I’d like to share with you a very unique experience of mine. It happened during my first couple weeks working at Ubiqua.
After a couple months of steady and stable operations, we faced a product crisis. All of a sudden different things started to break down; for different clients. It was a mess. With so much running on the line, we couldn’t afford to lose our only clients. So naturally, we moved into what is famously coined by Ben Horowitz, “Wartime”.
It’s been 3 weeks since we entered Wartime, and we’re slowly starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. A lot of changes were made in order to make progress and get where we are now. Below are some of the most radical of them:
- Rigorous Alignment
We identified as an issue that every individual/department had way too many priorities. Some of them short-term, some long-term. During Wartime, there is only 1 priority, achieving product stability. Everything else takes second place after that. Imagine evaluating everything you’ve been doing so far and believe that you need to continue to do and giving it a critical “Yes/No”. That’s exactly what we’ve had to do to make sure that everything that we do rigorously aligns with our #1 priority.
- Plan for What You Don’t Know
“If the problem were obvious we would have figured it out by now.” This characterizes the mindset we’ve gone into wartime with. We accept the fact that we don’t know entirely what’s wrong. Given these circumstances, we can only plan so far ahead in terms of how to fix it. So naturally, we’ve had to plan for buffers, or allocate time for “figure it out once we get there” and “assume something will come up that we’ll need to solve too”. In trying to put out so many fires at the same time, it’s been incredibly important to leave some extra ‘slack’ in our system to allow us to tackle issues as they come up.
- Survival of the Fittest = Flexibility + Adaptability
When Darwin spoke of Survival of the Fittest, he meant “better designed for an immediate, local environment”. In the case of Wartime at Ubiqua, Survival means adapting to best meet the needs of our current product crisis. This requires a significant shift in mindset, narrowing our horizon from 3 to 4 months out, to focusing on the next immediate 1 to 2 weeks. We needed to face the fact that things are changing incredibly quickly and become comfortable dealing with the uncertainty and fast pace of change. It required a sort of emotional flexibility, or Emotional Resilience, from all of us, learning to “roll with the punches” and keep moving forward through these tough times.
Don’t get me wrong. Wartime has actually been a blessing in disguise to us. There are many benefits to facing a ‘Wartime’ with your team, at an early stage of a company that result in better aligned, more cohesive efforts. A few of the biggest benefits achieved so far include:
- Increased Transparency
Given the dire need for communication and understanding, we’ve had to significantly increase our transparency when explaining the priorities of all of our departments. People aren’t afraid to ask for in-depth explanations and ensure they fundamentally understand the root cause of a problem and what’s being done to solve it.
- Increased Criticalness
When facing some of the most complex issues, we swarm tasks together. This gives us the opportunity to have more critical thinkers, more second opinions, and more cross-functional ideas that altogether result in better thought out solutions.
- Increased Synergy
We have more then we can handle. It’s a fact. This means that everything we do has to somehow contribute both to our immediate tasks and those of our colleagues. As a result, the work being done by each of us is more interconnected than before, and better at helping us achieve product stability.
It’s been a great experience to work together with the Ubiqua team through this period of Wartime. Obviously we all can’t wait to see the light and enter ‘Peacetime‘ once again, and start working on long-term projects and what not. In the end, I am confident that we will come out of this period much stronger as a team and better fit as individuals to tackle future challenges that come our way.