How 3 Years at Salesforce Changed the Way I Run My Company
When Salesforce acquired my company in 2012, much of my world was turned upside-down. I went from being a young entrepreneur who had never grown a company beyond a few hundred people to being thrown in the center of an 8,000-person company that was growing so fast I rarely saw the same face twice. What I didn't realize was that I was about to get a crash course in how one of the most well run companies in history is managed day-to-day.
My first introduction to Marc Benioff's management style was the V2MOM -- Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles and Measures -- that was required of every employee. In the world of business management, it is called a planning framework, but to everyone at Salesforce, it was more like a sacred text. The V2MOM is such a fundamental part of the company not just because the CEO chooses to make it so, but because in such a fast-growing and ever-changing business, knowing who is working on what and how that impacts you is critical.
Unlike creating other planning frameworks, where facilitators charging over $10,000 come in to tease some semblance of a business plan out of your team, the V2MOM process can't be outsourced. The end result is not just a kumbaya sense of having written a document together, it's your entire business plan -- and the format of it is flexible enough that it enables a company and employees to be both strategically focused on goals, and have the ability to change quickly when something isn't working. From high-level strategic priorities, to the nuts and bolts of what is being done and who is responsible, few other frameworks fit so much on a single piece of paper.
After leaving Salesforce, I started a company called Manifold to help software developers and companies make the shift to cloud computing. In just a year, we've gone from three people to over 20, and our team that was once able to sit at a lunch table is now distributed internationally. It is at this stage in growth where having employees create a personal V2MOM becomes essential to ensuring people are aligned on goals for themselves and the company as whole.
The V2MOM model is defined by:
Values that make a difference
Vision, road maps, hiring plans and budgets are things we are all used to writing down, but defining a shared set of values that everyone in the company can use to shape their own decisions is a powerful tool.
Shared responsibility for winning
From the CEO all the way down to the newest recruit, every V2MOM in a company is connected and dependant on each other. That means when one member of the team under-delivers, you have a clear understanding of just who is impacted and how.
Alignment that sticks
Teams win because they are focused on a) the right thing and b) the same thing. This makes the process of creating a V2MOM as a team just as important as the output. As someone going through the process for the first time, it can seem precious for a startup to worry things like wordsmithing, but once you have been through the process a few times you realize that those exchanges are what lock in a sense of ownership and align everyone.
Flexibility by design
A V2MOM is only as good as its ability to change when the situation demands it. Be ready to review yours regularly and then be sure to communicate any changes broadly and clearly. Give others a chance to revise their own V2MOM in light of any changes that you make to your own.
Data driven measurement
Measures are a litmus test for how seriously the V2MOM process has been taken. In a well managed V2MOM process, the measures will be as critical to everyone as the vision. The trick? Make them glaringly simple and easily understood. The data required to make the measure should be easily accessible to anyone.
Now that we've defined V2MOM, the question is, how can you apply it to your startup?
1. Get outside the office and focus the entire team on your V2MOM.
This is one I can't stress enough, but I have been guilty of putting it off myself. Take at least a day and get your entire team together to craft your company V2MOM. Shared ownership and a sense of connection to the core will energize the team and bring a sharp focus to their own personal planning.
2. Start and end every board meeting with your V2MOM.
Once you have an established V2MOM it can become your primary way of demonstrating what you have accomplished to the board. It also makes gathering the relevant data easy when you use a common format, in this case V2MOM, throughout your company.
3. Be prepared to change your V2MOM often.
At a big company like Salesforce, a V2MOM might stay relatively the same for much of the year. For a startup, change is an important ingredient to a successful V2MOM. Write your V2MOM for a year out, plan to change it drastically every three months and then review it monthly to make sure it is still relevant. Startups move quickly and anything that doesn't feel like it is keeping up pace will calcify and become irrelevant. Don't let that happen to a planning tool like the V2MOM.
In a time when the barriers to becoming a startup founder are lower than they've ever been, entrepreneurs need to remember a vision alone isn't enough. Your team needs to know their individual responsibilities, and how those responsibilities map back to the vision, or else you are doomed to become the next Juicero. The power of a startup's vision is its ability to inspire the team, but when it comes to making sure your team is executing on what's important, a V2MOM may be your best tool to keep everyone both inspired and accountable.