All posts by Vikram Kohli

Practical guide to identify and establish your organization culture

ROI of establishing a unique organizational culture is equal to ROI of gaining the intellectual capital. Think of it as you are able to discover a life-saving drug and you can capitalize on that for next 20 years.

The biggest problem is the understanding of what makes a culture. Culture is not about fun Friday’s, yoga sessions and allowing unlimited holidays.Here are the 7 recommendations that can enable you to identify and establish your organization culture.

1. Identify your core: this means answering questions like

  • What you want your customer to achieve?
  • What are the means of achieving your core?
  • What should be the outcome of achievement?

qilo coreCredits: balsamiq

We keep answering these questions within our team as we are evolving. I always thought and confused this exercise with “marketing”. It’s Vipul in our team who is always able to identify and guide us internally on identifying the core.“Identifying your core” will help you to define your purpose, short term & long term priorities.

2. Identify the habits and behaviors that will help you to achieve your core, short term & long term priorities. Identifying behaviors and habits is not an easy part. And there is no standard steps or process for this. But if you have answered the questions stated in “Identifying your core”, it will also help you to come up with those behaviors. You have to keep your customers in the center while identifying your expected behaviors.

3.Communication about your core and expected behaviors: Once you have identified your core and behaviors or on the path of identifying it, you have to communicate this with every single person in your company. You want people to inculcate those behaviors while they are achieving your organization priorities and while they are working in teams.At qilo, we are able to articulate in well after 2 year of our journey.

qilo values

4.Recognize your people when they showcase those behaviors: Once you have identified those behaviors, it’s imperative to recognize those people who showcase those behaviors. And do not link it with incentives, gift cards or bounce. Recognizing people is different from identifying an employee of the month because here frequency should not be the criteria. And make sure that the recognition is visible to the entire organization so that it can influence others on showcasing those behaviors

5.Keep evolving your core and expected behaviors: Nothing is constant in this world, not even your core and expected behaviors. They need to be evolved or changed based on the competitive landscape.

6.Define process on how your employees are evaluated: The way you evaluate your people is the way they will perform. Giving performance review is a very complicated and difficult business. And managers don’t do an especially good job at it. The fundamental purpose of performance reviews is to improve the person performance in future. The review process also represents the leadership thinking. Current practices of performance reviews are discovered in industrial age, its not apt for this digital age

7.Share customer feedback (bad for sure) and success stories constantly: Customers are the reasons your organization is surviving. What she thinks, feel and experience should be far more important than anything else. The feedback they are giving should not be just restricted to your customer facing team, but to people at large. It’s your customers who will at the end enable you to evolve you on your core, your expected behaviors from people, internal communication and how people are evaluated.

The concluding note: To identify and improve your culture, you have to think beyond chasing numbers and doing daily transactions. For a while get out of it and spend some time on this. Defining, evolving and fixing culture has helped many companies accelerate the growth, beat the competition and gain more market share. It’s not a theory and it works.

Are you game?

Getting ready for your purpose

Do you believe that universe orchestrates incidents to get answers for questions that matter to you? I never believed in this till recently. In the last 2 months, series of incidents has happened which provided clarification to the question that matters to me: “Is purpose really required in life?”. I am sharing 4 such situations from the series of them.

I was watching a session by Shishir Mehrotra on scaling YouTube and 10 things that matter when you are scaling up. He mentioned about the importance of purpose and suggested to read “Drive” by Daniel Pink.

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The central theme of the book is about how to unlock your intrinsic motivation through Purpose, Autonomy, and Mastery. As per Daniel “Humans, by their true nature, seek purpose- A cause greater and more enduring than themselves.” The book has done its job of helping in identify what motivates people and what will motivate people in future to achieve extraordinary results. But my conclusion about purpose was still like “It sounds good like mission and vision statements which companies put on their websites, but does it really works in real work?” My understanding & belief till recently was: Your purpose keeps changing based on the stage of your life.

