How to Run a Company Into the Ground

Part One – A recipe for a successful company

  1. Hire really smart people and let them create. Give them some basic guidelines and the time and space to do what they do best. Leverage their creativity and deep understanding and let them surprise you with something amazing. (e.g. Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow“)
  2. Hire mediocre drones and be prepared to tell them how to do every task that needs to be done. Create easy-to-follow processes and training manuals. Track everything they do to make sure it gets done. Plan meticulously for every deviation from the normal. (e.g. Michael Gerber’s “E-Myth revisited“).

You might hire separate groups of A and B people each doing different things, or you might hire a few A people and let them lead a team of B drones to create something awesome.

Part Two – How to run a company into the ground

A recipe on how to frustrate everyone who works with you, burn cash like it’s going out of fashion, and generally run a company into the ground: Treat the A people like B people, and treat the B people like A people. Don’t cross the streams.

3 thoughts on “How to Run a Company Into the Ground

  1. I think you need more than a one bit encoding for people’s values, skills, and task relevant maturity. Everyone benefits from checklists, even experts. They free up your focus for the hard problems and the real risks and uncertainties that the organization faces. As an organization grows, formal policies make for a predictable customer experience (certainly a key element of any brand promise). It doesn’t mean that they should be followed blindly.

    One good model for management that takes many of these issues into account is “Situational Leadership” that says you need to take into account the relevant skill and experience level when providing guidance or managing an individual or a team.

    See or for some background. I think it’s also important to distinguish between experience or skill mismatches to task needs, which can be addressed with appropriate management and training, and values conflicts between and individual and team or firm culture. That latter are much more difficult to address.

    Insightful as ever Sean. I’m going to plead guilty to making sweeping generalizations as the shades-of-gray truth just didn’t make for as interesting a blog post. Thanks for the links.

  2. I want to add a clarification point to Sean reference of the \Situational Leadership\ framework – that is not yet on the links that Sean cited: the same person can go through several cycles of maturity levels as they grow to different heights of the same job, or moving to new jobs/roles.

    I still see the point that Dave is trying to make though: failure happens when we don’t recognize someone’s skill set/maturity level for the job/situation, then mis-manage as a result.

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