great execution: balancing order and chaos


it’s human nature to prefer order over chaos. as a general rule, people want everything to be calm and predictable. we are generally as a species uncomfortable with turmoil.

ironically, in the tech industry upheaval is valued – we love turmoil. as entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, we’re on a constant hunt for new ways to disrupt markets and upend the status quo. the companies that we launch and fund are in a nonstop race for more engineers, more customers, and never-ending revisions that challenge the edges of the CEO’s sanity. working at these places can feel like riding a one-way ticket to crazy-town: an absolute sh*tshow of disorganization with no panic button to be found.

yet here’s the thing. If the environment at a startup isn’t crazy, then something’s wrong. It may seem counter-intuitive, but chaos is an essential ingredient in a startup – it is what catalyzes the innovation. think of it as a necessary state of brownian motion where ideas collide with other ideas as fueled by deadlines and desperation. there’s a limit to the chaos, however, and you immediately see what that looks like because products stop shipping.

the key to a great startup environment is finding balance, as steve jobs did at apple, jon rubinstein did at palm, and elon musk is doing at tesla motors. special kind of leaders know how to orchestrate the simultaneous demands of time, scope and quality. consider what happens when any of those elements go out of balance:

  • time/ fall too far behind a deadline, and you could miss a critical service level agreement.
  • scope/ allow unchecked scope creep, and you could end up with a bloated mess satisfying no one.
  • quality/ let quality decline, and your company’s reputation could get permanently damaged.

great leaders know how to keep the chaos driven by these three factors in balance, and constantly modulate the demands to make the chaos manageable for their company leaders and employees.

1 thought on “great execution: balancing order and chaos

  1. Pingback: If you aren’t yellow, you aren’t pushing hard enough. | - Matthew Tippett's Blog

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