How to get anything done (Recursively!)

OMG Waffles
OMG Waffles

Say you want to get something done: Build a product, a service, a car. Tackle malaria once and for all. Distribute free meals to the homeless. In this article I will show you how to do that. I will show you how YOU can do that.

There are no task too hard to accomplish. If you have the right amount of energy you can do anything you want and move mountains. The concepts below are not rocket-science. In fact they are pretty easy to understand, and for some, instinctive. What is hard to do, is applying them in a good disciplined way.

1. Start with your goal

The very first thing that you have to do is defining your goal. What are you trying to accomplish? Say you want to start a company making waffles. Who doesn’t like waffles?
Your goal could be “I will make 10 Millions dollars in 10 years selling waffle”, but quite frankly, now is not the time to think about how much waffle you want to sell, and how many sport cars you will be able to buy with your waffle-fortune.
Your goal could be to make the best waffle possible. You are making the assumption that if you make the best waffle in the world, you will make it as an entrepreneur. There is a bit of a “If you build it they will come”, which some of you might say is wishful thinking, and others will call a product-centric approach.

Let’s look at it another way. Let’s say we will build a company that does all of things that are required to make the best waffle in the world. What it comes down to here is defining your goal in process terms as opposed to results – Or, expanding the initial goal to incorporate process thinking. By thinking in terms of processes, you will be focused on the steps that it takes to sell a great waffle, and will not be bounding your potential upside to the very initial $10 millions waffle empire goal that you initially had in mind. Of course, you will have to build processes that can scale up to make millions of waffles.

It’s not to say that you cannot start expressing your goals in terms of the target or results you want to hit – The point here is to look at things from an execution standpoint. What are the things that need to happen?

2. Design at a high level

Those things are the things that will allow you to make the best waffle possible. You are the CEO of a company that strive to become the number 1 waffle maker company in the world – Where do you start? That first level of designing will be the backbone of your company, so make sure you are doing it right. From a design / operational standpoint though it’ll be the easiest thing to design in your company. Mostly because companies all look alike from a distance.

  • You need to manage various resources likes office space, legal, HR, etc.
  • You need the best recipe possible. An R&D function.
  • You need waffle makers. A production function.
  • You need to market – A marketing function.
  • You need to sell – A sales function.
  • You need to support – A customer services function.

Let’s stop there. If any reader has waffle experience let me know so that we can add to the list above and make the article more accurate.

Break down your goal until you can't break it further
Break down your goal until you can’t break it further

I think you got the point. Understand what the things that need to happen for you to make the perfect waffle are. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t know how to do those things. In the next section we will talk about hiring people who do know.
One thing that we still need to do though is to establish what the goals of each functions should be. In the same way we did for the company at large, each of those function need to be described from a goal standpoint.
Once you have the goal, you can derive responsibilities, but don’t necessarily spend too much time on that because you will work with the people you hired to figure them out – You are not necessarily an expert salesman.

3. Hire the right people

Now that you know in more details what the things that need to happen are, you will need to hire people to do those things for you. We’ll take the example of the sales function – You need a Head of Sales (Or maybe you will decide to get a Head of Sales and Marketing – Your call (i.e. you can design roles by grouping goals together)). Before hiring you have to write a job description. The best thing to do is to go from the responsibilities (which should be part of the job description anyway), and derive the skills and abilities that will be required in order to execute those responsibilities in a good way. This is where it is a good idea to spend some time with mentors or books that will give you some answers as to what those are.
In fact, a great interview question would probably be the very open “I want you to sell my waffles, how would you do?”. This is a way to pick the brain of the interviewee, test their abilities to think on their feet, and test how much they know about selling waffles.
As you interview these people which will constitute your management team, and refine the Department goals -> Responsibilities -> Abilities & Skills chain, you will start seeing the design of the level below. But while it’s important for those things to happen in a good way, it’s not your role to go down to that level. Hire people your trust can do that in a good way. If you did design down to that level, you would be micro-managing. And we don’t like micro-managing.

4. Have these people start from the top (well, their top)

So you picked your head of sales. Now that person has to build a team – But you don’t start with the people, you start with the process. Only then will you know what people you will need.. Have them design around their goal, using the same methodology that you have used – They have to be process oriented, to think in terms of the things that need to happen. Probably they will need a pre-sales function, salespeople, pricing and billing, etc. … at which point they can start thinking of their head of pre-sales, head of billing, etc.


In case it wasn't clear - Waffle are just an example. Make whatever you want happen!
In case it wasn’t clear – Waffle are just an example. Make whatever you want to happen, happen!

Easy isn’t it? I hope I conveyed the way I see getting anything done easily. It’s all about the things that you do. All of your discussion could include things like Goals, Design, Responsibilities, Abilities, Skills. I insist, everything that you discuss or do, can be seen from the standpoint of that framework. And when you work with people who also see that framework in everything, that’s when you move mountains.

There is much more that can be written about all of this – From building your design to hiring the right people to running your design, measuring its efficiency, etc. I have thoughts on most of those things but it would probably require a 500,000 words posts. Let me know if you have any question.

Note this though: Having the perfect processes will not make you a winning waffle making company. There are things that relate to strategy that are not covered here.