7 best practices for 2010

At the last OutSystems company 2010-Year kickoff I listed 7 best practices that I suggested everyone follow. Some of them are just written confirmations of good behaviors that are common at OutSystems. Others are emerging practices that some of us use with great results.

1. Do everything with the Ultimate Goal in mind.

Ultimate Goals are simple descriptions of objectives and challenges we need to focus on when we are doing something. Coming up with an Ultimate Goal is hard work. It needs to be devoid as much as possible of the “solution” or “the way it is going to be addressed”. And it needs to be accompanied by enough Context so that people can understand the goal in its essence. This combination has produced inside OutSystems a culture of bottom-up innovation where solutions are devised by the teams instead of enforced by management, fostering creativity and innovation at all levels of the company.

2. Be transparent. Be candid.

This mantra popularized by Jack Welch at GE is obviously a great practice but easily trampled. In a company where more than 50% employees are Portuguese the nice, polite nature of the Portuguese surface everywhere in the culture. The drawback is a certain resistance to direct, straight talking, an exaggerated excusing of failure and a bit of beating around the bush. At OutSystems we try to practice candor every day. Exaggerated politeness is not well accepted when it hides issues and increases miscommunication.

3. Communicate extensively with everyone

OutSystems moves fast, constantly improving processes and trying out new ideas. The company is also dispersed geographically in 4 locations making knowledge sharing a real challenge. It is easy for a collaborator in the US to get seriously outdated on what is going in the Lisbon office in the space of 3 months. Technology in the form of video meetings, forums, wikis and the likes do help but it all starts at ingraining the habit of sharing knowledge and communicating into everyone.

4. Decide fast

Some people say that the only bad decision is not deciding at all, and in a way, that is the absolute truth. So speed and urgency are crucial elements for a good decision making process. At OutSystems we believe to make good decisions you fundamentally need experience. Experience comes from making mistakes. Mistakes are due to bad decisions. There is really no way around it. When we have to decide we might as well do it fast.

5. Reward experimentation

OutSystems is an “agile” company. This means that we never do anything in a big bang and go about every new project or initiative in increments, learning in the process and creating check points where we make constant go/no-go decisions. At these decision points we acknowledge that we have either failed (and we try to learn with the process and fail softly), cutting our losses fast or we decide we should continue investing and carry on to the next iteration.

6. Innovation in Product. Innovation in Process

The practice of product innovation is deeply ingrained in the DNA in of OutSystems but as we grow and scale the focus of our creativity and innovation has increasingly been directed at both product and process innovation. The great minds we have in the company are being channeled at creating new more efficient ways of delivering projects, training our ecosystem of partners, customers and fans and selling faster, better and with less overhead.

7. Look for talent everywhere

Outsystems is a knowledge company relying heavily on great talent. This talent needs to be spotted, recruited and nurtured. I get excited about a lot of things but very few compare with the joy of recruiting someone smarter and more experienced than I am or having a glimpse at the untapped potential of a fresh graduate. This practice we try to foster at all levels of the company.