very aware of doing your personal due diligence, when you consider onboarding a profile like that for a specific role.

Other than that, just go for the corporate experience. Look at it this way: Many of these people are talents that big corporates have essentially paid to ‘educate’ to get the experience that your startup will benefit from.

That’s an awesome deal way too good to just keep lying around.

(Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash)

The 3 problems with ‘purpose’

There are three problems with purpose.

The first problem is that a lot of companies really don’t have a big interesting purpose aside from making a profit no matter how hard they might go looking for it (which is absolutely fine in itself).

You can put a lot of standard webshops into this bucket. None mentioned, none forgotten.

If you own or are employed at a standard run-of-the-mill company, by all means don’t spend a lot of time and energy on finding a purpose that is going to be and feel forlorn anyway.

Focus on your core; profit and growth. And be totally fine with that.

If you are in a company which actually do have a purpose, do spend the time getting it right and use it to build your company culture, attract the right talent, delight customers etc.

You and your company will be all the better for it, I’m sure.

If it works.

And this brings me to the second problem with purpose; when things go south.

As big an enabler a clear and strong purpose can be, as big a bummer it can be, if you’re not aligned about it, and if people start breaking ranks focusing instead on other things.

Because just as a great purpose can unite, a forlorn purpose that is not truly shared can drive apart. And ultimate failure can follow.

That basically leaves you with the last reason why purpose can be a problem:

The excuse.

When things go south you can try to seek cloud cover behind your purpose; that at least you tried to make a dent in the universe or whatever lofty purpose you have formulated for yourself.

You use the purpose to convince yourself that everything has not been in vain. That there was a reason for everything, where in reality it is most likely BS.

So all in all: Think about whether purpose is something you should be spending time on. If you decide it is, make sure it’s for all the right reasons, and that you can justify doing so any day of the week to people who are sceptic about it.

That’s usually a pretty good test of the strength of your purpose anyway.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Success-in-progress

I have a fondness for paradoxes. I find them interesting, intriguing and sometimes even amusing.

One of the paradoxes is the one about working agile and lean while at the same time lamenting the lack of progress.

Why is it that we often judge something that is work-in-progress as a failure because it’s not the finished article yet? It is a great disconnect.

What we could be discussing instead is success-in-progress; assume that we’re on our way to something great and that every step that moves us one step closer towards that goal is a success worth celebrating.

It would be so much more productive.

The trouble with work-in-progress is the same as the difference between people who see things black or white and those of us who enjoy the nuances; it is super hard to agree whether something is good or bad – for one everything will (most likely) look like a disaster where to the other one it’s a step towards something better but nevertheless a step.

The good thing about discussing success-in-progress rather than work-in-progress is that the extra positive connotation to it brings more energy into the endeavour; it enable those who are working to finally get there – to the Promised Land – to feed on the excitement of their surroundings rather than murmours and complaints.

Because after all: What brings us closer to where we all want to be? Positive spurring on or complaints or just plain indifference?

Is it even a question?

Hattip: Paul Graham

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Igniting change

When you try to affect change and solve a problem in a new way, you need them to be ready to give up how they have done things in the past. Or get them interested in forming a new habit.

For some things it’s easier than with others. If you’re just presenting a more efficient solution – aka a faster way of getting from A to B – it’s (all other things being equal) easier to facilitate this change than if you’re trying to create improvement for people, who have been used to ‘nothing’ being the norm before.

Turning those around is tantamount to start setting expectations in a space where none may currently exist. It is like going from 0 to something and foster some kind of accelleration from a point of standing completely still.

You may very well only get one – or best case a few – shots at making it happen; getting from stand still to some sort of motion in the right direction. But if you get there, you (by and far) have it made.

But getting past this initial barrier – get the engine started and movement commenced – is your biggest headache. How to make it happen? How to make sure it happens, if it doesn’t happen in an instance? And – to some extend – how to keep the engine on and the wheels in motion.

In these cases disruption of the status quo doesn’t happen somewhere down the line. It either happens straight from the bat or maybe not at all.

It’s actually quite scary. But at the same time hugely motivating.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

A ‘bible’ on your quest

If you are working on creating anything new, anything outside the norm, you know that it can be a daunting task. You know that it can feel impossible at times, and you know that you can get to the point where you really doubt what you’re doing, and how to proceed with confidence.

Thankfully, there is a great book to support you in your quest. And yes, it is in fact called “How to Lead a Quest”, and it is written by Dr. Jason Fox. I highly recommend it. It is both a super guide, a great inspiration and – at times – a great comfort.

Not only will you get to see that the ups and downs you and your project(s) go through are totally normal and actually a part of the plan and of doing it right. And there are lots and lots of tips and tricks for how to operate, how to set yourself goals, achieve meaningful progress and adapt to core habits of making sure, you stay on the path.

(Photo: Private)