Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.John F. Kennedy
Why is it that successful practitioners are so rarely great teachers as well?
The myriad of business books today seem to either fall into the camp of unqualified writers providing advice they haven’t lived, or successful leaders penning memoirs without much in the way of practical, actionable advice.
Hypergrowth: How the Customer-Driven Model Is Revolutionizing the Way Businesses Build Products, Teams, & Brands is an exemplary book of succinct, actionable leadership advice from some extremely successful marketing product leaders who have scaled multiple tech companies–namely Hubspot and Drift.
Here are some lessons that spoke to me from the book:
Transparency Promotes Accountability, Which Provides Freedom
Due to the extreme transparency of work ownership, goals, and progress within Hubspot, much of the red tape of traditional management was not required. “[I]t bought us the freedom not to have things like roadmaps and version numbers and dates — things that are all in the traditional product management world.”
Are there time-wasting meetings or processes which you could get rid of by increasing trust or transparency in your culture?
They Even Threw Out the Public Product Roadmap
“Customer needs will inevitably change over time, which means your product will need to change too. There is no real end-goal. The end-goal is evolution.
“So at HubSpot I made the decision to not set a public product roadmap. For a company that values transparency, it was a decision that led to a fair amount of handwringing from those wanting a reliable way of knowing what was coming next.
“The problem with product roadmaps, however, is that they often satiate company curiosity more than they solve customer problems. Roadmaps solve for the company not the customer. What solves for the customer is non-stop testing and a continuous improvement.”
David Cancel’s Top Principles for Achieving Hypergrowth
1. Be Customer-Driven
“This is the most important ingredient. The team has to be spending time with customers continually.” Even engineers pulled shifts on customer support at Hubspot!
2. Infuse All Roles and Levels With Accountability
“This is the ingredient that people get wrong the most. They try to have a model of autonomy with very little or no accountability built-in. Remember: Autonomy without accountability is anarchy, not autonomy”
I found this advice to be the most surprising, since shared central resources supporting multiple teams is a favorite structure of managers trying to design efficient systems:
“Because of this, teams should be designed to be as independent as possible (e.g. they should have a dedicated, not shared, designer). “
Structure the work, communication processes and tools, and culture to strongly default to transparency in any way possible.
Individuals and teams need to over-communicate their goals, performance, ideas, and concerns with the entire company via in-person “show and tell” meetings, via the wiki, and via a public scorecard of the metrics they are responsible for.
4. Iterative Approach
“After accountability, this is the ingredient that most people get wrong. They interpret being customer- driven as focusing only on major improvements/ features. What I have learned is that customers appreciate an incremental approach. An incremental approach shows customers that you are listening to them and making changes based on their feedback.”
It’s critical that individuals and teams be set up to have clear ownership over a customer-facing product. Most companies get this wrong and always regress to a “pool” model where no one has clear ownership and people work across products on design/backend/ frontend tasks.
Focus on the root causes of all customer pain points–not exactly what went wrong, easy fixes, or unique parts of that exact customer’s demographic or complaint. Think upstream!
Continually Invest In Customer Development
Empathy, listening, and challenging your beliefs are all key to learning and iterating as fast and successfully as possible.
I have this belief that everything that we create and every idea we have is wrong, and we need to get it out into the world as soon as possible to figure out how much of it is wrong and how we can correct it.David Cancel
Hypergrowth is a short book with a lot of wisdom for leaders of scaling B2C tech companies. I appreciated learning David Cancel and team’s overarching philosophy and coming away with practical advice I could immediately implement. I highly recommend it for all startup leaders.
Get the book for yourself
By David Cancel, Dave Gerhardt, Erik Devaney, and Hiten Shah