Thursday, May 31, 2012

CEO: Helping or Hurting?

A thought provoking exchange with someone on the Gnip team last night, wound up revealing a behavior I've developed, unconsciously, as CEO.

As CEO of a 25+ person company (Gnip's at around 40) you can't deep dive on as many challenges during the day as you used to; you simply don't have the time. As a result, you move your observation, critical thinking and problem solving skills up a level, and accelerate the overall decision making process. If you view what you have to get done as a queue, simple queueing theory breaks down in this role because the rate of incoming things to handle vastly outstrips your ability to handle them in a timely manner, if you maintain your original, average, rate of handling things that come up. In short, you have to come up with new models for evaluating an issue, and resolving it, faster.

The trick is in NOT building a model that yields sloppy decision making. You do that by ensuring you distribute the challenge load appropriately, to the right number, of the right (smart) people, and fan out overall decision making such that the right time is allotted to the business decisions that have to get made everyday, at large. Again, your job moves up a level in the process.

Back to that behavior I mentioned earlier. When I see what appears to be an inefficiency anywhere in the business or on the team or in a process, I go through the following process.

  • Does it matter? My brain identifies inefficiencies at the quark level which can often be completely irrelevant in certain context. I have to constantly apply this gate otherwise I'd drive everyone completely nuts (I'm sure I'm doing that already anyway though).
  • Is the person responsible for the thing that includes the inefficiency on top of it?
    • If yes, leave it alone; you'll only aggravate the situation by sticking your nose in, and wind up wasting time.
    • If no, appropriately get your proposed solution on the table. Some individuals welcome/desire external input and suggestions. Some do not. You have to tailor your approach accordingly if you're going to successfully eradicate the inefficiency. If you get this wrong, you'll wind up in the situation above where you're doing nothing but sticking your nose into someone else's business.
Rather than diving in and problem solving everything I see each day, my filter has evolved to account for the fact that we have an awesome team executing brilliantly. That said, when I do see something off kilter (now matter how great everything is, obviously stuff comes up), I'm developing a new way of quickly engaging the situation without having the full context of the situation at my fingertips. Getting that right takes practice.

To the guy who's business I stuck my nose into last night... sorry bro... thanks for the reminder.

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