Another incident happened when  I recently visited the upper Himalayas area “Lahaul and Spiti”.This part of the Himalayas is NOT much populated and also crowded by tourist. We took a road trip from Keylong to Baralacha pass. Balaracha pass also connects  “Lahaul and Spiti” valley with Leh and Ladakh. It was mesmerizing and the connectedness which I felt with the mother-nature & the entire cosmos lead tears in my eyes. At the same time, I was realizing that what we humans have done to this beautiful place, called earth, because of our never ending greed.

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While moving from one mountain valley to another, and looking at the size of mountains, the torrent of rivers and scenic beauty, why the hell someone will even be bothered about purpose. You and your size don’t even matter here.

Back to the office from the Himalayas, I have put in purpose at back burner & was back at work. And then Arun and Vipul(other co-founders a qilo) insisted me to join them in a leadership workshop at Bangalore. And I was like, what impact will another leadership program make? But then, I have to surrender against the students inside me. And the worst case scenario of  4 days program will be we end up spending more time with each other if the program doesn’t turn up to expectations.  I submitted the fee and was ready to attend the program.

While on my way to Bangalore, I meet Virender, the taxi driver who dropped me at the airport. Virender also works part-time for an NGO where he helps in rescuing girls who are forced into prostitution at GB road(a red-light area in Delhi).

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The kind of details he shared with me was spine chilling. Few details which he shared with me : 70% of young girls and women are forced into prostitution, they sleep just 3 hours on daily basis and they serve on an average 105 to 140 customers per week or higher,  are enough for anyone to think, Are we really evolving as a society? And the problems we face at the professional or personal front of life are far smaller that problems faced by many people out there in this world. I landed at Banglore with a heavy heart. And with lots of thoughts on how things can improve in this world, and my never ending quest of “Is purpose really required in life?”

Program “Mission Impossible(MI) Leaders“ started at 8 in the morning.The first question asked on the first day and within the first-hour was “Who all want to identify the purpose of your life?” Dear Mr. Purpose, you are back again in my life within 12 hours. I answered to facilitator “Is purpose really required in the life? I think purpose keeps changing based on the stage of your life”.

Facilitator smiled and replied back “But do you really want one?” I questioned myself “Are you really open to getting one?”

Next 4 days of the program was very tiring: physically, mentally and emotionally.  MI leaders program turned up as NOT just any regular leadership program where you will learn some key leadership skills. It provided much-needed clarity on my quest to get an answer for “Is purpose really required in life?”

Your purpose of life cannot be limited to yourself. Most of us keep putting our priorities in life as our purpose. Do you really think the purpose of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Henry Ford, Mother Teresa, J.R.D Tata, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandella, Thomas Edison and many others like them are limited to themselves? Your purpose is your means to feel connected to this universe.And it will push you every morning to do good for every species on this earth.

Next time when you are listening to any talk on YouTube or TEDx, or visiting a place where you feel connected with nature or meeting your Virender, consider that you are getting prepared for your purpose.

So have you found your purpose? If not, it’s worth an effort to find one.

Summary of Learnings

  • The priorities in your life are NOT equal to your purpose of life. Don’t mix them up.
  • Your purpose is your means to get connected with the universe at large and live a more meaningful life. If it’s limited to you, it’s not a purpose.
  • This world is driven by unreasonable people. Your competencies and capabilities will not help you being unreasonable, but your purpose will.
  • Once you find your purpose, is it 100% that you will be able to achieve it? Doubt is good.

Blitzscaling 13: Shishir Mehrotra on Scaling YouTube and The 10 Things That Matter

This is my eleventh blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here. Session 9 notes can be found here. Session 10 notes here.  Session 11 notes here. Session 12 notes are here

In session 13,  Shishir Mehrotra, who helped guide YouTube through hyper growth shared 10 things that matter when you scale your early stage organization.

