March 29, 2021

For Founders: How to Sync Strategy, Execution and Growth – Part 2 (Execution)

For Founders: How to Sync Strategy, Execution and Growth - Part 2 (Execution)

Execution: Move Quick, DON’T Break

In our series’ prior piece, we focused on building your strategy by thinking slow and deciding fast.

Time didn’t stand still as you were coming up with what to work on and how about to go about it.

So, now it’s time to stay fast, quickly shifting into execution mode so your strategy and plan don’t go stale.

Enough with the planning already, let’s get it!

What is execution?

Here’s my definition: The creation of new things and the improvement of, or disbanding of, existing things. 

By “things”, I mean processes and products of various sorts, which are really what all businesses boil down to in their simplest form.

How does execution happen?

It’s people powered. Your team working as individual contributors and project/functional teams to get things done.

How do we help people move quickly?

Your team is hungry to ACT (I hope). Your job as a leader is to enable them to be prescriptively aggressive and not fall victim to distractions or recklessness (which likely come from you!). You can help by doing things like:

  • Playing the bass – Enable your contributors and project teams to get into an operational rhythm. With rhythm they can move along. Keep setting the stage and expectations, but don’t play every part.
  • Getting out of the way – Remove yourself as a bottleneck to the greatest degree possible. Get out of the critical path, toss things off your plate, stop second guessing people, don’t take every decision on. 
  • Facilitating  Be a role player. Plug in as requested. Set some basic “rules of the road” or better yet develop some frameworks for what ownership, collaboration, accountability and iteration look like.

Don’t we want to break things?

Isn’t that just what happens when you’re kicking ass? If I’m not breaking things, am I even a “startup”? Ugh

It’s entirely possible, and too common, to “move fast and break things” (thanks Facebook) for the sake of doing so and not actually get anywhere.

It’s also possible that breaking things just slows you down. The more things I break, the more decisions I have to make for what to do with those broken things. Beyond that, there’s the actual work of fixing.

Fun fact: Facebook did away with this precious motto in 2014 when they realized it was slowing them down.

“We used to have this famous mantra … and the idea here is that as developers, moving quickly is so important that we were even willing to tolerate a few bugs in order to do it. What we realized over time is that it wasn’t helping us to move faster because we had to slow down to fix these bugs and it wasn’t improving our speed.” – Mark Zuckerberg

I’ve highlighted what I believe are some important points Zuck made.

  1. as developers” – the mantra was engineering centric, which makes sense. Ship code, see what works, fix what doesn’t, ship again. Don’t apply it to your whole business though.
  2. moving quickly is so important” – I agree, but it doesn’t have to come at the cost of breaking things.
  3. “we had to slow down” – That stinks! Sure it was a blast for the engineers too.
  4. it wasn’t improving our speed” – An important realization, measure twice, cut once.

Basically, I think what happened was Zuck spoke, the Valley and many Founders listened and a new Bible verse was written. Easy to see how it got misinterpreted. Misinterpretations can be brutal.

By breaking things, you’ll simply tie yourself in too many knots and just generally be too slow as a result.

Not breaking things does not mean you’re not firing on all cylinders at a rapid pace, getting shit done.

It means you’re choosing to avoid landmines you’d otherwise have to decommission by executing in a more thoughtful way.

So, keep moving quick and not breaking things.