I firmly believe that the principles as much as the products are the engine of the success of a company. A startup can have a compelling brand history and good public relations, but if it’s inconsistent internally – if its employees and leaders can’t identify its core values - sooner or later there will be problems.
At Heap, the analytics solutions provider that I lead, a fundamental principle is that good ideas should not be wasted in favor of top-down diktats and overly rigid hierarchies. Although I’m the CEO, I admit that I don’t always have the best view just because I’m on top of (the) Heap. The best results come when you approach leadership like you’re creating a great product – you hypothesize, you test and iterate, and once you get the hang of it, you develop it.
Most of us have had the experience of receiving a sudden decree “from above” which takes little account of the real situation, as opposed to the theoretical situation, of the people on the ground.
Single decrees versus agile and iterative change
I have used this method in the businesses that I have managed. The scientific method, with its cycle of observation, reporting, hypothesis, experimentation, analysis and reporting, is a powerful tool for the development of products and processes.
While my process is not enough As rigorous as the scientific method and tends to sprint where science slowly treads, it is based on similar principles. Before I describe the system, a caveat: While this is an easy way to iterate new concepts and evaluate new designs, my method requires a real commitment to the principles of cooperation and collaboration. In an organization based on a hierarchy and a strict structure, this could be the recipe for group thinking and undeserved consensus. The iteration is not, however, a justification for the delay: there may be several iterations of a project, but these iterations follow each other quickly.
Most of us have had the experience of receiving a sudden decree “from above” which takes little account of the real situation, as opposed to the theoretical situation, of the people on the ground. You know what I mean: the sales team in the saturated territory is told they need to increase revenue by 20%, the already lean division needs to cut costs by 10%. Movements like this are bad for morale; they inspire resentment and cut corners. It is precisely to avoid this kind of top-down debacle that Heap is taking a collaborative and iterative approach to change.
Pass ideas back and forth
We put the best minds in our business to work to design an initial prototype of anything our business might need. This prototype could be a minimum viable product for commercial release, neat messaging for our next releases, or even a compendium of internal workflows.
But we cannot consider a perfect project if it has never been exposed to the outside world in the office. Whether we’re building a project, tweaking our messaging, or establishing pricing tiers, we’re testing in the real world. We show products to consumers, prospects and advisors, who invariably have needs that we did not anticipate. Testers’ concerns may send us back to the drawing board, but it’s accepted and expected. It’s the testing and refining that leads to the best product. While some companies prefer to rush into the market, we have observed that it does not work. A rushed product will frustrate users, lose word of mouth enthusiasm, and provide an opportunity for our competition.
But it’s not just for product versions; we adopt a similar strategy to determine changes within the company.