A word from a CEO #39

Getting stuff done

“People often ask me if I know the secret of success and if I could tell others how to make their dreams come true. My answer is, you do it by working.”

– Walt Disney

We all have dreams of what we want our lives and businesses to become. And the greatest threat to those dreams is our ability to get stuff done.

At Drift, we dream of a day when buying from businesses is seamless and buyer centric, and certainly not as frustrating as it is today. To make that dream a reality, we must ensure that we continue to get stuff done as we grow from a start-up to a larger business. This is so important to us that many of the Drift Leadership Principles are designed to help us get stuff done as we scale.

My job is to make sure that our product teams get stuff done. And one of the things we committed to from the very beginning was to launch a new product or major capability to our customers every single month. We do it on the first Tuesday of every month and we’ve never missed a date.

When I talk with new Drift employees or other product leaders in the Boston area, they can’t fathom how we do this: We must have superior engineers or technology platform that enables this.

Well, we do have a strong team but we don’t have top secret technology or process. We use lessons that come from the same principles that help companies like Disney to continually launch blockbuster movies.

The first principle is repeatability: we invest in building repeatable engines, not running one-off projects. The difference is that engines have a cadence, and also have steps that are designed to be repeatable. Have you noticed that Disney launches a new Pixar movie in the summer and a new Star Wars movie around the holidays every single year?

The second principle is innovatedon’t invent: we don’t waste time researching and reinventing new patterns, we start with something that works. Our mobile app is based on the same UX as WhatsApp. Our conversation inbox feels similar to Slack. Have you noticed that The Lion King is basically the same story as Shakespeare’s Hamlet?

The third principle is to have a bias for action, and deliver daily results: we don’t plan long feature roadmaps many quarters into the future. Instead, we build something that solves the customer problem as fast as possible rather than managing a long project where the value comes at the end. Did you know that Pixar originally started with an animated short film, just two minutes long?

The result is we are able to deliver continuous value, in small batches, to our customers on a regular basis. And lots of things work like this at Drift, even this newsletter. Rather than writing another book that might take a year to be published, David is able to share a lesson every single week.

So how can you apply this mindset to your work?

Next time you have a big project to do, start by making a simple checklist that is repeatable vs. a one-off. Start with a role-model, a product, story, or experience that already works, and add a twist to make it your own. And lastly, figure out the smallest batch of work that you can launch that delivers on the promise.

After you run through it each time, make a point to see what worked, and what didn’t, and update the checklist for the next time.

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