These companies didn’t just hit upon a good idea. When their inventions spread like wildfire, they were able to keep up and roll with it. At these companies, every individual engineer is able to support a staggering one million users or more. Instagram’s 16-person team, for example, scaled to support 30 million users and a one billion dollar valuation.
What does this tell us? Hot Silicon Valley companies are so successful because their employees are crazy productive.
To build your company up to similar super-success, you’ll need to also attain incredible levels of productivity per employee. Here are three secrets of Silicon Valley productivity to get you started:
1. Track your progress and productivity
Google built their own internal productivity tool that encourages employees to reflect and share their progress, a practice that later spread throughout Silicon Valley to other successful startups. That tool was created by Google software developer Larry Schwimmer and called Snippets. With Snippets, employees receive a weekly email asking them to write down what they did last week and what they plan to do in the upcoming week. Replies get compiled in a public space and distributed automatically the following day by email.
Google’s Snippets process has helped them grow like crazy because it makes it easy to look back on team productivity and track progress on projects, all with minimal disruption to work. If you want to track and hack your team’s productivity as well, iDoneThis is a simple service that companies like Zappos and Shopify use to bring the Google Snippets idea to their employees. (Full disclosure: I work for iDoneThis.) The service asks each of your employees what they got done that day and then compiles and shares this information with the team for review the next morning.
2. Create a culture of autonomy, transparency and openness
If you want your team to produce more and build more, cut out the traditional manager. In a traditional company, managers communicate what’s been done, accumulate and disseminate information as they see fit and dictate what employees work on. This is inefficient. If a manager fails in any way, it debilitates the entire team.
When the big Silicon Valley engineers built their companies from the ground up, they avoided the need for managers by creating cultures of autonomy, information transparency and openness. Their employees always know what others are doing and have the autonomy to manage their own work. As a result, they are incredibly self-motivated and productive.
Give each individual employee at your startup information about the whole team, and support their decision-making authority over their work. Tools like Asana can help you achieve transparency in your corporate culture. Asana is a task management application that creates a system that allows everyone in a company to see each others’ tasks and objectives, from the CEO on down.
3. Have fun and be happy
Silicon Valley startups focus on enjoying the work they do. This is the last secret ingredient in their recipe for productivity and success, and it’s an important one. Happiness and productivity go hand in hand.
Employees are happiest (and most productive) when making deliberate progress every day towards a meaningful goal. Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile calls it “the progress principle.” To leverage the progress principle at your startup, build a company culture that values the inner work life, intrinsic motivation and engagement of employees over all other considerations. Silicon Valley companies have long emphasized these cultural priorities, and it’s made a huge impact on productivity and their culture of work.
These three secrets of Silicon Valley productivity and success all focus on enabling and empowering your employees to do what they do best. They’re also easy to implement. Focus on building a culture of transparency, autonomy and happiness, and your team will fuel your company’s success.
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