> To really achieve maximum results, we had to push our people hard so they were constantly out of their comfort zone.
> Fortunately, my co-founder Ben is a culture-building wizard.
> "We need to focus on creating a culture that has "high performance" at its core.
> Our mission was to create immediate results and discernible momentum.
> But we decided we were weak - in relative terms - at creating energy across the business
Are we sure this isn't a parody? It is reminding me of http://paulgraham.com/circling.html. Or say an article from the Onion about startup culture.
- Be challenged - This could look like: - Challenging and engaging in team and company discussions - Picking up work that makes you feel uncomfortable - Engaging in conversations where you feel out of your depth - Picking up new challenges, not waiting for them
- Give energy - This could look like: - Bringing energy to meetings - Offering solutions to others’ challenges - Starting discussions from a place of possibility rather than impossibility - Finding moments to support others in the business, personally or with their work Behaviour 2
- Drive for output - This could look like: - Always asking others if the quality of your output is what they were expecting - Working until completion, not just to your hours - Looking for ways to be efficient with your time - Pick up more - don’t wait
- Take responsibility - This could look like: - Recognising that if the work isn’t delivered as expected, that is down to you - Owning your fuckups publicly - Pushing yourself, not waiting for others to push you
- Better yourself - This could look like: - Asking for feedback weekly and reviewing it regularly - Acting on that feedback and communicating it with others so they can hold you accountable - Self-reflecting on areas for improvement, “how could I be better”
- Be wrong - This could look like: - Looking to others to help you disprove your hypotheses and assumptions - Flagging if you’re emotionally attached to a decision - Looking outside the business to be challenged on your thinking and for new perspectives
"Drive for output" is a classic speedup.
None of those mention customers.
The company's product is a time and attendance system as a service, along with personnel records. Not payroll, insurance, or retirement, though; they don't seem to do the money functions. There's a "HR as a service" trend, and they're a minor player. It's useful, but not high-tech.
This sort of adds up to "how to look like a tech startup when you're not, really".
The vast majority of "tech companies" aren't doing anything groundbreaking. They are using existing tech and tools to create tech products that people are willing to pay for.
To be fair, "applying tech start-up mentality to non-tech fields" seems to be the new hotness, after the low hanging fruits of "applying tech to non-tech fields" have been claimed.
My biggest concern is this kind of "push hard" mindset and behavior becomes normal for them even after they are a well established business. Even worse is if this behavior is encouraged for all startups; one size does not fit all and that's something shouldn't be forgotten.
I worked at Intel for a few years, "push hard" was the norm and it was ruthless - they couldn't care less about my physical or psychological well-being. That was the worst work environment I've ever worked in. I was virtually at war with my colleagues every step of the way and no matter how hard I worked or outperformed my peers, it was never enough. Terrible way to run a company.
I went through a similar experience as the article's authors. I headed our company's engineering org and my CEO wanted everyone to "work harder". I challenged her and worked with hear and the team to set some aggressive goals. I also gave them leeway to determine the best way to reach those goals. With only a few exceptions, the teams rose to the challenge.
There's a healthy balance to be found for sure but I much more subscribe to DHH's point of view than what was presented in this article.
> Our team are ambitious. They want to learn and grow quickly. By not pushing them we felt like we were letting them down as well.
And they knew it too.
Yeeeeeeah, I'm just going to go ahead and disagree with you there, Rob.
I get what the author is going for though. I’ve been a dev in do little, coffee break, nerf gun shooting, drone flying office. That company never changed the culture and fired almost everyone. Squandered a $30M investment.
It’s a hard hard change to pull off. The author is trying to sugar coat it, but someone’s got to be a hardass at some point.
> Work until completion, not just to your hours
Sorry, but no. If I wanted to work more, I'd get paid hourly.
It rarely seems to cut the other way, but I understand in some companies it does.
What tech job has work that can be "finished" anyway?
1. Silicon valley style enforced fun. eg lol we're crazy here look we have a ping pong table.
Its hard to get anything done in these places, constant distractions, meetings, open plan etc. + I'd be happier if they just payed me the money they wasted on frivolous crap, cus getting paid is absolutely the main reason I show up to work on your thing, and not just work on my thing.
