I recently listened to the audiobook The Founder’s Mentality. This book posits that many companies experience 3 problems during their growth phase: overload, stallout, and freefall. As companies get larger, complexity and bureauracy increase, so “overload” starts to kick in. Left unchecked, this overload eventually leads to stallout—the company is stifled in terms of innovation and growth is difficult. Finally, when things start to look really bleak, the company goes into freefall where the stock starts to decline, people leave, and eventually the company folds.
The book recommends 9 things to turn the ship around for a growing company: a bold mission, “spikiness”, a limitless horizon, customer advocacy, frontline empowerment, relentless experimentation, strong cash focus, a bias to action, and an aversion to bureaucracy. I felt there was a lot of overlap between what these recommendations and two other popular movements today, namely DevOps and Agile. I put together the following table to explain this overlap as I see it.
|The Founder’s Mentality||DevOps||Agile||Notes|
|Insurgency: Bold Mission||-||-||Neither DevOps nor Agile has anything to say about your company’s mission. Rather, these practices are meant to help you achieve it.|
|Insurgency: Spikiness*||Automation, virtualization, and open source software allows the business to focus resources on things that matter most (the “spikes”).||Short, focused sprints allow us to pivot quickly to something that requires more attention (the “spike”).||Neither DevOps nor Agile speaks to where a company should spend its resources, but each provides some flexibility in moving those resources around (whether the resource is time, money, or attention). Even most tech companies are not in the business of managing data centers, so why spend the time or money on that non-core business matter?|
|Insurgency: Limitless Horizon||-||-||Again, neither practice has anything to say about how the company defines itself or its potential.|
|Frontline Obsession: Relentless Experimentation||Experimentation is a key component. This is one way teams continuously learn and improve.||Experimentation is not mentioned explicitly in Agile, but it is probably an unspoken tenet as means of continuous improvement.||Lots of overlap with DevOps and The Founder’s Mentality on Experimentation. Agile doesn’t have as much to say directly about experimentation, but it is somewhat implied in the iterative approach of design and development through sprints.|
|Frontline Obsession: Frontline Empowerment||“Keep pushing quality closer to the source.” The frontline is the source of design/dev/ops work.||Heavy emphasis on teams: “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.“||Agile’s emphasis on self-organizing and empowered teams really echoes the “frontline empowerment” of The Founder’s Mentality. Also, DevOps emphasizes pushing quality out to the source of work, which requires empowering the teams doing the work.|
*Spikiness: “Competitiveness comes from sticking to what the company is great at and focusing resources ruthlessly on these few spikey capabilities.” “[B]eing world class at those things that really matter for customers and decidedly average at the rest.”
There is a ton of overlap between these 3 topics. In my mind, The Founder’s Mentality is DevOps/Agile explained in a way that non-technology-centric business executives can relate to. It reinforces to me that, at the end of the day, product, design, development, operations, and every other unit of business are all trying to achieve the same thing, but we have various ways to execute on that vision and occasionally our terminology doesn’t line up. Hopefully a comparison like this will help bridge the gap for some folks out there.