Sizing up the Problem

Honesty and feedback
If innovation is part of your goal, then how you work and who's working on the problem matters even more. The first questions to ask are what's the size of the problem we're trying to solve? Then figure out the scope and who you need in which role based on it.

    Design the organization so that every function contributes to advancing toward the goal. Talk about what needs to get done, and time frame. Use feedback to highlight what works in the moment — hey, what you just did there was great. Do more of it.

    Stop doing everything else that doesn't create value around solving the problem. Seems simple, right? Not easy to do. But starting from the problem gives you a strong chance to change culture. Because it means your behaviors shift based on something concrete.

    Patty McCord was the chief talent officer at Netflix for 14 years. She helped create the Netflix Culture Deck# that got 18 million views.

    “Actual company values are the behaviors and skills that are valued in fellow employees.” Hard work is not important, results are. Brilliant jerks, no need to apply. Focus on performance and responsibility, rather than rigid process. These are three good reasons people liked the deck.

    Setting the appropriate context around the problem controls for the solution more effectively than trying to control the people working on it. Strategy, metrics, assumptions, objectives, clearly defined roles, knowledge of the stakes, and transparency around decision making are all ways to embrace context.

    Size of the problem matters a great deal in a technology company. In that kind of organization, you plan six months ahead. What does the problem look like in six months and how do we get the right skills to work on it?

    It's easier to have honest conversations with people when you're working on a defined context and time frame. You also know who you're missing on your team. It's based on the deltas in skills/experience.

    The video below from Recode's 2018 Code Conference (h/t Fred Wilson#) also spells out an important point about sizing the problem to hire the right person for the role. At minute 11:42 McCord talks about how companies keep hiring the same people they already have.

    Honesty and feedback are the tools of knowledge workers.



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