One area where we have given a lot of thought and effort in 2015 is our team. The reason is not only the obvious one, that great people are our greatest asset. It is also our ambition to not actually have employees, but rather partners — stock is part of our salary package.
One of the biggest changes we have made is to have a total of four interviews with a potential recruit. The idea is that in order to get the absolute best person for our current and future roles, we can’t rely on the flawed and biased opinion of one person (that would be me). Instead, our entire team interviews using pre-determined questions that we then score so we can compare the candidates. Finally, we take it up for a vote, where each team member explains what they could learn from the candidate. The candidate being better than us obviously makes us better as an organization because they improve the overall skills of the entire team.
Another big change we have made in our development process is adopting the Scrum process. With Scrum we run two week sprints, with a sprint review every second Friday. This process is amazingly productive as we more or less get potentially publishable software every two weeks. This adds immediate value for our users. And as a company, we have the feeling that we’re always moving forward, and that any mistakes related to conceptual clarity limits our risk of lost development time to only two weeks at the most.
People want to improve. The intrinsic motivation to do so has been proven time and again. However, in performance reviews if you include external motivation such as pay, the motivation to learn stops. Our solution has been to totally separate pay reviews from performance reviews. The performance review is essentially done by letting our entire team score each other from 1-5 on certain skills. In addition, we document one thing we think the person should continue to do — because it adds so much value, and one thing that they could do differently — because it would it improve their productivity.
The results are followed up with a data-driven discussion with myself and another team member focused on how the individual can improve. Usually we underestimate our strengths and overestimate our weaknesses, and being able to compare the input from the entire company makes for a very positive discussion. Actually, when asked, our entire team felt that this was much more positive than the way we conducted our performance reviews in the past.
A startup needs to have focus, focus, focus and direction. However, being told what to do, well, it frankly sucks. And more importantly, it doesn’t add value simply because of the fact that the CEO and board sometimes miss objectives that really matter. Our solution to the problems is OKR’s – Objective and Key Results. With OKR’s, I as a CEO set broad goals for the year and the quarter ahead, and people get to set their own objectives and KR’s. Finally, we negotiate each person’s OKR’s so that they are synced with the overall objectives for that quarter. 60% of the objectives are set from the bottom up.
OKR’s were originally conceived at Intel. You can see a great video about how to implement them here:
In conclusion, we have set out on a journey where we aim to build a company and culture that at its core focuses on learning, data, and the possibility to build things that really excite you. Simply put, a company without employees.
Please send me an e-mail (cem [at] copypanthers.com) if you have any thoughts on this. And check out our careers page if you or someone you know would like to join us on our journey. We would love to hear from you!
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