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.

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Recruit by objective

Too many startups are still looking towards other startups and their org charts, when they recruit to expand their teams.

While there is of course something to be said about having someone on point to fill the various operational roles in the startup and ensure smooth operations, navigating by org chart is typically a pretty poor way of ensuring that you reach your overall objectives.

What you should be looking to do instead is to staff by objective;

Figure out what the key objectives for your startup is and ensure that you have the right people with the right skills and experience in place to make a success out of them. If that entails restructuring your team and who’s in it, maybe that’s a thought worth having.

When you try to recruit, figure out who you need to have in the team, and who would be nice to have. Recruit the must haves to form the core, and supplement these with contractors or freelancers, who can make an important contribution for a while until they are on to other projects.

That way you can get the best from both worlds, and you won’t get stuck being dragged along by an irrelevant org chart.

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The power of disagreement

Being in disagreement sucks. Not only is it a sure way of ensuring you defocus from what you should ideally be working on. It also can be completely draining of energy. And depending on how the disagreement plays out, it can be downright nasty and make you want to head for the exit.

But there is actually real power in disagreement. If you are able to unleash it.

When we violently disagree on something, it is an opportunity to broaden our own horizons and get creative about new ways of looking at the world and new solutions to existing problems.

Looked at it that way being in disagreement can be the biggest catalyst of positive change in your team and your business. It can provide that ‘Heu-re-ka’ moment you all need to move on in a better direction.

But it requires something. It requires removing your ego from the equation and not be tempted to view disagreement as a personal matter that has more to do with you as a person and your relationship(s) with the one(s) critiquing you. If you fall in that trap, you’re immediately on the slide towards the dark side.

Instead you should be asking yourself: “What can I learn from this?” and “Where’s the bigger and important point in what the other one is arguing?” and then work onwards from that.

Now, in fairness, it’s super hard to do. Especially if you have great pride and integrity, and you’re passionate about what you work with. That sets you up pretty well for taking a slap to the face very personal.

But try to steer clear of it and focus on the opportunity. It will most likely be way better for your business, your team, your relationships with team members. And yourself, of course.

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3 tips for setting OKRs

Today marks the beginning of the last quarter of the calendar year 2021. For many that’s an opportunity to assess previous objectives and set up new ones for the new quarter using the OKR method made famous by Google.

That’s all great. But what many find is that OKRs can actually be quite tricky to set up in a truly meaningful way. So let me offer 3 tips for how you can get more our of OKRs.

First of all, think of OKRs as essentially a Christmas tree that cascades down through your organization. You start by identifying one big hairy goal (=objective) for the entire company and 3-4 key results that supports the goal in the sense that you will know that when you achieve these results, you will most likely have achieved or at the very least moved a lot closer to achieving your objective.

Second, take those key results and turn them into new objectives further down the organization. And let them create their own key results that supports reaching those objectives. And so on and so on until finally everybody through the org will have objectives and key results against them that cascades back to the very top. That will ensure that everybody is working towards the same hairy goal.

Finally, when defining your objectives start with a problem. No matter where you sit in the organization, you will have a clear idea about which problems you need to tackle in order to achieve your overall objective. Take those problems and turn them into objectives.

Doing that will simply help to ensure that you’re working on something that not only drives the company in the right direction but also works to overcome some of the problems you need to solve.

And remember: Objectives are qualitative and by definition not measurable. Key results are quantitative and ALWAYS measurable.

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It takes a full team

One of the great misconceptions in working to build a startup from scratch is that you need only be great at one thing – typically product development – and then you can wing and learn the rest.

Why do I think it’s a wrong approach?

First of all, you’re essentially working on a wrong assumption about what’s needed to become really successful. Because just as innovation, product development and delivery takes skill and experience, so do the ‘boring’ business parts.

In essence it may actually be more difficult to build a business than develop a product; when you’re developing a product you can get very far with your own skills (provided they’re good enough), but when you move out into the market, the whole world goes into flux, the interdependencies are huge and the risk as well. And it just takes a pretty steady set of hands to work that infinite space.

Second, you risk spending your time, energy and ressources on the wrong things. If you’re a stellar developer, you should be focusing on development. Full stop. You should now water down and defocus your unfair advantage by taking on tasks, you don’t feel confident in and – lets face it – basically care very little about.

You should leave all those things to people who have the same qualities as yourself – but within the business/market facing aspects of your startup.

In summary, the key message here is that it ALWAYS takes a full team to succeed. And since you cannot by everywhere and bring your A game to every aspect of getting a successful business up and running, make sure that you get A players in all positions and show them faith and trust that they’re capable people who knows what’s needed to be successful.

That’s the best way for you to maximize your chances of success.

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The crisis plan

One of the worst things you can do is to try and make important decisions when you’re under great stress. While it can sometimes be necessary, the chances that you get it right are rather slim.

The best way to mitigate the risk of ending in that situation is to always have a contingency plan; a pretty straightforward plan that says what you are going to do if the shit hits the fan, and you need to get into full crisis mode.

Will the contingency plan always fit the crisis situation spot on? Of course not. But it will give you a much better vantage point to deal with the crisis from than – worst case – sheer panic.

A good contingency plan should focus on how you plan to deal with the really tough questions, if you need to:

How do you minimize your burn to the essentials without risking killing your company in the process? How do you deal with your team and let them in on what is happening in the best way possible? And following on from that: How do you scale your organization to the new reality in the best possible way?

These are all super hard decisions that no one are comfortable making. But by at least having given it some thought well in advance, when things are still looking good and going in the right direction, you’re able to address them with much more clear eyes and a sharp mind.

You can always hope and work towards ensuring that you will never get to use the plan. But at least you will have one. And that’s a huge difference.

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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.

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Mindset or skills?

What is most important? Having the right skills or the right mindset?

With all the talk about the need for further specialization to drive competitive advantage, you would think that skills are super important. But in reality it is the other way around:

Mindset wins. Every single time.

Now, why is that?

It is pretty simple really:

A persons mindset says a lot about character, values, tenacity, ambition – and pretty much everything else.

It speaks to the core of the person and how that person operates, and it is precisely those things that will help carry you and your team through thick and thin, when you have onboarded that person.

As for skills, they are important too for sure. But they are much more fleeting, and they can be learned, when you need them.

Mindset cannot.

Thus it is super important that when you recruit, you’re recruiting mostly for mindset and less so for skills. Of course it is a balance, but I am sure you get the point.

After all you would rather want a decent contributor with a great mindset than what looks like a superstar but who is in reality rotten to the core.

The first one will grow into doing great things with you and your company. The second one will poison everything around him.

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