The Org is My Product

In the dwindling hours of 2019 I found myself going back and forth with my brother about where I was at with the business and how I felt about the restart.

As we were wont to do, we meandered through a number of different topics but eventually started chatting about one of Paul Graham’s most recent essays on the “bucket theory of genius” and obsession:

An obsessive interest will even bring you luck, to the extent anything can. Chance, as Pasteur said, favors the prepared mind, and if there’s one thing an obsessed mind is, it’s prepared.

I told my brother that this description was apt for me at the present moment because I was more interested in building the culture of my team through the restart instead of diving head-first into product design and engineering.

In fact, if I really wanted to do this pivot right I figured that I should start on the fundamentals: Finding the right people to put on the proverbial “bus” and make sure that I put more time and attention on the actual human capital infrastructure.

You see, I’m desperately-curious about organizational design, the development and formation of high-performance teams, the importance of emotional intelligence in decision making, and the many strategy / tactics of how to align motivated and driven individuals into a sustainable and kick-ass team.

SMS — December, 2019

My “product” is my company because the technology will inevitably change as well as many of the members on the team. But, as long as the core is strong, what I call “Our Table” internally, we will be able to not only weather the imminent, existential challenges of building a startup but we will discover ways to accelerate our work resulting in outsized outcomes.

I believe this in my bones! This is why I spend a very large chunk of my time obsessing over team performance. This is why I added “Kaizen” as a 3rd operating virtue to our open-source #handbook last week:

When our team executes the first two operating virtues with excellence it allows us to build a culture of continuous improvement, both corporately and independently. We seek to do this in everything that we do. Consequently, everything in our business is dynamic, not static; a real-life work-in-progress.

We look for opportunities to not only grow but also to share our learnings with the other folks on our team — this is part of #tatt! Much has been written about the history and application of kaizen and it’s worth developing your own personal philosophy and practice.

As a team we intentionally find opportunities to invest in ourselves and one another through continual education — reading, attending (virtual) conferences, and even taking educational courses to level-up as humans. Feel free use your monthly budget to invest in yourself!

via YEN’s open-source handbook

Making our organization the best place to work is just as important as building a useful product that people want. I’ve done the latter before and I’ve been lucky (a lot) with the former, but, I was never able to maintain the former while also succeeding at the latter.

Consequently, I’ve shifted a lot of my time and energy into making sure that I can say, at any point in time, that our culture is healthy and that people enjoy working together on meaningful software.

Business operations is just as important as one’s product development lifecycle — everything in an early-startup’s life needs to be high-performant and align with your values and/or operating virtues.

If not, then, you need a “reboot” or a reset or perhaps an even stronger antidote.

[Originally published on Indie Hackers.]