10things that matter

  1. Tailwind is an aviation industry term which means wind pushing the aircraft from its back; resulting in the higher speed of aircraft; opposite of tailwind is “headwind”, which means air is pushing the aircraft from its front, resulting in the slower speed. When applying this term to start-up world; “tailwind” means your start-up is or will be riding an existing wave of change, for example:-early stage businesses working in renewable energy which we taking advantage of society becoming sensitive about the environment.  “Highwind” means your start-up is or will be moving against a reluctance towards a change. for example:- Cloud based businesses 10 years ago was struggling to prove their point to CIO’s that cloud based hosting is way cheaper that on-premise server hosting. Success doesn’t matter whether your early stage business is tailwind or headwind. But being in tailwind, you can avoid many mistakes which headwind start-up businesses has done in past.
  2.  Purpose is one of the core dimensions that motivates people to do what they do. Mastery and autonomy are the other two dimensions. Purpose means connect what you do and why you do it. If you don’t communicate about your purpose, people will keep doing the transactions, which will never lead to WOW for your customers.
  3. Thesis matters means you have to focus on core & simple insights of your domain. Discovering those simple insights is going to take hell lot of time.
  4. Deciding which metrics to measure is very important. At Coca-Cola rather than measuring their market share vs Pepsi, someone at Coca-Cola suggested measuring Coca-Cola share in customer’s stomach. That measure resulted in Coca-Cola investing in packaged food products & drinking water. At YouTube, Shishir and team shifted measuring “Watch time Of YouTube” vs  “Watch time Of Television”. The previous metric that was measured at YouTube was the number of video’s uploaded to ad revenue to the quantity of ad’s coming to office. YouTube set a goal to increase its watch time from 100 million to 1 billion hours of watch time for Television. So setting the right type of metric to measure helps you to accelerate growth in the right direction. Pro tip: Use OKR to measure the progress on your business metrics
  5. Its often hard to make decisions in your business when you don’t have enough data. So you need more and more data to simplify your decision-making. The best decisions are those which simplify your life in making next 10 decisions.
  6.  Every business is a part of eco-system doesn’t matter how big you are. And there are set of people in that ecosystem on you have relied on to make you grow. And it’s very easy to presume their incentives if you don’t ask.Don’t presume things, collect data and/or ask hard questions, you might get more insights on this. For YouTube, their ecosystem is content producers. And YouTube worked hard to come up with the model on how to incentives the content producers.
  7. Value Matters as you grow. Think about your values well in advance before you become big enough that you can’t work on those & you can’t explain them or inculcate them in your employees.
  8. Talent matters alot for growing your organization. Divide your entire landscape of talent into 4 level as follows and compare them on their performance to decide who to take forward and whom to work with and who should be those who get out of the system.

Level 1) Executors: People who do day to day execution

Level 2) How to execute: People who give instruction on how to execute the things

Level 3) Solution to work on: These are the people who identify the solution to problems                       and priorities to execute

Level  4) Which Problems to solve:  These are the people who figure out which problems to solve

When you are starting a company having a small team, people do everything. And if you got a people, specially co-founders who cannot think at all the level, it’s not good. But as you grow, you need people specific for each level. Where companies go wrong is when they compare the performance of people at level 1 with level 2, this means you lack transparency in your organization about the roles. Define proper roles and measure the performance of people among same roles.

9) Your roles matters in an organization and if that role is impacting the work of many people in the organization, you better avoid micromanage your people, or become a dictator or become a one who over empathizes.

10) When you are setting up your goal’s & objectives, your team members should have exposure to the bigger picture. You as CEO have to align every individual with the higher purpose of the organization. This will result in high level of commitment within your organization.

 

CEO vs Post 2008 Workforce

“What’s wrong with the kids coming out of college, why they behave like by working for the company, they are doing a great service to you”, said the career banker, an entrepreneur and ex-CEO of one of the FinTech company, an arm of largest telco network in India. He continued “Don’t they realize that they should respect the job they have got and should be working hard to excel in their careers”. I can correlate with his pain. As a CEO or as an entrepreneur, you want to execute things faster.  And its people in your organization who can help you achieve that.

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I was looking at the issue of “getting work done” especially in Indian context. To analyze this, I have divided the workforce into 3 generations, from “1965 to 1998”, from “1999 to 2008” and “Post 2008”.

