Little Tricks To Make My Company a Social And Financial Success
June 29, 2011
I recently started a company called Limitless Industries, and these are the attributes I think will help make it a success. I put them here because a friend asked me if I had a list, and because I thought they might be useful to you, the reader.
Have performance reviews not only for employees, but also for managers, and have these affect whether you keep your job. This is important because many companies have an asymmetry between employees and their managers when it comes to reviewing performance. Traditionally, information and advice come from managers in the form of a performance review, but they don’t usually go from employee to boss. Performance reviews in each direction, with the weight of reward and firing are essential for effective information flow. People should be able to fire their bosses, as well as be fired by their bosses because that creates an impetus for each of them to take feedback seriously. It also eliminates the moral hit that comes with tyrannical bosses because employees have a mechanism to curb tyranny and incompetence.
Another trick is all decisions should come with their reasons. The reason for this is context allows a worker to adapt to changing conditions and to widen the domain space for making decisions. Here is a military example I took from this excellent video series by Paul Van Riper (audio does not match video), his interesting work appeared in the Malcolm Gladwell book, Blink.
The story he illustrates later in this series is that of giving a command for a group of soldiers to take a hill. The group may take the hill, but totally avoid stopping military forces that have changed their mind and gone around the hill. Devoid of context, the soldiers remain on the hill and don’t stop the enemy, but if they are given the command: take that hill because you need to stop enemy forces from moving through the valley, now they have reason to get off the hill and attack the enemy. Their wider context increased their adaptability. Meaning removes simple mechanistic behavior and replaces it with dynamic and hopefully effective autonomy.
Another is a democratic work environment. Peter Drucker constantly said that modern workers are the best judges of their needs, and managers who now are often less informed then their teams, have to become facilitators. Autocracy is prone to myopia. Democracy better suits peoples needs because employees are central factors in the definition and administration of their needs and solutions. Better-matched resources and needs result in better company health (financial and social).
Another great trick is arbitration by experiment. This is where hard and debated paths, are solved by creating an experiment between conflicting parties. The experiment clarifies the argument-space and opens up new possibilities for the company, and better understanding for all parties. I have done this unconsciously in the past, but now that it is an explicit thing in my mind, I want it to be something that I institutionalize (that is, if this particular experiment in experimenting works.)
A trick that takes advantage of new viewpoints is to interview already hired new employees to find flaws and good things about the company. New employees have an objective eye when they arrive. They aren’t yet bogged down by working. When they get to work, find out what they observe. Do they notice the company has a fear of marketing itself? Do they think the CEO shouts too much? Is something about the team’s engineering methods weak? New eyes can offer new viewpoints if interviewed within a context of safety and trust.
Having a workplace filled with virtue is something important to me. I have experienced workplaces bogged down in day-to-day operations. It’s hard to get your head above the water because swimming looks so important. Still, I find this all so absolutely necessary to start thinking about from day one. If you are not taking steps to control the long term health of your company, you may still be successful, but you won’t be the roaring success you could have been. I will make my company a success. To me that means happy employees, profit, and a positive social impact.