First a favor. I’m doing some research on how people frame the path from insights to outcomes. If you can spare 180 seconds, please complete this short activity.
My job involves talking to (lots of) non-Amplitude teams from around the world.
Here’s a comparison of three teams from a similar domain (larger, non-startups).
What stood out was how stable things had been for this team. They were making progress on their mission. Chipping away. Steady progress. They described things that worked, and things that didn’t work as expected. Regular contact with customers. Their narrative made frequent references to impact and learning, and high-level company goals.
This will come out the wrong way, but one word popped up for me.
But in the best way! It’s hard to describe.
Things rolled along. I made a connection to when I worked at a bike shop during a tech sabbatical ten years ago. There’s a meditative aspect to working at a bike shop. Fix bikes. Sell bikes. Provide good service. When you walk out, you can leave work behind you. I got the sense that the people on this team were able to leave work behind them.
Oh, final thing, they were earning the company millions of dollars.
Here’s an equally skilled team at another company. Their experience is VERY different:
Frequent “swoop and poop” from executives
Changes in direction and focus coming from “higher ups”
Limiting constraints everywhere. “Feels like Sisyphus”
Frequent production issues
Team members leaving
Team members shared across teams
No clear narrative that spans quarters. No consistent “thread”
Getting insights took so long that they stopped trying
No time to reflect. On to the next thing.
Big shifts in direction on the leadership level “cascaded down”
It felt like this team could never catch a breath. They were extremely “busy” but nothing ever happened. Always starting, never finishing. There was no buffer at all. No boundary. Organizational dysfunction seeped in everywhere.
Team members also reported this situation seeping into their personal lives. Thinking about work after hours. Spending all weekend mulling over an unsolvable, wicked problem.
And no real outcomes to speak of. The word that comes to mind:
Very little seemed within their control.\
In many ways they enjoyed the same boundaries as Team 1, and lacked the chaos and reactivity of Team 2. Protected and buffered. “Doing our thing with good velocity”. This team had a rigorous approach to “sprinting” and planning. Reasonable quality -- stable, and fewer surprises.
But there were a couple key differences (compared to #1):
They didn’t connect their work to the big picture
Their work lacked a consistent thread and narrative
It also became clear that the chaos experienced by Team 2 was STILL happening, but at a different level of the organization. Program managers. Project managers. Big VP smackdowns. Bartering projects.
The word: Buffered
The team was buffered and protected, but that metabolic waste was still occurring (and had been occurring “for the last 5 years at least”).
The lesson here for me is that many organizations attempt to tame the chaos of #2 with #3. Create a hardened boundary around the team to protect them from the chaos and wicked problems of the org. But the goal is #1. Independence and connection to the big picture. Boring effectiveness.
There’s a version of #1 that is entrepreneurial but disconnected from the big picture. They do their own thing in ways that are not coherent, and that is a problem as well...especially in startups.
But that experience of Team #1 — regular, stable, effectiveness — really stood out.
How can you create conditions where Team #1s can exist in your organization?