Kerry Start-Up 101: People, Processes and Technology

The three core dimensions that cannot be ignored in any business success journey are:

  • People
  • Processes
  • Technology.

Highlighted in Harold Leavitt’s Applied Organisation Change in Industry, these three key pillars can be considered in terms of evolving your organisation. They apply to all modern businesses, regardless of business size.

People—Key Points

There are two main aspects to consider when identifying effective employees:

  1. technical skills
  2. the person

Regardless of domain, the skills bit is relatively easy to identify,but successfully identifying the right person is not such a clear-cut process. It’s one you must get right, however. People mistakes will land your business in deep trouble and could do so before you even begin.

It’s crucial to develop a profound understanding of the importance of people, and you should spend significant time on this. Here is a primer to identifying the right people. You must seek people who:

(a) have career hunger and desire (i.e. no career fatigue) and who arrive and leave their job smiling genuinely, every day
(b) apply the scientific method (make an observation, form a question, form a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, analyse the data and draw a conclusion)
(c) can deconstruct problems and “eat the elephant, bite by bite”
(d) improve with pressure
(e) can be both generalists and SMEs
(f) have resilience, i.e. when misunderstandings happen (which they will), they need to take the hit (metaphorically!), understand the context,and rebound
(g) understand the concept of “less haste more speed,” i.e., doing things properly WITHOUT sacrificing overall velocity
(h) will hold their hand up when they don’t know something or get something wrong
(i) will never stop learning and cross-training their colleagues (no information-hoarding Supermen or Wonderwomen, thanks!)

Remember, the team you assemble is going to change your organisation’s world, one way or another. Identifying skills is pretty easy, but it’s arguably less than half the battle. Typically, the up-front work in understanding the person is not done well. For the sake of your business, I suggest you do it well.

P.S.:Be brave and seek out your successor and, of course, hire smarter than you. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do for both you and your organisation. You’ll never become stale, and you will contribute genuinely both to your team’s future career progression and your organisation’s health.

Processes—Points

Business processes are almost always over-complicated and inefficient. This area isn’t nearly as confusing as people make it out to be, so let’s rely on a first principles approach to help us out:

Q – What matters?

A – The business outcome (and how you get to it, of course).

So what’s your clear end-goal?

Processes becomes a lot more focused when you have a defined end goal, as the question moves from “What processes do we need?” to “How do we meet our end-goal?”

Once your clear, simple, achievable goal has been defined, the first workshop you need to conduct with your team is to clearly define your “Value Stream.”

What is a Value Stream?

‘The series of steps that an organisation uses to build solutions that provide a continuous flow of value to a customer’.

What needs to be done to get to your end-goal? Draw it out in boxes. Gain consensus. That’s your value stream.

Once you reach consensus on your value stream, the journey from general to specific continues by focusing on the next level of detail, i.e. from “What processes do we need to support the agreed value stream to meet our end-goal?”

Very Important Note: Do Not Discuss Tools at this Point.

You cannot allow tooling companies to get into your head and shape your value stream or process discussions..Remain tool-agnostic and solely capability-focused at this point.

To sum up, know your desired business outcome and deconstruct the overall goal methodically to enable your organisation to define its value stream and, subsequently, its constituent processes.The important thing is to start with a clear desired business outcome and work back.

Technology – Key Points

Getting your technology stack right is obviously important, but technology should not dictate direction. Instead, it should facilitate implementation of the consensus-driven minimum set of processes to support your value stream and ultimately support the desired business outcome.

Remember, businesses typically have two product categories: (1) the commercial products your team is developing for distribution to your market and (2) the internal products you are subconsciously developing to deliver those commercial products to the market. Both probably depend on some suite of technology, and you must ensure that no unnecessary technology is involved because it will become expensive to sustain (purchase cost, time spent training and maintaining, etc.).
A very solid principle to employ is that of simplicity; i.e. use the minimum technology stack that you can get away with to avoid excessive total-cost-of-ownership implications.

Summary

Setting a business up for success involves considering many dimensions. A reasonable way to approach developing a checklist for business success is to consider the three categories of People, Processes, and Technology and deconstruct these into actionable checklist items.

It’s a well-proven approach, considering Leavitt’s paper was written in 1964 and has therefore withstood over half a century of analysis and examination.