The generation who joined the workforce after 1965’s till 1998, their basic need was to put enough food on the table that family can have it the entire month.The government was the major job creator and India has started moving from socialist to a capitalist economy.

From 1999 to 2008, people who joined the workforce are interested in making sure family moves from lower middle class to upper middle class. And growing sectors like IT & IT enabled services, Banking and Pharma helped many people achieve this. The job priorities are to get more and more money, bonuses, and higher level roles in the company. In a way, this generation was high on extrinsic motivation than intrinsic motivations.

Post-2008 workforce is prominently the part of the knowledge economy. For them, enough food was already there on the table. For post-2008 workforce generation, their needs and priorities are bit different. They want the purpose of their life to be largely fulfilled by their work. They are delaying marriages so that they can attain a certain level of achievement in their career. Thankfully it will also help India in controlling the growing population. Young generation today are much more career-focused than the earlier generation and are much more demanding of their employers. They want to listen more from their CEO about the purpose of the organization, from their department heads and managers where they are heading to as a unit. They want more and more autonomy at work and coaching to attain the mastery.  The minute they see the purpose of this organization is not meaningful enough, they are not getting enough coaching & flexibility to attain the mastery they will switch to your competitor. And it’s not that they don’t want money, but they are far less greedy than earlier generation. They are still high on extrinsic motivation, but very high on intrinsic motivations. To get a detailed understanding on this, I will highly recommend you to read “Drive” by Daniel Pink.

As CEO and as an organization, you want to get work done. And to get that done with utmost excellence in execution and quality. And you want to identify people in your company who can take your vision & priorities to next level.  You are absolutely right in your ask. But the ways in which you want to get things done from post-2008 generation has just changed. The attention span of digitally enabled generation is far shorter than previous one. By

  • Communicating you purpose, beliefs and expected behaviors,
  • Defining right kind of performance metrics transparently,
  • Enhancing your managerial effectiveness and
  • by giving balanced flexibility, you will be able to take your organization to next level of growth.

The Younger generation doesn’t mind putting up extended hours of effort for your vision & purpose, only ask is to communicate that vision & purpose in a colloquial way and to make them feel the part of it.

Summary of Learnings:

  • Post-2008 work generation doesn’t want corporate emails from your PA’s about your organization purpose, progress, and expected behaviors.
  • Town Halls don’t work. Ask your leadership team to find a more colloquial way of communication.
  • Define performance metrics transparently.
  • Enhance your managerial effectiveness and help them become better coaches

Blitzscaling 12: Nirav Tolia on Growing Nextdoor and the Path to Monetization

This is my tenth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here. Session 9 notes can be found here. Session 10 notes here.  Session 11 notes here

