How To Successfully Create An Operating System For Your Company

Story image for Operating System from Forbes

As a first-time founder, it took me a while to answer questions like: what do I communicate and to which team members?; how often should we have management meetings?; when do we refresh our one-year goals? Surprisingly, I found few resources on the topic. It’s like people had jobs and learned this first hand before they founded a company or something.

So, fellow first-job-first-time-founders or anyone else curious about the subject, here are a few grooves we’ve settled into — or the operating system of the company, as Matt Blumberg called it (in one of the few resources out there).

First off, why did we need a company OS? Our OS serves to define, communicate and measure our goals. It provides a framework within which every employee operates and it connects their jobs and even their most specific tasks to the greater goals of the company. At Accion, we set three types of goals: one-year company goals, quarterly functional objectives and key results (there are a lot of resources on OKRs — I couldn’t link to just one but am currently reading this book), and individual sprint tasks.

One-Year Company Goals

Each quarter, through a synthesis of customer interactions, technology progress and market dynamics, I take a stab at rewriting our goals for the next 12 months. Usually, there are around three of them. This starts out a little bit like coming down from the mountain with strategy tablets. But then these goals are opened to debate with the management team at each quarterly off-site, communicated to the team immediately afterward and repeated during town hall meetings and scrums (all discussed below) until everyone can recite them in their sleep. These are always set and discussed in the context of our longer-term vision and range from technical milestones to closing rounds of fundraising. And they are usually quite audacious.

Quarterly OKRs

Our quarterly OKRs are the main meat of our strategizing and planning, and they’re defined at the management off-sites. Participants at off-sites include not just the management team but also the technical leads (we’re a hardware company, so it seems important to have the strongest voice come from the technical side). After debating and freezing the one-year company goals with buy-in from everyone as described above, we map out the critical path to achieving them. Then we zoom in on the next quarter and write down the OKRs by function (finance, engineering, research and development, etc.) that must be completed to meet the critical path. We measure completion at the following off-site and glean insight into speed and problems. These OKRs live in our project management software (JIRA) but are not part of our performance management system (more on that in a different post perhaps).