The following is based on an extract from Ben Horowitz’ “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”
There’s a number of things separating good organisations from their great counterparts, and there’s an even larger number of behaviours that separate a great place to work with a bad one. Some are obvious, while some sit in the backroom, lurking away and slowly eating your company’s culture and profitability. Over the past few days, I’ve been reading through Ben Horowitz’s latest book, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” which is an absolute must-read considering the recent events and subsequent testing of businesses around the globe.
In chapter five: “Take care of people, the products, and the profits - in that order,” the author recalls a conversation he had on the topic, with a gentleman called Steve. He says, “let me break it down for you. In good organisations, people can focus on their work and have confidence that if they get their work done, good things will happen for both the company and them personally.”
In a poor organisation, people spend much of their time fighting organisational boundaries, infighting and broken processes.” Ben Horowitz
“It is a true pleasure to work in an organisation such as this. Every person can wake up knowing that the work they do will be efficient, effective and make a difference for the organisation and themselves. These things make their jobs both more motivating and fulfilling,” he adds, before going on to compare and contrast this with that of a bad organisation. “In a poor organisation, on the other hand, people spend much of their time fighting organisational boundaries, infighting and broken processes. They are not even clear on what their jobs are, so there is no way to know if they are getting the job done or not. In the miracle case that they work ridiculous hours and get the job done, they have no idea what it means for the company or their careers. To make it all much worse and rub salt in the wound, when they finally work up the courage to tell management how fucked-up their situation is, management denies the problem, then defends the status quo, then ignores the problem,” he writes.
It’s clear to see, then, that quite often the difference between an effective employee is the responsibility of the management team’s ability to communicate. Communicate the role, its expectations and results necessary, as well as how this contributes to the organisation as a whole. Internally in my business, we’ve established an organisational chart which maps out roles and subsequent responsibilities, and we’ve organised that chart to show how one person’s efforts in the role - be it a sales, marketing or operational role - makes someone else’s job easier, and keeps the business moving along. While some of you out there - presumably in a management or executive position - might disagree with the statement that it’s management’s role to establish this, now more than ever before isn’t a time to get involved in internal politics.
More significantly, if your organisation has done its due diligence in establishing a clear list of responsibilities and required outputs for a role, you’ve already set up a policy that streamlines the process when someone is underperforming. The name of the game is to reduce friction points in your organisation, so you can ideally help the customer or other supplier organisations you’re working with to reduce theirs, so if you haven’t implemented this into your operations, now is definitely the time to consider it.
I’ve written before on the importance of having regular catch-ups with members of your staff. I’m still a firm believer that this is an extremely effective way to manage your expectations of staff, build a healthy working rapport and sort out any day-to-day aspects they’re struggling with that they wouldn’t air in a larger, more formal meeting. It’s still important to have these meetings, no doubt, but like I’ve mentioned, you’re less likely to have the same candid feedback process from staff if they’re sitting in front of the entire management team, fearful of a reprise.
Communication is key, and furthermore, honest feedback and communication is the bedrock on which great organisations are built on.
Thanks for your time, and I’ll see you in the next piece.
Kobi Simmat- Director and CEO, Best Practice Group