III. What to do in your first year in a new job
- The core problem the company is trying to solve
- How large the market is for that problem
- How much of that market you are trying to capture
- The product solution(s) that might solve #1.
There are some strategic questions, as well:
- Is the company and your team organized for success? I tend to like a four-tiered model of Engineering (lead by a CTO), Product (lead by a CPO; folds in UxD, Visual Design), Operations (Finance, Marketing, People, Legal, under a COO), and Business Development/Partnerships/Sales (lead by a CRO.)
- Do you have a systematic way of Attracting, Hiring and Retaining the best talent? Great people are the core engine of your success.
- Do you have a culture that works? I tend to like one of “freedom and responsibility” married to transparency. In this framework, it is vital that praise is pushed down to the lowest levels of the organization.
Then, of course, there are the tactical questions:
- Are you dedicated to your team’s success and health as a primary goal?
- Do you have a culture of efficient meetings?
- Do you have a culture of 1:1s?
- Do you have a culture of continuous improvement (another way of having a growth mindset)?
- Do you have a culture of customer development, AKA customer discovery, married to the introspective application of analytics?
- Do you use the six tools of a product manager?
Success is married to your grasp of the business problem, and in the implementation of your strategic goals via tactical crispness.
Lastly, the quickest way to get to your strategic and business goals is through maximizing your teams’ potential on top of their extant capabilities. This is worth a small bit of exposition.
When you have been in a bad work environment, your capabilities (what you can do now) and your potential (what you could do, given the chance and/or exposure) are grossly underutilized. In my worst job, perhaps 5% of my capabilities and potential were used.
Now think about your very best job. How much of your capabilities and potential were deployed there?
In my very best job only 50% of my skills were utilized. I like to cook. No job cares about my cooking. Or my love for my children. Or obsession with numerical minutiae related to sport. Nor should they.
The very best workplaces are interested in bringing the most of your work-related skills to bear in a role that drives their strategic and tactical goals.
So the easiest way to get to your first-year goals is to get to know your staff, and work with them to develop their capabilities and potential in a manner that drives your strategic goals tactically.
This is hard to do.
But a benchmark is getting everyone in the company to a 50% utilization level. At that level, you will not only win (as defined by capturing the market share you expect to get in the market that you have defined), but you will outperform any other firm that is attempting to compete with you.
From there, you can work on getting to 51, 52, 53, 55% utilization of your teams’ capabilities and potential, which is where world-class organizations function.
This is your goal for your first year. You may get derailed if you have to sell your company, or if you suffer employee losses.
But this should be your plan. You can quantify some aspects, others are qualitative. One way to find out is to poll your team at the end of the year, buttressed by quarterly discussions with as much of the company as possible. (I borrowed this, as well, from Reed Hastings at Netflix.)
Thank you for taking the time to read this. As always, feedback is appreciated.