5 Founder Blueprints
And how they impact your success
The Stanford Project on Emerging Companies studied 200 startups to investigate how organizational and HR structures impact the success of a startup. These organizational “personality types” determine how talent is selected, attachment is formed, and control is exerted.
Most startups fall into one of five categories which has large implications for their performance. For example, Stars generally have 80% higher growth rates and Commitment models have a 200% greater chance of going public.
These blueprints are tough to change once ingrained and it's risky to change them if a new CEO takes the reins. Firms that try to change a blueprint down the road, knowingly or unknowingly, are 225% more likely to fail.
Basic five types:
▪ Star: “We recruit only top talent, pay them top wages, and give them the resources and autonomy they need to do their job.”
▪ Commitment: “I wanted to build the kind of company where people would only leave when they retire.”
▪ Engineering: “We were very committed. It was a skunk-works mentality and the binding energy was very high.”
▪ Bureaucracy: “We make sure things are documented, have job descriptions for people, project descriptions, and pretty rigorous project management techniques.”
▪ Autocracy: “You work, you get paid.”
Here’s an example of how these blueprints form attachment and retain employees. The researchers identified three main forms of attachment: love, work, and money. In a Commitment blueprint, attachment and retention are driven by a strong family bond and a sense of belonging. In Star, Bureaucracy, and Engineering models “interesting and challenging work” drives selection and motivation. And lastly, in the absence of family bonds or an inspiring challenge, the Autocracy model is all about getting paid.
I believe that companies, big and small, can benefit from being more intentional about what drives mutual selection in the talent market and the glue that holds those relationships together. I recently launched a recruiting business that leveraged machine learning in healthcare and we applied this framework. The result was greater team alignment and cohesion from day one. Being explicit about our blueprint also helped new team members navigate the cultural dynamics faster and with more confidence.
What I like most about the blueprint analogy is that beyond gaining insight about how our organizations work today, a blueprint tells us how to build for the future.