Growth, Tools and making your own path

OKRs, KPIs, NSM, OMTM, Customer Journey Maps, AARRR Funnels, AIDA Funnels, AIPL Funnels, Rocks, RACI… Startup-land has an addition to tools.

These tools are great, they present frameworks to help you think through and process complex challenges in organised and systematic ways. 

But there’s a danger of being too reliant on these tools, and sticking religiously to how they are structured to work. And that can have the effect of creating friction in the way an organisation operates. 

At the end of the day, the tools are frameworks of thinking, that have come from generally anecdotal experiences of the authors, its not like these models have been tested on thousands of organisations systematically and the failures weighted against the successes. If anything, most of these models are delivered in the form of books and courses, with a direct incentive to promote confirmation Bias of their success.

As a founder, your business is unique to you, the way it works, how its managed, and the individuals that make up the team will always operate differently from others, even if there are commonalities. 

Its therefore incumbent on you to really think about what tools, processes and management models you choose to use and how you can modify them to suit your unique circumstances.

At the end of the day, a tool/model is only as useful as its capacity to support the business, if the tool starts getting in the way of the company getting things done and delivering results, then you need to question the tools effectiveness. 

This being said there are a few tools that I find particularly useful and they related a few areas the come up as common weaknesses in the companies that I’ve worked with.

Weakness 1 – accountability – I find RACI is great for this, but most of the time, I primarily focus on the R(responsible) and A(accountable) roles.

Weakness 2 – Direction oriented Results – results are only as good as them driving the business in a clear direction, I like using OKRs for this, reported weekly, however I apply OKRs much differently to most, I assign only 1 objective for the organisation and each team as up to 3 KRs aligned to that 1 objective. KRs are measurable and leading deliverables, meaning we can measure them and they are in the control of the accountable person to influence. 

Weakness 3 – understanding the flow of the (business) machine – a lot of the time to optimise a business you need to understand the flow of value within it, ie. the flow of the service/product/good the company provides and the flow of money it receives, so for this I really like to look at the business/financial model, broken down into unit economics and mapped against some kind of funnel, there’s plenty of funnels you can choose from, but all I really care about is the flow of value and money and were there are bottlenecks in that flow, for me, the rest is just semantics.

So as you can see, its easy with all the tools and models out there to think that apply these tools will improve your business, but the fact is that improving the business isn’t a case of finding a tool that you can just plug and play, if anything that lazy approach is more likely to lead to failures, we should see these tools as concepts and lessons that we can take and apply aspects of to our own business.

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