The Strategist

It's Going to Be Hard: Unraveling Knotty Business Issues

01/21/2016 - 15:52

There’s plenty of information on how to operate a company in good times. But how to stay afloat when all good times are suddenly gone? Ben Horowitz answers this question in his book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things".
Crises, layoffs, restructuring and schemers in the team, and your nerves are frayed... How to cope with all this without going crazy? Arm yourself with the advice - and the apocalypse will never come in your company.

Answers to tough questions

“Every time a book about management or kind of "self-help" falls in my hands, I find myself thinking that all these recommendations are good, but actually there was nothing particularly difficult in the situations described in the book.

It is easy to put a global, risky and audacious goal. What’s difficult is to fire people when failure to reach it becomes clear. There’s nothing special in hiring brilliant staff, but realizing that these "brilliant staff" believe they are worth special attitude is a much serious problem. It is easy to draw a future company’s organizational structure on paper, but much more hard to achieve effective interaction between employees within it. Building global plans is a piece of cake, but waking up in a cold sweat when your dreams suddenly turn into a nightmare is horrible.”

We care about people

“My old boss Jim Barksdale was fond of saying: "We care about people, product and profits - in that order." The statement is simple, but very profound. "We care about people" – is always the most difficult part. Yet, if you ignore it, the other two will lose value. Caring for people is to make the company a good place to work. Most organizations are far away from it. As the scale is growing, important work goes unnoticed, best employees are bypassed by clever wire-pullers and bureaucratic procedures displace and kill the creative joy of work.

The Peter Principle

Why does almost every company make mistakes when determining the list of posts? If you've ever worked in a company, then you have surely come to think about causes of unremarkable managers’ career growth: "How he managed to get the post of vice-president? I would not trust him even a lemonade kiosk." One of the reasons is the Peter Principle, formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull.

The Peter Principle states: in a hierarchical organization, employees are moving up the ladder as long as they are working competently. Eventually, they will be appointed to a position for which they do not possess necessary competence (it is their "level of incompetence"), and stay on it being unable to earn a further increase. The Peter Principle is inescapable, since there is no way to beforehand determine at which level of the organizational hierarchy an employee reaches the incompetence level.

A CEO for peace and a CEO for war

“My greatest discovery in the management associated with the following situation: it turns out, times of war and peace require completely different management styles. Interestingly, most of the books on management describe the management procedures for peacetime, but very few authors delineate those for war. Peacetime CEO knows that following a correct procedure ensures victory. CEO wartime violates any procedure just to win. Peacetime CEO focuses on the global picture and delegates specific decisions to their subordinates. Wartime CEO delves into the smallest details if they can help to achieve the main goal. There are a lot of nuances."

What is the secret of success?

“I always ask: "What is the secret of success for CEO?" There’s no mystery but one quality that distinguishes successful CEOs from mediocre - they can focus and make right choices when it seems that there are no choices at all. The precise moment when you want to hide or die decides what a CEO you are.

The hard thing about hard things that there is no out-of-the-box solution. When struggling uphill, you can use other's experiences and tips of people who have already gone through it. Remember that there is always a way out.

based on "The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers" by Ben Horowitz

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