Saleae Playbook

The 2.0 Logic Analyzers we released last year are pretty good all around I think — however the process by which they got to market was highly problematic.

2015 has been a year of recovery and reflection for me personally; things were very dicey for a long time, not really recovering until midway through this year.  Things are looking very healthy now – financially – which has been an enormous relief, and produced the mindset we can get through anything.  Turns out paying your vendors late is not the end of the world.  For a while after I was a little unsure of my direction, and spent some time learning modern web stuff like Angular so I could execute some exciting marketing efforts, but a couple months back it became clear I was just repeating my previous mistakes – making myself the bottleneck.  The problem with being able and willing to do just about anything is that it’s too tempting just to start doing it.  As they say for hiring people, past behavior is an excellent predictor of future behavior, and now — at 35 — it would be a reasonable bet to say that I’ll never become a great founder/CEO.  Well, I’m not giving up.

Here’s my view:

The CEO’s job is to execute the Company Playbook, as well as conceive, maintain, and champion it.  The Company Playbook spells out the company’s mission, its values, and how it plans and executes.  This playbook may just be in the CEO/Founder’s head, but it’s always there.

Here’s a rough/condensed outline of the new Saleae Playbook:

  1. The company’s overarching mission
  2. The values of the company
  3. The organization’s people – organizational structure, KPIs & accountable individuals, scorecards, processes for hiring (finding, attracting, and assessing), onboarding, evaluations, culture, feedback, dismissal, and communication.
  4. The organization’s partners – selection process, management process, partner scorecards
  5. Planning & Execution – KPIs, Planning & Execution cycle/process, Scrum, resolving contested decisions
  6. Finance – cost control, liquidity policy, capital deployment strategy
  7. Marketing – process
  8. Engineering — best practices for software, product development
  9. Other – security, insurance, corporate stuff.

In the CEO’s head or not, the degree to which playbook is “correct” — coupled with the CEO’s ability to execute the playbook — determine the firm’s fate.  The playbook is essentially an algorithm, and it could be quite bad, or quite good, at achieving its goal function – the company’s mission.

I think the most important parts of the playbook, in order, are:

  1. Crystal clear, compelling mission
  2. Hiring
  3. Planning/Execution, & KPI selection.

I think it is probably very advisable that the firm use Scrum for planning & execution — most obviously for product development & marketing, but I also think it should be used by every other team in the company as well.  Longer term planning activities should happen at a regular, but slower, cadence.

There are many excellent resources out there for filling in your own playbook.  Most recently I’ve been integrating ideas from Work Rules! and Scaling Up.  Y-Combinator also has a ton of material on this as do many others.  However I haven’t found resources that by themselves are entirely comprehensive.

I’ll share the full outline of the comprehensive Playbook in a few weeks.

Joe Garrison

Co-Founder, Saleae

San Francisco, CA https://www.saleae.com