Nirav Tolia is  the Co-Founder and CEO of Nextdoor. In session 12, Nirav shared his insights into building Nextdoor and his insights on how to grow fast. Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. The median time required to take your start-up to do break even, take it public has increased from 5 years to more than 7 yo 10 years(Stanford Research).
  2. The faster your product/app moves in ranking in app store, the faster it comes down. So slow, steady growth and consistency is still the success formula.
  3. Before scaling your way, do the manual dirty work yourself. This is to validate if what you are going to offer will work or not in offline mode. If it works in offline mode, then put in resources & money to automate the things.
  4. Initially, focus on the quality of your product that solves a problem. Then focus on scaling your product & then sales. Google calls this toothbrush test, which means “Can you create a product which people use at least once a day”.
  5.  Your interpretation & intuition about ‘what is working & what is not’ may be wrong. But if you can define the metrics to challenge your intuition, then you may find the correct path.
  6. Think of your start-up as treadmill where every morning you have to wake up & run on it. You won’t get any credit for the miles covered and remember that you have to run on it again every morning. And if you are not feeling like running a particular morning, and if this starts happening more, than its a serious problem.
  7. If you read the newspaper’s (especially English ones) today, you don’t know what is happening around you in your local communities. The best way to do that is crowdsourcing that news from people living in the local community. That’s what Nextdoor is helping local communities to achieve.
  8. You build user growth, then usage engagement and then revenue scale in that order. But user growth, user engagement & monetization, each of these problems are unique in their own nature & equally difficult. And the way to solve this problem is to divide this problem into stages. That’s the path Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, & Whatsapp has taken.
  9. Five management objectives to focus on at any given point of time. Review these objectives quarterly or annually depending on the stage in which your company is. A framework to implement this is OKR. At qilo, we help organisations by implementing this.
    1. Growth
    2. Engagement
    3. Monetization
    4. Infrastructure
    5. People
  10. As you start to scale , have more and more people in your organisation, you have to start thinking about your people, the various career paths they will have and organisation structure to maximise people performance.
  11. Hire a great HR leader for your growing organisation. Because HR will eventually help you to execute those big goals backwards.
  12. It’s all about your people that will help you move the mountains. CEO’s job is to tell why people should move this mountain.
  13. Your title doesn’t make you leader or entrepreneur; your team and your people do.
  14. Get your mentor who has been there and done that. Ignore theory consultants who throw our jargon’s.
  15. Be extremely cautious about every penny going out of your company while you are on the path of earning revenue.
  16. The basic difference between Google and Facebook is demand fulfilment and demand generation.Google follow’s demand fulfilment model where you come up and search say “digital camera”. And it shows ads related to that. Whereas Facebook follows demand generation, where you see ads of “digital camera” which your friends have shown interested in. This will help you identify which platform suits you for digital marketing.

Blitzscaling 11: Patrick Collison on Hiring at Stripe and the Role of a Product-Focused CEO

This is my ninth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here. Session 9 notes can be found here. Session 10 notes here.

Patrick Collison is the co-founder and CEO of Stripe that allows both private individuals and businesses to accept payments over the Internet.In session 11, Patrick shared learning of being a CEO and production guy. Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. For your hiring and other processes, people just copy paste processes of bigger companies.People keep following it assuming that it will work for them. For example- Google hire’s people from top universities with highest GPA’s . This might work for Google, but probably will not work for your company. Even ex-CPO of Google accepted this that there is no correlation between higher GPA and higher performance at work.
  2. Think and take as much time as possible in hiring right guys. Effort spent is worth because that way you will hire the one’s that will suit your organisation culture.
  3. If you get one great A player, there is a high possibility that your next hire will also be an A player.
  4. If you are an engineer and don’t know how to do business development, hire or get a guy on board as a co-founder to do that. At Stripe, because co-founders didn’t know how to sell, they hired BD guys very early who has helped them crack big accounts.
  5. CEO and founding team needs to be involved in the day to day decision’s on the product, at least for the first 5 to 7 years. Because no one else can better understand what should go in the product to solve customer need than founders.
  6. The reason why product innovation stops in growing start-up is that of people who you hire to support growth adds complexity to the system called the organisation. With more people comes slower decision making and its lowers down the sense of accountability of innovation.To support innovation and keep building new things, create a separate small team of 3 to 4 people to execute the new innovations. And the decision of what kind of new product, idea or feature should this team focus on should be based on NPV or net economic value of that new thing.
  7. Talk to your prospective customers base as many times as possible before you start building or before you ship the product out of the building. At Stripe, for every new line or feature of the product, they talked to the developer community(their customer base) before the new things go in production.
  8. As you grow, most of your time as a founder will be spent on communicating with your different teams and defining priorities for them. The transitioning from “Thinker + Doer” to “Thinker + Getting People Think + Getting People Do” is very difficult. And that’s where you have to invest your time in defining processes.
  9. As company grow, founders and CEO need to shift the way they communicate. You can no longer put all those people in the room to talk to them. You have to pick up the habit of writing in an informal way about what you are thinking, how business is going, what are your learning and even failures that you are encountering in your journey. Written words have much more clear and longer impact. And it gives your employee more one-on-one feeling than those town halls and virtual meetings.