October 14, 2019

How To Guarantee Mediocrity In Your Business

Companies don't set out to become mediocre, they get there by prioritizing the wrong actions.

How To Guarantee Mediocrity In Your Business

There are a lot of people out there giving advice on how to create and manage successful companies. However, very few people discuss how great companies fail. Or, how companies continue to be mediocre and lose market share.

Let’s dive into how companies create mediocrity.

Think for a minute about what you do when you’re at work everyday.

Do you answer and send emails within 5 minutes of receiving them? Are you scheduling and attending meetings constantly? Do you have Slack open at all times? Are you on the phone constantly?

If you answered "yes" to most (or all) of the questions above, then chances are, you work in an average company.

Now, don't get me wrong... it's not entirely your fault. That's because "what gets measured, gets done" right?

It's unfortunate, but being "visibly busy" is what's rewarded by managers at most companies.

This probably sounds familiar. And, for most people this is everyday. The sad part: These people are convinced they are doing their job well and that busyness is the key to performing well in their job and getting promoted.

Visibly Busy

Shortly after Marissa Meyer got the CEO job at Yahoo, she banned working from home.

Remote workers at Yahoo had to sign in to a virtual server to check their email. Marissa checked the server logs and was upset because Yahoo employees working from home didn’t sign-in to Yahoo’s remote servers enough throughout the day.

Effectively, she was punishing employees for not checking email more times throughout the day. As if email is the task that creates value.

Is it any wonder why Yahoo hasn’t produced anything worthwhile in years?!

You see, for Marissa (and most people), busyness is a proxy for productivity. Answering emails and attending meetings make you seem busy. But, you’re not actually getting anything worthwhile done.

At the other end, you have Jordan Walke, a software engineer at Facebook. Jordan created React from taking a 1 year sabbatical. Facebook said: “Go create this, come back when you’re done.”

Guess what happened?

That’s right, he crushed it. After releasing React, the framework quickly overtook Angular as the most popular JavaScript framework.

The problem with being "visibly busy" is, those around you (including your boss) think you are productive and a valuable member of the team.

Isn't that crazy!

But that begs the question, If you’re NOT “visibly busy” are you productive?

Interruption Workday

My voicemail says: “You’ve reached Dirk. Please leave a message. I will respond to your voicemail after 4 PM.”

Works like a charm. And, people don’t complain. That’s because I’ve defined and advertised my position.

If I were to answer every phone call, I would never get anything done.

Same with meetings.

This culture of scheduling and attending meetings is ridiculous. How many meetings do you attend everyday?

Meetings are the biggest time suck at any company. That's because they not only take an hour of each person's day, they take more time than that: meetings break into "before" and "after" time also.

But, meetings don't have to be this way. Amazon is the best example to follow here.

Employees at Amazon write a "6 page memo" for each meeting. These memos are read at the beginning of all meetings, by every person in the room.

This is such an amazing concept, creating deep thought.

To write a 6 page memo is 1,000 times harder than creating a PowerPoint presentation. One has to really think about the problem / solution, then put their thoughts down on paper in the written form.

At Amazon, meetings start with each meeting attendee reading the 6 page memo. Then, they discuss.

The most important aspect of the 6 page memo is the deep thinking required to produce the content. And, the deep thinking required to read and understand the document.

Is it any wonder why Amazon crushes every vertical they enter?

Producing To Produce

At a previous job, my manager used to brag about the number of lines of code in the repository. He’d say, “We’ve written 100 thousand lines of code.”

So? Who gives a shit!

What he failed to mention was that our codebase was 100k lines of code for burning a fantastic dumpster fire.

Beautiful code is short and concise. Thoughtful. Agonized over.

Creating meaningful, great things is not done via assembly line. They take time, thought and effort.

I worked with a colleague who was super smart. Could produce a shitload of code. He cranked projects out like crazy. But, he didn’t think.

He’s the kind of guy who, during a rainstorm would beg the heavens to never have rain again, but wouldn’t think about the long-term affects of not having anymore rain.

His code produced massive customer support issues and corner cases. Lack of foresight and dedication to deep thinking.

What's The Solution?

The solution is setting aside time to think and work. Remarkable work takes thought and effort.

BTW, you don't need a lot of time to do this. Charles Darwin published 19 books, including "On the Origin of Species", while working just 4.5 hours per day!

Darwin's workday was incredible:
7 – 8:00am: He would go for a walk.
8 – 9:30am: Work.
9:30 – 10:30am: Time spent reading letters.
10:30 – 12:00pm: Work.

After 12pm, Darwin would go out walking until he was satisfied with his thinking. Then he would call his workday complete.

Create Time To Think Deeply

I personally like the mornings to think and work. Distraction is a destroyer of great work. In the mornings, there is very little distraction.

I also enjoy pair programming with my business partner. By working side-by-side with someone on a problem, you push each other to deeper levels of depth. What's more, the value of the output is far more valuable compared to working alone.

We pair together each morning–thinking deeply about what we're building. The end result is a lot of software for lawn care business.

We're not done yet.

But, when you dedicate yourself to deep thinking, and create the habit of "thoughtful work", great things happen!