Business

Art of “Violent Execution Culture” for Aspiring 10x Startups and Corporates

This column is authored by Ajay Shrivastava, Chief Technology Officer, Knowlarity

Violent execution startups

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Execution is the “secret sauce” that differentiates a successful startup from a failed one. Deliberately chosen strategy to favor speed and iterations (over delayed perfection), is the common winning strategy, one can spot in every high growth startup’s journey.

“A good plan violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” – General Patton

Blame game, buck passing, slowness, low morale, friction etc. start to infect the organizations as they grow beyond couple scores of people. These debilitating, energy sucking and time wasting loops, become impediments in the organization’s progress.

Principles of Violent Execution: Tried, Tested and Evolved

I was fortunate to have worked in “small growing startups” to “largest companies” in the world. Here are my tried and tested principles, following which, any organization can transform into a high performing execution machine, within weeks easily.

1. Get Shit Done

One of the common quotes I use – “There are real genuine reasons why something doesn’t happen properly. But I am not interested in knowing those.” Do not empathize and encourage what I call “Victim mode”. Encourage the behavior of ‘get shit done’ by whatever irrespective of the impediments coming in the way. This aligns the energy in teams to focus on the end result, rather than just doing their part well while working in silos.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Roosevelt

Work is considered DONE, only when it generates the desired business metric movement. It’s NOT DONE when just all the “planned tasks” are complete. As an analogy, the team gets the award for goals in soccer, all the hard work otherwise doesn’t matter in the real world. This real world fact has to be embraced as it is.

execution strategy

2. One Thing at a Time

You can’t focus well on many things at a time. The context switching results in shallower job and cumulatively longer duration.

“The shortest way to do many things is to do only one thing at a time.” – Mozart

Haven’t seen multi tasking work efficiently even for competent people in conducive environments too. Prioritize hard. Focus on top one and kill it. Go to next.

execution strategy3. Make it Work, then Make it Better

Justifying ‘delays’ in ‘name of perfection’, is the biggest problem plaguing the industry now. Even though everyone talks about MVP/Agile, I have rarely seen people understand it well esp in the engineering department. I wrote Minimum Viable Technology – MVT in this regard to tackle it.

“Continuous Improvement is better than Delayed Perfection.” – Mark Twain

The employees should be trained to focus on identifying and solving the ‘real problem on the ground’. Don’t waste energy on unnecessary solutions to ‘hypothetical problems’.

execution strategy
Though this principle looks obvious; trust me when I say that it’s the rarest instinct seen in our industry. Executing this needs a deep understanding of the domain and a strong connection with the ground to identify the building blocks of a bigger goal.

4. Move Fast and Keep Delivering

Moving fast” is invariably the lifeline for organizations fighting to survive and excel. “Keep making small progress” frequently.

“In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish.” – Klaus Schwab

Small steps each day ensure quick feedback from the end user and therefore provide the timely opportunity for course correction. By analogy in cricket, it’s like making two runs on every ball Vs planning to hit a six on last two balls. You face more stress, risk and as a result more failures.

execution strategy

5. Solve in Real time – F2F > Call > Chat > Email

Emails are least effective and unfortunately most-used of all communication methods for “transactional decision making”. As per my experience, email chains invariably delay tasks and creates warring factions within the organization.

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.” – Sun Tzu

The more “human touch” you have, the more quickly issues are resolved, the camaraderie strengthened and friction reduced. Encourage “F2F > Call > Chat > Email” in your organization and you will witness “faster execution” and “amicable environment” immediately. Emails should be used primarily for sending notes, giving context and not for transactional debates and decision making.

6. Disagree and Commit

‘Democracy’ allows dissent so people are free to give ideas, debate and disagree. The con is that execution becomes slow and sabotaged due to this. On the other hand. ‘Dictatorship’ does not allow free opinions but the execution is flawless and disciplined. We need best of both.

We need best of both worlds – ‘discussion like democracy’ + ‘execution like dictatorship’

execution strategy
The solution is to allow “free discussion” before a decision is taken. In this expect people to have strong opinions. To move forward, a decision must be arrived at in a stipulated time frame with or without consensus. Now once a decision is taken, 100% commitment should be expected with no room for dissent. If iterations on the decision are needed while executing; then the process can be repeated again with the help of the leader.

7. You are Leader

When leaders/CEOs face problems, they instinctively start looking out for solutions rather than feeling like a victim of circumstances. The same leadership trait needs to be inculcated in every employee.

“If you have time to whine then you have time to find solution.” -Dee Dee Artner

Every employee (even a fresher) should be made the leader of his/her assigned area. So the organization hierarchy is a hierarchy of leaders from top to bottom.

execution strategy

There would be several small or big issues cropping in these areas. Now, when employees talk to their managers, it should be a leader-to-leader discussion. One must identify prevailing issues -> prioritize them -> think of solutions -> discuss with their leader -> execute. Take ownership, talk solutions!

8. Continuously Innovate

Multiple ‘high speed’ and ‘low cost’ experiments should be encouraged in the company. Only successful ones among them would be invested further.

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – John Powell

Make sure to learn from shortcomings in the previous experiment and make sure to notrepeat any mistake again. New mistakes are more welcome.

execution strategy

9. Work Smart and Work Hard

“Talent/smartness” or “hard work” individually can take you/company only to a certain level; where the majority of people/companies would already be. To break out of the crowd, one has to stand on both the legs i.e. Smart work + Hard work.

execution strategyResults Seen

As per my experience, these principles take the execution to the next orbit of efficiency and excellence. Soon the leadership team’s job would transform from heavily pushing a high-friction machine to steering a well-oiled fast moving machine.

Move Fast & Keep Rocking!!


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