Part 3 "Super Flat organization a.k.a. Super Muscular athlete!?”
A company without growth won’t be able to even pay salaries, therefore a sustainable framework is necessary for us.
Challenge is an important motto in Colorkrew, and we always say it is alright if an attempt ends in failure.
However, we also take openness as significant, which is why sometimes, members who made a mistake would present at the Casual Seminar (in front of colleagues at lunch time) about takeaways from the failure.
That’s pretty athletic, isn’t it?
Super Flat, Openness, Challenges after Challenges… sounds like a tough world for survival.
This may be more convincing to be said by someone else from Colorkrew, but the environment is not tense at all.
Like the Casual Seminar we talked about, it was not a top-down instruction. Instead, it was the person in subject who proposed to hold one.
There was a time a development leader had cost a fair bit of loss in an “outsourcing order that should not have been accepted.
Of course, the accountability does not lie squarely on his shoulders, alone, but the development content grew much larger than the designed specifications. Looking back, we should have communicated with the sales team properly and negotiated with the client about the issue as soon as possible. There was a lot to learn and review as a team during that project.
In times of development troubles, engineers in Colorkrew always lend their hands to deal with the problem. And the problem will eventually be solved, but costs and deficits increase as more people take parts.
But sometimes it is really fun when you get hands together on a problem. (Laughter)
Exactly! Just like a festival! (Big Laugh)
Our company gives the same bonus to all members of the same grade, but we also recognize people who have put up a great fight or achieved tremendous results in a way of awards.
Although the project has made a huge loss, the members were chosen to receive the award.
Yes, there were troubles, but we also saw Colorkrew spirit in how we treasure courageous challenges.
After the project has settled, he asked me why he didn’t get blamed at all.
And I said, “You’d already had enough reflections by yourself, right?”
We also talked about what the team can do when facing a similar situation, whether he has advanced through this experience, and whether he can handle it well next time.
Right after that, he took the initiative to speak with senior members and conducted a review meeting.
“What happened by that time?” “Why was that document submitted?” “The development costs went out of expectation here…”
Having all the issues reviewed, he proposed to share the case with us by holding a Casual Seminar “Shikujiri Sensei” (Mr. Blunder).
Not only his attitude is appreciated, we also love entertaining things here in Colorkrew, so it was an instant green light to start off “Shikujiri Sensei”.
Just because the person has made reflections, it still takes dignity not to blame on him, doesn’t it?
Come on, it’s in the red! (Laughter)
Challenging and then failing is completely fine. What’s unacceptable is not giving your best.
I never tried to blame him, simply because there was nothing worth to be criticized.
It just could not be helped.
What I get upset the most is when people do not give their best.
Everyone has different skill sets and experiences.
Therefore, it is only natural for them to contribute different qualities and quantities.
However, I ask every one of them to “give their best efforts”.
If you have tried all you can, and still failed, it is what it is.
I get what you mean, but in the end, it lies on your integrity.
I guess most people will still get angry at that.
Building a goal by yourself and working towards it with your whole heart is the way that gives you 120% of power in my view.
Having that said, we cannot allow things that will ruin the company to be done, that’s why we have to do comprehensive calculations with business insight.
Even if we make a considerable number of failures, a company is surprisingly solid enough to stand firm.
Of course, that comes to management’s forecast and risk management.
When failures pile up more than predicted, I will get desperate instead of angry. (Big laugh)
When a company’s president, who started off as a salesman, tries pushing rapid growth and raising revenues, I always see them blaming others if they fail. But do you think it is nothing when things go wrong?
It’s something, but we need to carry on anyway. In the end, it depends on whether you gave your best.
Working under micromanagement never gives a better result than making a strong determination by your own.
From my experience when I was young, I can tell people would not care anymore if they get blamed after giving their best effort. However, it is still important for us to rethink whether we had better options in our thoughts and actions. This is when a person who can figure that out together with you, someone like a mentor, plays a big role.
Someone who does not ask for consequences as long as you put in your best efforts. Someone who helps you out when you make a mistake. If one supporter is not enough, others will also gather together to solve the problem.
When people join as one to solve problems, it is amusing and gets people along. The lesson of failure is also shared among the team so we will not make the same mistake.
From these practices, although we had made some losses in doing outsourcing development for external companies in the past 3 years, none has been negative in this fiscal year.
I can feel that every individual is having their skills shaped up, and becoming successful in making fewer errors by sharing experiences.
It’s not that bad to take outsourcing jobs I guess. (Laughter)
It didn’t work, so I got rid of all these practices!
I am now running my company without any control, but when I started as an intrapreneur, I did implement strict controls, exactly the opposite with my current style.
Until 33, I was totally into engineering, so when I started doing intrapreneurship, I had no ideas of management at all.
I was an engineer all the way long, and has never put my mind to sales or marketing. Absolutely no clues about how to sell products or move the business forward.
It was a listed company, so we needed to submit proposals even for starting an intrapreneurship. Whether the proposed targets were met determined your performance appraisal.
A startup that focused on numbers…how strange it was. (Laughter)
By this time, we will have 3 clients, and by then we will have 5 customers…drawing awkward graphs and typing numbers – I wondered what doing business means.
We gave our best try following the plans, but it didn’t work. Well, it was an obvious matter as a new business, but I did not understand that at then.
Thinking back now, we should have listened to customer voices and improved the products which failed to move them, but in those days, I just blamed the other members.
“Why it didn’t sell! Try harder!” Harsh words. Youngness I’d say.
In listed companies, we had evaluations every quarter and every half, that’s what pushed you to the edge.
We did not sell for a whole year, and nothing went well even I got angry. Just saw red in everything…
And then, I realized something was wrong.
We made plans, but things did not go along with the plans. When we administered the engineers’ work, they just did what they are told to do so, never a step further.
Then I got desperate and stopped all those practices.
Firstly, we stopped asking clients’ needs by just our salesmen.
We had our engineers together with salesmen talking with clients directly, and it became easier to uncover their true needs.
“Uhm, isn’t it better to not control?” That popped up in my mind, and I decided to abolish various practices we had been doing.
Another example would be marketing fees.
We participated in a lot of Expos, but nothing has sparkled.
I thought by spending more expenses, it meant more returns, but it was not the case, so we quitted doing that.
Our sales team made appointments by telephone, and I hated that a lot.
I tried doing it for three days, threw up my hands, and no more telephone appointments since then.
On contrary, we switched to spreading information actively, and had the clients who wanted to enjoy this service to come to us instead.
We stopped member controls as well, since the more controls we made, the less they worked beyond instructions.
We hardly care anymore at that time, so the salesman (now the vice-president) said that “We won’t make a profit anyway, so why not go out and help those clients we get along with!”
I would have rebuked him if we were doing things the old way, but we do not care about losses anymore so I said “Sure, do whatever you like”. (Big laugh)
After half a year, he has got on with a customer very well, and although the case itself did not generate a profit, we sealed another deal through the customer’s referral.
We barely survived with that.
It was then I finally recognized that I have misunderstood business all the time.
I thought a business was there to make money, but it was in fact served to make customers happy, and money will be earned next.
Also, to make things work, we should not make people follow instructions, but allow them to try in the way they want.
Come to think of it, that’s how I worked in Agile development teams before I managed a business.
I had always been doing development in an Agile way, but how come I switched to Waterfall when I became a business guy?
I was restrained by the common way of “management” in the world.
After we became independent, we do not have bosses who will chase after us for proposals anymore, so all the development and business are now done in the Agile way.
It seems that it was the two-year intrapreneurship which went wrong. (Laughter)