There is this famous story about President John F. Kennedy’s first visit to NASA’s headquarters back in 1961.
While touring the facility, the President’s entourage reportedly came upon a man mopping the floor in one of the hallways. The President stopped to chat with the man, shook his hand, and asked what he did at NASA. The janitor proudly addressed the young President by saying, “Sir, I’m helping to put a man on the moon!”
Now, if President John F. Kennedy asked your co-founders and your teammates the same question, what would their answer be?
My bet is that they would most likely give both different and vague answers. Try it.
I’ve searched for perfectly aligned teams all over the world and found very few. Most of them have a dissonant way of tackling and seeing problems. I’m referring to co-founders at the same startup who have a very different perspective on who is the customer they build their solution for, what is the most important problem they solve, or what are the most important features to build. Simply put, each is on his or her own page.
They start with these disparities, yet they succeed to grow. But getting bigger doesn’t mean problems are solved. It means discrepancies are getting even worse and they’re slowly growing into time bombs. People in management teams of bigger companies continue to be on a different pages, and consequently, solving problems in a very haphazard way. This is one of the reasons why there are so many sucky products out there. Sucky products and failed companies.
Therefore, when undertaking a challenging mission, as building a startup or putting a man on the moon in the next 10 years, having an aligned team is an absolute must.
The NASA story is the perfect example of an aligned (and successful) team. We are all dreaming of “putting a man on the moon”, right? Well, first steps first, and the very first step is an aligned team.
To see if you’re there, a few questions regarding your business fundamentals, like your customer, the problem you're solving, and your mission have to be asked and answered. Developing stunning products needs clarity, alignment and, focus. Moreover, in order to align and keep very smart people motivated you need to target the moon.
I've been so many times in the situation where my team was acting on different perspectives and, damn, it was painful. That’s how this post was born: I want to help as many companies as possible to avoid this painful situation.
“Putting a man on the moon” could be a little bit easier when taking advantage of all the valuable content and frameworks out there coming from experts and practitioners in fields like Design Thinking, Customer Development, Lean Startup and Business Model Generation. Also, there are and so many startup tools that altogether enable founders to seamlessly collaborate with their entire team, advisors and, investors, and be successful in their quest of changing the world.
Many times I underestimated the importance of this and I paid the price. So I want to raise a red flag, because if your team is not aligned and it’s lacking clarity, your chances to put a man on the moon are close to zero.