Articles by Gokul Rajaram
Gokul argues that CEOs should avoid giving out Director and VP titles as much as possible, ideally never. They should focus on recognizing employees based on scope and impact, not titles. Once titles are given out, it's hard to take them away, creating organizational challenges. • Titles can become a primary motivator for employees, who focus more on getting the next title than the actual work. Titles can lead to entitlement and politics, with employees asserting power based on their titles. • Gokul proposes using descriptive job titles for individual contributors and the generic "Lead" title for people managers. The "Lead" title satisfies employees' needs while avoiding the problems of Director and VP titles. It's easier to change someone's role from a "Lead" to an individual contributor, or have them report to a new "Lead," compared to changing Director/VP titles.
- Self-serve first: the overlooked but essential paradigm underlying great software companies
Gokul provides 4 reasons why bottoms-up sales can be a great business model: Here’s why great business software companies are self-serve first. 1. Unbounded acquisition: Self-serve adds rocket fuel to customer acquisition in three ways: stronger top of funnel, rapid global scale, and unique acquisition tactics. 2. Superior experience: A self-serve first business customer experience is intrinsically better because it’s been designed to be used like the best consumer software. 3. Lower operating costs: The per-customer support cost for self-serve first companies is much lower, since most support issues are handled by customers themselves. 4. Agile mindset: Working at a self-serve first company builds an inherent scrappiness.
- The CEO’s most important operational responsibility
Gokul begins by quoting Ben Horowitz: “Perhaps the CEO’s most important operational responsibility is designing and implementing the communication architecture for her company.” A good communication architecture ensures information flows smoothly across the organization, employees understand the company's strategy and priorities, and problems are surfaced efficiently. He outlines several components of a communication architecture that a CEO must make choices around: organizational structure, decision frameworks, meeting norms, retrospectives, 1-on-1s, all-hands meetings, performance reviews, and planning processes. Gokul stresses that a CEO must regularly revisit these choices to ensure the communication architecture remains optimal as the company grows and evolves.
- Values-based Firing
Gokul explains how there are three types of reasons to fire someone: performance, policy violation, or values violation.Values-based firings are the least common, but are needed to reinforce company values.
- Running an All-hands
Gokul uses Square's all-hands meeting as a template for explaining how to extract the most value from the time spent in an all-hands. His tips break down into: • An All-Hands should be run as soon as a company or group stops fitting into a single room. • Company All-Hands should be run weekly until the company reaches several hundred people, then move to a fortnightly cadence. • Group All-Hands should be run monthly or quarterly. • The leadership team should be deeply involved in curating the content for every All-Hands. • All-Hands should have a three-act structure: celebrate people and accomplishments, drive alignment around mission, strategy and priorities, and provide a forum to ask and answer questions. • Start with Why: Kick off the All-Hands by talking about the company's purpose and how it will make the world a better place. • Strategy: Describe the company's winning aspiration, where it plays, and how it will win. • Initiatives: Highlight the top 2-3 initiatives that are relevant to the strategy, pertinent, and important. • Q&A: Provide a forum for people to ask questions in advance and vote on them. Allow for two spontaneous questions. • Provide food and drinks at All-Hands.
- Gokul's SPADE Toolkit: How to implement Square's famous decision-making framework
Gokul and the team at Square developed this framework to solve problems arising from consensus-based decision processes. The SPADE process covers the Setting for the decision, the People who take responsibility, approve, and consult, Alternatives, the Decision made, and an Explanation for it.