Eric Ries defines a startup as being designed to confront situations of extreme uncertainty and of the only ways to beat this uncertainty is by make productivity a number one priority. But instilling the traditional managerial methods to achieving productivity can be hard for startup; and here’s why:
You want to provide your team with a platform for creativity. A concept like creativity is hard to keep track of and even harder to harness during a set amount of time. It isn’t something that one can just summon at a specific time neither is it something that one can control.
How does one put a deadline on creativity? How can you expect to get the best out of your team by pestering them every so often about “something as silly as time”? Truth is: most of us get inspired spontaneously. Our creativity can be inspired by a specific event, whilst sitting on the couch watching the telly, in a club, when out drinking or even after taking certain mind-altering substances. So, you can not put a time on when creativity should begin and end. This is where the traditional managerial methods become flawed. Firstly, we don’t have an office. But most would agree that this isn’t the most likely place for creativity to be conceived anyway. Secondly, most of us (within the team) are either broke or dependent on a not so trustworthy income stream (our allowances)- this makes going to endless weekly meetings a drag and a bit of an inefficient impossibility. Thirdly, a startup is a hustle. It’s a hustle because we were doing a number of things before the idea was conceived. Some of us were working and others were studying – and we’re all still doing the very same things. We have other obligations that need to be met along with those of the startup.
At the end of the day, we still have goals and targets that need to be met. And unless we want to be building this startup for the next half-century- we have to know when to ship. This is where deadlines play an integral role in the managerial procedure as well as in the shipping of your product.
Simply saying that you can’t put a time limit on creativity can be an easy and detrimental cop-out in terms of your productivity. It can prompt you to actually never shipping your product at all. It can put you in the “startup” position forever without ever seeing positive and adequate results. Thus, the team needs to know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by. At the moment I have a programmer in the team, Nic. Before joining us Nic was a private IT contractor. He would be commissioned to host, design and build websites for various individuals and companies- he did all of this from home. He is used to working in his own space and kinda prefers it that way. The problem with that is that it is pretty hard to keep track of his progress (as he also lives a distance from myself and Audio Skillz) and we can’t afford to be having telephone conversations every two days.
So by using the various productivity tools available online (Asana being our primary tool) , we’ve managed to keep track with each others progress by simply adding in what we want to acheive this week and then allocating the tasks to each other depending on who would be the most relevant person for the task to be handled. On Asana, a team member can comment on any difficulties he might be having with the task given to him whenever he comes across such difficulties. This then saves the time of any of the other team members as we don’t have to keep asking: “how far you with…” every time.
These free productivity tools help you a great deal in keeping with your deadlines as you get to “monitor” your team’s progress without having to hold a hundred meetings and without spending hours on the phone. They have, at least for us, become a practical alternative to traditional managerial methods.