May 10, 2011 A Wild Ride – headed into Startup Land
It’s been like two whole months since I posted.
That’s like Deadsville in SEO land.
Well…let’s sort of think of it as a resurrection.
Here’s the big news..I’ve left public sector contracting, and I’m working for a startup.
And it’s different.
Startups are like new frontier; the product is growing, expanding, and the processes are revealing themselves, then evolving. Everything is change, and that seems to be the constant.
Some Early Lessons
I’d like to share with you two things I’ve already learned in the short time I’ve been in this new world.
Process Is respected because interaction is key to agility
I have never worked in a place that respects process so much. Really. Seems like that doesn’t make sense- small company, respect for process, how can that be? Here’s the deal – the leadership knows that bottlenecks thrive in the lack of clear communication of the rules of engagement.
They understand this saying that I borrow from Donatella Meadows’ book Thinking in Systems.
You think that because you understand “one”, that you must therefore understand “two”, because one and one make two. But you forget that you must also understand “and.”
It’s like playing a baseball game. The rules don’t get in the way of play, but without the rules, there is no play. Interaction is the key – we focus there, we clarify that space. Then we document it and get moving.
Honest dialogue has an exponential effect on the time to process adoption
So in some companies there are layers and layers to decisions. You know that what you communicate in one meeting will be re-hashed by others in other meetings. So instead of being clear and honest, you think about how your boss’s boss will get your message. Which means that you probably hold back what you really want to say.
The layers of hierarchy are a drag on the time to decision (i’m sure there’s a formula out there somewhere).
But this place is different. Painful even. Because, see, when you think you have a great idea and someone gives you their honest opinion, it can hurt. But that short term pain is worth it, because it exponentially reduces the time to production for process. It’s like – tell the truth, decide what were gonna do, document it, and….go.
Letting Go of the Old Persona
So, two things that I personally had to shift. First, usually, as the PM, I’ve been the one sort of ‘instituting’ process. You know, setting up the risk management plan, and change control boards and all that jazz. But when a whole organization respects process, that means in essence, I’m not the only process expert in the joint. I’ve had to go in as the facilitator, the communicator, the person who observes and elaborates, and acts a s SME for best practices. I’m not the only know-it-all in the room.
Second, adapt, adapt, adapt. Some processes will change weekly. Gone are the days of posting a big Software Lifecycle Plan on the contracting officers’s wall and saying ‘ Here is our process – May it live in peace and harmony for the life of our contract.’ Nay…I’ve had to let going feelin’ inordinately proud, and embrace adaptation. It goes like this: it was great last week – but now that we’ve figured it out, it’s becoming clearer, and we’ve now realized that there’s this other piece that needs to get put in, or that there’s this other piece that’s a bottleneck and needs to be pulled out. Process, then, becomes alive. People, then, get into the habit of checking the process. A culture develops that respects process, and therefore, paradoxically, is not slowed down by process.
It’s a very cool ride.