Parallel Processing Inside Your Company
I've had the pleasure of serving on a Board with Scott Weiss for the past six years. Scott is one of the best entrepreneurs/executives I know. Sadly, he's given up being a CEO to become a VC. That's the kind of competition I do not need.
Scott wrote a post on his partner Ben Horowitz' blog on Friday. I got around to reading it this morning. It's about the way Scott's company IronPort used a very high level of transparency with the employee base as a competitive advantage and the challenges they faced with that transparency as they approached an IPO. It's a really good post.
The part that really got my attention is the value of being super transparent on the company, its culture, and its productivity. Scott writes:
Over time, the benefits of transparency coupled with an emerging cultural norm of speaking up became more apparent:
I thought we would surface creative answers faster. When everyone had a clear understanding of the hard problems, their collective brains were on the table for parallel processing. The best information rarely sat with the senior executives but with the employees that were closest to the product and closest to the customers. And the best answers would often come from the most unlikely of places. For example, some of our most innovative features came from customer support reps identifying customers trying to use the product in ways it wasn’t intended.
I really like that image of everyone's collective brains engaged in parallel processing. It makes perfect sense that everyone needs to have a clear understanding of what is going on to be able to do that effectively. Over the past fifteen years, I've noticed a very strong trend toward more transparency in our portfolio companies. Many of them share their board presentations with the entire team. Many of them talk openly about the cash position, the challenges and opportunities in front of the business. Many of them encourage everyone on the team to ask questions and speak up. I believe that being "ridiculously transparent" as Scott calls it in the title of his post, is becoming best practice in managing a business.
And speaking of transparency, I'm really glad to see Scott blogging, even if its as a guest on Ben's blog. I've heard so many great stories from Scott over the years. I hope he'll be sharing them with all of us frequently.