Guest Post by Travis Steffen.
As you build, optimize and scale your company, you’ll inevitably be searching for a system to manage and get the most out of your team. Whether you’re building technology, improving your sales process, or anything in between, you don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel and create your own system from scratch without leveraging the hard work of others who have built the very same systems before.
You’re going to make a few mistakes when you’re getting started with any new system. It’s normal and natural and necessary – but the best business advice I can give in this scenario would be that as long as you strive to build in what I call a culture of improvement into your new system you’re adopting, those mistakes you’re making can actually help you more than they hurt you.
To explain what I mean more clearly, here are 4 ways to create a culture of improvement in your company:
1. Adopt A 3rd Party System
Let’s say you’re a new tech company with a few engineers on board, and you want to create a more productive, more collaborative atmosphere (such as the one I installed in my organization last year). Rather than try to arbitrarily choose some sort of structure out of thin air and invent rules as you go, sit back for a moment and realize you are hardly the first person out there to have this need, and you’re likely not the most knowledgeable person to create a solution. A more logical approach would be to search for an existing 3rd party system that can solve the problems you’re having.
Let’s then say you choose to fully embrace Scrum – a collaborative, agile software development system. You can surmise that it’s relatively effective given the number of SaaS companies that have sprung up to make it easier and more efficient to install the system within your organization, so your best bet would then be to learn everything you possibly can about Scrum, how to effectively get people on your team to learn about it and buy into it, and how to utilize all the latest and greatest tools that can make it easier to adopt.
Now you’ve taken the first step towards creating a culture of improvement. Nice work! But this journey is far from over. Next up, it’s time to…
2. Map Your Success Metrics
Installing a new 3rd party system can be invigorating. You feel as though you’re on the verge of solving a key problem and moving forward as a result. However, don’t get caught up in the excitement. Not every solution works on the first go-round. To know if what you’re doing is (or isn’t) working, you first need to figure out what success looks like.
If the new system you’ve just installed in your organization is working, how will you know? What metrics will improve? Are you tracking this? If not, you need to start. The last thing you want to happen is for this new system you’ve injected into your day-to-day to actually take you backwards or cause more issues than it solves. You need to know and track what metrics will indicate success or failure and (ballpark) how long you can expect the installation and “buy in” process to take, and then you’ll want to realistically hypothesize what you can expect in terms of the magnitude of results you should see if you’re doing things right.
3. Evaluate Ways To Improve, and Allow for Evolution
Any system that builds in objective reviews of data and implements strategies to improve will soon become a pretty bulletproof system. This can easily happen by doing the following:
Implementing a system
Letting it work for a set period of time as created by the system architect
Making notes on the fly of what you’re doing that’s helpful, but isn’t in line with the system (I call these “organic evolutions”)
Evaluating your success metrics regularly
Implementing a new system to add in tweaks to improve your success metrics and allow for the organic evolutions you’ve seen
This is the exact process I’ve used over the last six years to create one of the more robust and effective productivity systems I’ve ever seen which I use daily. Iterations last approximately 100 days each. This is also a process we’ve started using over the last year in a more organizational format to manage our developers and encourage collaboration.
4. Create An Open Culture
Many new founders will get infatuated by the idea of becoming some sort of visionary leader. However, the ones many of us think of (i.e. Steve Jobs or Richard Branson) would tell you that their teams are one of the primary reasons for their success. If you want to be a great founder, the no-brainer mantra is to hire people smarter than you. Most people know this, but most of those same people don’t truly embrace what this can do for them as they still get off on being the end-all final say.
A more experienced, more successful founder will likely tell you that opening your improvement loop to the whole team and welcoming feedback and ideas for improvement can really throw gas on the fire. You may be incredibly smart, but two smart people can come up with way better solutions than one can, and ten can come up with way better solutions than two can. Encourage collaboration and invite your team to speak up and ideate and your culture of improvement will start to truly take hold.
Serial entrepreneur and mentor, Dario Meli, provides more detail on fostering a culture of excellence from his own experience with Hootsuite and Quietly.
Travis Steffen is a viral growth expert who has started, scaled and sold 6 tech companies, and is currently the co-founder of both upshare.co and mentormojo.com. You can find him on twitter – @TravisSteffen