Huggy Rao Scale Up Talk – February 1, 2017

Posted on February 1, 2017

Huggy Rao spoke this morning at the Communitech Scale Up Breakfast and it was a really solid talk.  For those who weren’t able to attend here are my notes from the talk.

Excellent organizations allow you to be you.  Are we creating an organization where people can be themselves?

Scaling is about spreading and sustaining a mindset not just a footprint. This isn’t about hiring cops to ensure people do the right thing. They should do the right thing when people aren’t looking.

Asking people to choose their titles improved self esteem and increased coordination. The job title should be based on your strengths.  It is amazing how a simple (and free) exercise of letting people choose their own titles based on their strengths increasing the success and performance of your organization.

Scaling doesn’t just mean getting big. It can also mean getting better. As you get big you must get better. The mindset is what matters. You have to put people in the implementation mindset. Ask how they are going to get there.

Balance a sense of accountability with a sense of obligation. Scaling is really about felt accountability. As size increases anonymity increases too. You have to reduce the feeling of anonymity.

Principle 1 Cut cognitive load but deal with necessary complexity. 

Excessive cognitive load undermines our ability to do what we know and believe we should. Keep is Sesame Street simple. Cognitive load has a huge impact on willpower.

Technique 1 The Subtraction Game
Sun setting – get rid of barnacles
Scaffolding – co-location with others
Sculpting jobs
Story than structure

Rules should have an expiry date. Let people work together and sculpt their own jobs. Don’t impose a lot of load. The story you convey to people can substitute for structure. Go through the discipline of creating a story. 25 dollars for the dumbest rule that we have. If you focus on anything, reducing cognitive load is the most important.

Your “best” top performers tend to be the most helpful people. Humble. One study shows they are interrupted every 4 minutes. Reducing cognitive load is the gift you can give to these top performers..

Principle 2: Go from Bad to Great 

Successful scaling depends as much on eliminating the negative as it does on accentuating the positive.

Bad is “stronger than good” bad behaviour is stronger, longer lasting, more contagious.

Technique 2 Fix Broken Windows Game

Two minutes: in duos and trios share your list with others and generate your broken windows targets. What’s the broken window that tells you the company doesn’t care?

Two minutes: share your broken window list with the group

Big lesson 2 – Scaling is a ground war not just an air war. 

There are a lot more people, it is messy and needs flexibility in a ground war.  It it not top down.  Not remote.  Speeches don’t work.  Focus on the tools that you can give to people to help them do better.

Scaling is about moving 1,000 people one foot forward not about moving 1 person 1000 feet.

Principle 3 – Connect people and then cascade 
Link people and groups who have the desired mindset and moves to those who need it.  After “conversion” occurs, they can become mentors to the next group.  People in your organization are full of knowledge about what is broken, what you should work on, and what needs to be fixed.

Scaling is a manageable mess. As we scale things break and we just need to keep cleaning it up as we go. They just can’t get to being FUBAR’d.

Resist the reflex of rounding up the usual suspects. How much muscle is there in the org? Be very careful about who you hire.

Take 100 points and allocate across 3 things. Ninja – great coder. Jedi – can they ask questions the boss hasn’t asked. Pilot / do they take risks. Hire in your org as it scales up. You really need to think about how you allocate those points.

Talent has to be multiplied by felt accountability.


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