Written by Chris Malby-Tynan
9 min read
Position, Position, Position: Readying Hadean For Commercialisation
I’ve been fortunate to experience a wide-range of companies during my career, each with their own quirks and novel approaches with some promoting a more distinctly more positive culture than others.
The issue surrounding a negative corporate culture has been pervasive in mainstream media ever since the Great Recession. More recently numerous high-growth unicorns including WeWork, Away, and Uber have all been highlighted for creating destructive cultures which have led to businesses folding, leaders being ousted, and worse. The culture of an organisation can make or break the business – leading it to financial success or absolute failure.
Every quarter at Hadean we come together for a Quarterly Business Review (QBR) – shutting down for a day and come together as a team and although each is unique, there are usually a few familiar cornerstones. One may be surprised that the topics we include involve everyone in the company. Rather than the topics being saved for some ‘management offsite’ where consideration and decisions are made in isolation, everyone is involved during these quarterly pauses.
A Review Of What We Have Done
“You can't really know where you are going until you know where you have been” – Maya Angelou
It’s a common phrase that gets thrown around a lot but is rarely fully employed by businesses. However, every few months, we come together – stop – and look back and where we have come from. After all, if we do not learn from history, then we are doomed to repeat it.
By doing so, we force ourselves to objectively look at what we planned we would do and what we delivered, asking ourselves fundamental questions;
Did we deliver everything we wanted to? If we didn’t, why did we not do everything? Did something else come up that was more important and required us to adjust course? Were our planned outcomes the right focuses for us?
As our company moves from pre-revenue to fully commercialised, as we moved from stealth to public-facing, and as our product moves from raw technology to market-ready; every move has to be calculated and thought about carefully.
Craig has written before about the difficulties of building a company from scratch and many of the people at Hadean have been on that journey with him from aggressive up-start through to a technology scale-up with battle-hardened tech.
When any new starter joins Hadean, they are given a copy of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Internally, many of us joke that this is one of the many ‘Beddis Books’ – Craig is such a voracious reader (100 books a year kind of voracious!) – and this is one he regularly refers to for planning and personal effectiveness.
Whilst there are numerous points that it highlights, which are demonstrated at Hadean everyday, there is one which stands out; The 4 Quadrants and the impact it has on balancing P (Production) and PC (Production Capability).
Image from Franklin Covey
This was one of the key themes we used to drive our execution focus last quarter – the ability to be Q1 about Q2 to ensure we balanced our ability to execute our short term plans for the quarter whilst making sure we balanced this with our ability to align and deliver for the longer term product vision.
The majority of companies operate in Q1 – important and urgent work, the frantically-required tasks that “need to be done yesterday” – and Q3 – the tasks that are urgent but not important such as those interruptions caused by an errant phone call.
Some even slip into Q4 – the trivial, busy work – and by that point upper management should be very concerned as to the firm’s future prospects. Despite us working across primarily these three quadrants, we should all be working towards working in Q2 – the important work that enables us to help progress the organisation forward that isn’t due today; this the sweet spot.
By stopping and analysing where we have come from, we can get a better idea about what we have delivered and our prioritisation surrounding those key deliverables. It also allows us to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes again. Not just this, but by everyone having a common piece which we can refer to – we ensure communication is clear, with little room for misunderstanding and problems to form.
A Personal Journey
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” – Aristotle
As companies grow from small- to large-scale organisations, especially at high-growth companies, individuals can feel lost in the crowd very quickly. At this QBR, we heard the personal reflections from Mirian (Mimi) Keshani who is part of our project management, operations, and strategy team. Exploring her journey with Hadean since joining more than 18 months ago, it’s clear Mimi’s career at the company has grown tremendously, working across various departments, growing her experience at every step.
Whether that be working as part of the Business Development Team to grow her understanding of Hadean’s product-market fit; Special Projects to scope, manage, and implement key topics with large partners; or, working alongside the Executive Team – Mimi has developed herself and her skills at every part of this journey.
For example, the two largest projects Hadean has been involved with this year has been our work with The Francis Crick Institute and CCP Games. Mimi was instrumental throughout both including seeing through the entirety of EVE Aether Wars. She personally managed the relationships with each stakeholder and was a linchpin in delivering the projects.
Hearing the story from Mimi, it was clear though that whilst impressive – her achievements within Hadean is not unique. There are stories from other areas of the business who, through being supported by the right environment, can see their personal growth and trajectory grow significantly.
Positioning: The product, the technology, the brand
“The death of most startups is indifference. Put simply, most companies fail to launch because no one cares: not users, not employees, not investors, and certainly not the media. It's death by a thousand shrugs.” – D’Arcy Coolican
In 2020, Hadean officially moves from a pre-revenue company to one with a fully commercial product with the full release of our Aether Engine Software Development Kit.
As we prepare for this important milestone for the company, it was integral that the entire team was on the same page with how we position our products, our technology, and our brand – or risk confusion in a marketplace already riddled with mispositioned and misunderstood products and services. Aether Engine, our cloud game engine, has been developed using HadeanOS and has achieved product-market fit across different verticals, including gaming and life sciences, attaining significant traction in both.
However, as we move forward it’s integral that we understand how we position product, our technology, and our brand to our customers, partners, and investors.
Andreesen Horowitz, recently shared an interesting topic that they’re calling Product Zeitgeist Fit (PZF). Whilst it’s true that product-market fit is critical, one thing that hasn’t been heavily highlighted enough is the market feeling at the time. This is important because it can be the main reason why a company could be a huge success one year, whereas 5 years ago before the same idea may have flopped.
To conduct the exercises, we were split into five teams, each focussing on different facets of the business enabling us to formulate our ideas together before coming together to pitch, debate, and refine collectively.
The impact of this communal work cannot be overstated.
So many times, especially in engineering-focussed organisations, there can be distinct divisions and clear silos between teams. By nearly forcing different people from different teams to come together, individuals are pushed out of their comfort zone and interacting with colleagues who they don’t usually have much engagement with. Boundaries are crossed, walls are broken down, and people have a greater appreciation for what other people in the business do and they value they provide.
To provide one example, I’ve had it posed to me that marketing are usually the team who get sent off for ‘company paid-for holidays’ whenever there is an event that the company must attend. Over time by attending the QBR’s, it was revealed to me that one engineer said to the senior leadership that by working with people from other teams, he realised they weren’t stupid and was able to comprehend the value other teams brought to the organisation.
Through this communal approach, not only were we able to improve our ideas and challenge our predispositions, we became more closely connected. Working with different people and teams, we build bridges and knock down walls that traditionally stifle interdepartmental synergies and cross-functional approaches.
So, come the end of a busy day of workshops, Hadean benefits from a universal, common understanding of what we offer, our differentiating factors, and our mission in each of the specific facets. Not just this, but Hadean is a fast-moving, cross-vertical organisation and the only way we get there is by not being afraid to work with everyone in the business, using the full array of talent and resources at our disposal.
This was my second QBR and, I’m happy to report, my favourite thus far.
Every time we have these events, it feels like it’s the end of another exciting period and ensures we are fully prepared for what’s to come. These stop-and-regroup moments are important. Based on what I have learnt so far at Hadean, I have come to the conclusion it’s clear that other companies could learn so much by harnessing the power and impact of a collaborative company-wide QBR and, in turn, nurturing a great company culture.
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