2. Putting in the hours.
As a programmer I personally reckon I have c. 4 hours per day of really really high quality focused work in me (depending on the day) Forcing myself to code when I am not in the zone would just result in worse code, more bugs, more regressions, more work to do later. I would lose time overall and have a worse product. (Aside from the effect of just the longer hours) it would also hurt my motivation as the codebase would begin to become nasty + a chore to work on.
Ive found doing a reasonable amount of top quality work every day, and never crunching, is what gets stuff out the fastest.
Sounds like a great way to increase burnout/turnover...
CEO: "Ok, how can I spin this so my employees don't get angry at me. Oh, I know! I'll make a presentation and write a blog article!"
The article represents just about everything wrong with the startup world and the cult of workaholism. The toxicity and brain washing is real.
> "I just don't see the urgency. It feels like a 10-5 culture, interrupted by lunches and coffees"
> Fortunately, my co-founder Ben is a culture-building wizard
How did you reach that conclusion?
Trying harder is never the answer to anything. People already are doing their best, whatever that means in a specific context. And however far from whatever expectations.
Pushing harder might very well lower productivity overall, since everyone now likes working there even less than before. And it's very difficult to regain trust and loyalty.
What I liked a lot was that this was a culture about not wasting time instead of working more. I don't know if the culture shifted to one where everyone works more or one where everyone works while they're at work and meets the goals they set forth in a higher expectation team.
I didn't read all 4 posts but I couldn't see where they talk about working longer but mostly about focusing on being cognizant of what they are working on and how they are working. This is super important on a team. You can love coming to work and being PUSHED to work harder and more efficiently. For some people that's great. I love the competition with myself of getting better at something and I really struggle in an environment where I'm not being pushed.
Anyway it's a good read and while I didn't see anything about working more hours I might have missed it in my scan, so please lemme know if that was in there because I feel like that's a serious mistake for a company. They should push people to work as a better team and individual not longer to make up for a miss on the expectations of management.
Homer: (in his new role as supervisor) Um, are you guys working?
Employee: Yes, sir.
Homer: Can you . . . work any harder?
Employee: Sure thing, boss! (tapping of keys increases)
Hopefully he at least provided that little probing against this investor’s observation. Otherwise it was simply like he was talking to God: “We instantly knew he was right!”
Make sure you read the whole thing - it’s a treat. Sounds like every terrible Valley culture post squeezed through a Markov chain.
Please be a parody.
An incredible amount of work can be done in a week if the workplace is set up correctly.
This to me is a toxic culture.
I hate to use the old adage "work smarter, not harder", but I've seen so many places where people are working hard--but not really making a lot of progress. It's almost like you have to take the good parts of Taylorism and religiously eliminate waste.
No, that says to me that they specifically don't like the 10 to 5 culture. It's not "10-5 culture, which is fine except for the coffee breaks". It's the 10-5 culture that's part of the problem.
I've worked at a startup that very clearly had product market fit and one that very clearly didn't. In the former example the early employees worked a ton to scale the product and keep up with demand. In the latter example, the founders felt they needed to work nonstop in the mindset that hard work for the sake of hard work would produce product market fit. I think it resulted in a lot of thrashing. They kept focusing on minutiae in the product when probably taking a step back, letting things simmer, and evaluating from a higher level would have been really beneficial.
I think successful product development requires a lot of creativity, and you don't get creativity by sitting in a seat for 16 hours a day because that's what your investors tell you their best teams do...
"The elephant in the room: how do you balance support for mental health with a drive for performance?" - https://blog.charliehr.com/performance-management/navigating...
The article isn't about creating a burnout culture, or forcing people to work long hours.
Imo, it's not a bad thing to try to cultivate a workplace where people act with a sense that what they are working on is important and are generally trying to improve themselves.
That doesn't mean that everyone has to have their A game on every day and sprint to their bathroom breaks.
Source: I do it; every post on setting contractor rates.
Want to avoid it? Switch to the socialism / union mentality - do just enough to not get fired.