Bias Towards Action
Over the years, I’ve trained myself to get things done efficiently and quickly. The secret is having a bias towards action. This is a big part of what allows me to run ScaleMath.
Below is the framework I use.
Step 1 – Do you need to do this?
Just because you can get something done, doesn’t mean I need to get it done.
And just because someone has asked me to do something, doesn’t mean I should do it.
Before I agree to do something, I remind myself that for every request I say “yes” to, I’m saying “no” to something else.
- As a manager: how important is it for me to do this myself? Should someone else on our team be handling this?
- As an individual contributor: is this task in harmony with what your manager’s priorities are? Is it in the company’s best interest?*
In short: should I say yes to that thing? Carefully considering the time spent and the payoff for doing it.
Step 2 – Is this the best thing I can be doing with my time right now?
Once I have decided that something is worth doing and in the best interests of the company, the next question is:
Is this the most important task on my plate right now?
When I decide how to structure my work day and what I’ll focus on getting done first:
1 – Look at your company’s goals:
This can exist in the form of mission, vision, and values as well as KPIs, OKRs, or a product roadmap.
2 – Look at your areas of responsibility:
if your company doesn’t have an AOR list, I highly encourage you to implement one. It helps eliminate ambiguity surrounding who owns what process, tasks, and work.
3 – Look at your action plan:
Look at the plans you’ve made, things you’ve agreed to with others. I recommend reviewing our notes on Action Plans.
Step 3 – Company goals -> Personal goals -> Action
Below are screenshots from my own personal actions tracker. I answer the following questions step by step:
- What are the company goals?
- Based on those goals, what should my work goals be?
- What are the actions I can take to finish those goals?
After going through this process, it becomes abundantly clear what I have to do to move the needle forward. Everything else is a distraction.
I re-evaluate the list of priorities on a weekly basis to make sure I’m still on track.
Step 4 – What can I accomplish before someone assigns me an action?
What action items can you give yourself and do to make this goal happen before anyone assigns you an action item?
An operator’s greatest superpower is being able to predict the needs of an organization before anyone asks them to do it.
This means going through the logic we’ve described here and giving yourself work, giving yourself action items to act on before anyone else does it for you.
This is shockingly simple to implement. All you have to do is ask yourself what actions you need to take to reach the goals.
In order to better illustrate to do this, here are some examples for individual contributors, managers and founders:
As an individual contributor
As head of content at ScaleMath since (in terms of our work on the content site Alex’s goals are effectively my goals), I would ask: “What is the next action item I can take to advance his goals before he even needs to think about asking me?”
This could apply to anything:
- Improving our writing standards across the board, i.e. what actions can I take to make it easier for me to mirror/extract information from Alex that will help us improve our writing standards?
As a manager
As operations manager at ScaleMath, my goal is to be in-tune with our ambitious goals, making sure we’re running things smoothly and ready to take on what’s next. Here is an example of a thought pattern which allows me to do this without waiting for anyone to ask me to consider how to do this:
- Ok, so the company’s goal is to be in the position to take on 20+ new clients in the next year. Therefore, it is our goal to put infrastructure, resource planning in place to handle this.
1 – What are the building blocks needed to be able to take on one client?
Answer: each client requires us to have approximately 1/3 or 1/4 of a writer on the team.
2 – When do we need to be in the position to make our next hire, be ready to start their training and deployment?
Answer: yesterday, the next-best day is today (and yes, part of resource/training is what you’re reading now).
3 – Which departments do we have to collaborate within the company to make this work?
Answer: the content team is going to be heavily involved in a hiring decision, and so is Alex. Our head of content will work closely with them, but they need to align with budget and culture fit, so this is a decision that Alex will also be involved in.
As a founder
Below is a line of questioning that is best-suited as a founder. I have myself through this thought process, based on a investment in starting a new company we have made at ScaleMath Though, I will add that most successful founders (or those with the potential to be successful) already put themselves through this line of questioning subconsciously:
1 – What is the goal?
Answer: to create software that improves how we work at ScaleMath as well as how clients work with us and work with their own internal teams.
2 – What has to be true for that goal to happen?
Answer: we need the budget to and need to start recruiting software engineers with the ability to develop software of the standard we expect.
3 – What has to happen to make that scenario true?
Answer: ScaleMath needs to be [a certain] revenue target while maintaining profit margins (within some error boundary) to make this investment with little risk attached.
4 – What is going to take the most time?
Answer: Ensuring that ScaleMath is in a position where the risk associated is minimized and investment in hiring world-class engineers is no longer as notable to overall revenue.
5 – What are the next actions?
- Focus on systems, processes, and training at ScaleMath. What it takes to make us do more of our best work.
- Work closer with the team on aligning on their goals, responsibilities, and how they contribute to our company’s success and driving greater success for our clients (expansion revenue).
- Make an initial investment in product design, scoping, and shaping requirements.
- Start working on attracting engineering talent.
- Plan the product roadmap and its development (incl. choosing tech stack, infrastructure decisions, steps towards making us more efficient when we get started).
- Work towards the launch of the marketing site so that ScaleMath team can start working on content for the new company.
Bias towards action needs to be cultivated and continuously trained over time. When you master this skill, you will be able to apply it to all facets of your life with massive success. At this point, you will be a truly excellent operator.
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