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Focusing the team on “what really matters” (WAM) is a force multiplier.

Whether you are a start-up or building a new product or service in a large multinational, any new business idea will require you to enter an unpredictable “exploration mode”. A period which, despite all the planning in the world, will take you on a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. When business leaders enter such a phase, survival is driven by and based on velocity. Like the rollercoaster which uses velocity to keep you pinned to your seat and the car on its tracks, velocity in business is equally essential if you are going to keep your ideas on track. In business the crystallisation of new ideas is subject to the unforgiving and brutal forces of constrained time frames and resources whilst taking corners at breakneck speed; at times you may be upside down and under extreme pressure. It is thrilling but it is also high stakes.

Despite all the potential distractions and unstructured environment you find yourself in, finding your focus and then keeping that focus across the team is an essential habit. Establish and agree as early as possible “what matters” and then avoid vanity metrics like a nasty disease as they can be fatal. Please read - Lean Start-Up for more on vanity metrics!

In the companies I have been involved with we have tried to simplify the noise down to 4 well known key ingredients to success. I believe if you get these four areas right you are well on your way to success. I am not saying they will last forever, as competition will always arbitrage you out of your current position, but by focusing on these foundational business principles, you will go a long way to developing a sustainable profitable business model.

  • Customer Value Proposition (CVP)

  • Go-To-Market (GTM)

  • Business Economics

  • Product & Operations

I suggest keeping a summary on a business canvas.

I recently bought everyone at Darkbeam, Eric Ries’s Lean Start-Up which quickly and effectively got the entire team speaking the same language and focused on what we now term “what actually matters” (WAM). WAM has become a force multiplier. This enabled us to establish a framework where we can efficiently spin up product tests, gather important data and if WAM is not being met - adjust quickly. This is an evolutionary process, almost Darwinian in so many respects, the team need to be vigilant and critical to ensuring that the boat they are steering remains on course and pointed directly at WAM. During this process, establishing an early win can be a life saver and from this you gain the energy to scale and head for higher grounds. Like everything in business, you will need to re-evaluate your WAM as you mature, so don’t get blinkered but get real and focused.

Over the years I have seen and witnessed many more brilliantly designed products fail than rather mediocre products succeed. Why? To a greater degree the main reasons for failure has nothing to do with the high costs or lack of funding etc (I have heard them all at this point!) but the fact they never established a credible CVP that resonated with the market, which ultimately stalled their work to implement an effective GTM plan, which in turn derailed their chances of establishing any reliable economics and ultimately limited their ability to build an operation which would support their product and customers.

Whether in a large business tasked with crystallising a new idea or in a start-up, fast and decisive decision making is not just important, it is critical. You will soon find that it doesn’t really matter if the decision is wrong, the importance is that it is made and if it is wrong you have the mindset and elite team to adjust quickly.

Finally, with the odds against you, ensure your decision making is underpinned by WAM and if it doesn’t affect WAM, don’t get distracted and divert resources into vanity activities. I have found these basic principles and practices are a genuine and an exciting force multiplier in small resource constrained teams.

You can almost hear the acceleration of the team when you start to get this right. Speed is your friend.

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