This title is extremely popular with Netflix leadership. The first hit on Google for a good summary delivers. The overall argument of the book is that the best advantage you can give your business is organizational health, a concept that, to me, resonated as consistency. Consistency between the values your organization espouses and those that it lives, as well as consistency in the understanding of what your organization’s purpose and priorities are - particularly across your leaders. Inconsistency in any of these leads to politics, dysfunction, confusion, and bureaucracy. The meat of the text provides a framework for achieving consistency (or clarity) with six questions, and explores each to some depth, providing pointers to the author’s other work to flesh out those areas. There is also a lead in with some thoughts on the importance and suggested structure of a leadership team, and text wraps up with suggested cadence for meetings to maintain momentum and clarity once established.
The six questions are:
- Why do we exist? What motivated the creation of the organization?
- How do we behave? This establishes the values of the organization, and includes a good discussion of core vs aspirational and minimum values.
- What do we do? A simple, jargon-free, mission statement.
- How will we succeed? This aligns well with our practice of strategic bets, “we do x rather than y” where x and y are both reasonable approaches but we choose one over the other as a bet on how to succeed.
- What is the most important thing right now? This is captured in a thematic goal for a bounded period of time. I have had mixed experiences with this type of approach, where the themes are either so broad every possible activity fits within them, or so narrow that it is hard to link your work or objectives to the theme across different operational units, but the thematic goal alongside -Standard Operating Objectives- seems like something worth trying.
- Who must do what? A one page summary of answers to the questions, with a bit of detail on the thematic goal and standard operating objectives, as well as a team profile based on Myers Briggs is recommended as a way to capture and communicate the six.
One area I am skeptical about is the specific meeting cadence recommended including daily stand ups (under 15 minutes), and generating staff meeting agendas on the fly, in order to share status across the team. I still feel that status updates are best done asynchronously, and facetime is best for decision making. It is hard to argue with the author’s 20 years of management consulting experience, but in the era of Slack and various other excellent asynchronous communication mediums I wonder if his approach still holds. He does note it can be difficult for geographically distributed teams, but I think it also applies to teams with flexible work schedules, which is important to me. Still, I am considering how we might make an informal standup part of our mid-day routine. We played with a slackbot that asked for updates, but it didn’t last long.