Becoming a Business That Will Survive the Internet Age: Lesson 8

Strive to be great. Making money is tough. Imparting with it needs to be really worth people’s while. Be genuinely useful – so useful that people want you around. Be a catalyst for change in
people’s lives. Make people happy. Make their lives easier. Make them think differently. Make them more creative. Help people live better lives and become even better versions of themselves.

We don’t particularly like using superlatives, great and best are two typical examples, as they imply a destination rather than a journey. Instead, we strive to be better which gets reflected in goals that can be measured and goals that one has to assume.

Taking the clauses above, and accepting that they are not the be all and end all, how do we gauge/measure whether we are on the survival track?

Value to business – make it worthwhile

People will part with money more readily when they believe they are getting value for money. So how do they go about assessing the ROI. Sadly, there are too few projects whose business case is assessed after implementation. Our adaptation of “Commercial Agile” allows our clients to decide on, and prioritize each deliverable based on its value to the business. If there isn’t any tangible return identified then the project should be shelved until there is, don’t you think?

Quality

Strive to be greatIn our industry, there is a continual focus on quality. Releasing a product to market or providing an internet based service is our mirror to the world. How often have you been impacted by an online service that is not available when needed and how did it make you feel about the company providing that service? We all know how difficult it is to obtain a good reputation and how easy it is to lose.

In our view, product quality is non-negotiable so we will “contract for quality”.

In our infancy, we used the acronym SDLC (software development life-cycle) to reflect the development domain. We found that this fell short of delivering a quality product. Our development process is now classified as PDLC (product development life cycle) where responsibility for quality doesn’t end at tested, bug-free code. Rather, it extends to the product in production. There are metrics in use to make quality assessment real e.g. test coverage, number of production outages…..and a more esoteric end user satisfaction. Performing a customer satisfaction survey at the end of a project milestone will enable us to better our delivery capability continuously

Being Useful

Being genuinely useful is embodied in our Core Value “Above and Beyond” which is a platform for our team’s performance. Our team is encouraged to speak up, constantly looking for better ways, sometimes at the expense of being seen as being obstructive.

We believe our clients look to us (even if they have not been explicit about it) to bring our lessons learnt and our knowledge gained in other engagements, to their attention. If a client is expecting a cookie cutter type partner, it’s not us. Being useful extends beyond the contract and has both a technical and personal flavor. In our development process we are easily able to accommodate change enabling our clients the flexibility to adapt their requirements for competitive advantage. The words “no can do” and “it’s not my job” are not part of our vocabulary.

Creativity

“Make people creative” is rather subjective don’t you think? Creativity is not within everyone’s ambit and it’s difficult and dangerous to judge whether a team member or for that matter, a team, has creative juices. So we need to create the environment in which our team members’ ideas can flourish; an environment in which people feel safe, will not be embarrassed because of language or hierarchical boundaries. In any group of people, there are typically 3 types when it comes participation at team events. Those that never say a word, those that only talk when prompted and those that have little issue with making their opinions heard. The latter unfortunately can smother the opinions of the other 2 groups so as not to miss out on the opinions of the first two types becomes the responsibility of the group leader. In our team events, all members are invited to voice their opinions, thought, and ideas. Not surprising some of the really worthwhile input comes from the first two types. Removal of hierarchy in these team sessions is essential as “the boss doesn’t always know best”.

Make People Happy

Left until second last but most important by the proverbial mile is making people happy. Happy people perform better and radiate their happiness to those around them. So how do you know if someone is happy? Ask them. We do this at our personal reviews. This provides us with a forum to delve into the general and individual happiness of our team and take appropriate action. One pervasive issue is poor communication viz. top down communication which is relatively easy to address via vehicles like open communication via team meetings, off site and on site, one on ones and newsletters. Taking team members input on whether they would like to work on project x with client y can preempt an unhappy situation. Just the mere fact that they have been consulted before action is taken goes a long way to showing respect and care – demonstrating that we live our core values.

A recent HBR article reminded us that different groups have different expectations from their companies, in this case, millennials look for certain leadership attributes. One size doesn’t fit all and providing people with choices about their work environment helps make them feel cared for.

For a real eye-opener, you may ask your staff “What 3 things would you do as the company MD”? A word of caution: don’t ask the questions if you are no prepared to invest time and money on the answers. Team members need to feel invested in.

Helping others, making a difference, makes us feel good about ourselves. Adopting a company cause will have the added benefit of growing the team. It is best to select the cause without any underlying motive or select the cause and be open about your motive. How your team members feel about their jobs, their leaders, their company and their customers drives their behaviors. If people feel valued and appreciated, they invest discretionary energy in serving customers, peers, and company exceptionally well. If they don’t feel valued and appreciated, they won’t invest a thought, much less an action.

For more ideas on this segment refer to our “Motivating Knowledge Workers” blog.

In conclusion

These lessons are invaluable for us in assessing whether we are doing the right things to keep us in the survivor column. Most of the ideas above are being adopted by us at Symbiotics. We do not have all the answers but are happy to share with you those that work. Please help us by sharing your thoughts and experiences.

10 Lessons on becoming a business that will survive the Internet Age:

Published courtesy of Future World and because these lessons resonate with us.

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