When we say that our goal is to “nail the team and culture,” what do we mean? What does it mean to get the team right? What does it mean to get the culture right?
We talk about Product-Market Fit, but there’s also fit between our Team, our Mission, and our Market that we need to find. Like Product-Market Fit, Team-Mission-Market Fit is also constantly changing in response to organic (internal) and environmental (external) factors.
What does Team-Mission-Market Fit look like for us?
Our market environment is a classic technology startup environment: We’re pursuing a set of opportunities that have only come into existence recently, as a result of a relatively new set of technological, business, and political changes. Our business environment is fast-moving and highly competitive. There are dozens of other teams — both startups and larger companies — working on related problems and solutions.
Rewards like market share, revenue growth, access to cheap financing, and PR tend to accumulate to one big winner in markets like these.
How do we become the single dominant platform for security management in this environment? By testing hypotheses, taking risks, learning from the outcomes, and trying again — and doing this faster than anyone else. When we talk about how to find Product-Market Fit, we use the simple Y Combinator model: “Talk to customers and ship product.” In terms of Team-Mission-Market Fit, you might rephrase that as “learn, do, and repeat, quickly.”
What characteristics do we need in team members then?
Strong understanding of how we create value for users and customers
Strong motivation to create impact (by providing the most value)
High tolerance for ambiguity
Pragmatism (find and do the 20% of the work that has 80% of the impact)
Shipping fast and often (everything, not just product)
High motivation to get the team dynamics right
What does Team-Mission-Market Fit feel like for us?
What does it feel like to be part of a team that can rapidly iterate on cycles of learning and executing, especially under conditions of high stress and ambiguity?
Amy Edmundson put it well in Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams:
I conceptualize learning at the group level of analysis as an ongoing process of reflection and action, characterized by asking questions, seeking feedback, experimenting, reflecting on results, and discussing errors or unexpected outcomes of actions. For a team to discover gaps in its plans and make changes accordingly, team members must test assumptions and discuss differences of opinion openly rather than privately or outside the group.
Reflection and action, learning and doing.
It turns out this kind of environment isn’t unique to Aptible at all, in fact companies like Google, Microsoft, and ADP have spent decades and millions of dollars researching what makes the best performing teams work.
ADP’s research found similar results, phrased in terms of your individual experience.
At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.
In my work, I am always challenged to grow.
I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.
I know I will be recognized for excellent work.
I’m really enthusiastic about Aptible’s mission.
I have great confidence in Aptible’s future.
My teammates have my back.
In my team, I’m surrounded by people who share my values.
Our Goals for Team-Mission-Market Fit
Goal #1: Everyone on the team knows how the business works, and how their work makes an impact.
At this point in our trajectory as a company, every single employee has a significant impact at Aptible. As such, it’s important that you understand not only how the business works, but how your work contributes to the business at large. We want you to feel like an owner at Aptible — both as an equity holder, and as someone who feels personally invested in your work. Our goal is for everyone to achieve fluency in:
How We Create Wealth (SaaS + Platform): Business Model, Go-to-Market Strategy
How We Operate: Teams and Roles, Goals and Planning, Communications, Conflict and Feedback
Goal #2: Everyone on the team knows how and why our culture works, and contributes to the experience of creating it.
We want to find, support, and develop team members who embrace and enhance our values. This starts with being intentional about the culture we’re trying to create, and taking the time to articulate what we mean by “us”. Early on, we co-authored Our Values to clearly communicate how we work together as a team. The more these values resonate with prospective employees—and describe the people they want to work with—the more likely they’ll thrive at Aptible.
We want you to feel engaged in co-creating the experience of coming together and being at work. We build this by establishing our norms upfront and honing our interpersonal skills every day.
Goal #3: Everyone feels challenged and supported in their own growth.
In light of our business environment and the challenges of an early-stage startup, we seek team members who are intrinsically motivated, thrive on challenge, and are willing to grow. This requires that we provide every team member with exciting opportunities and the resources to succeed, both within and beyond Aptible.
Career Advocacy — Within Aptible
You have opportunities to develop and practice your skills.
You’re given increasing levels of responsibility, if you want.
You receive high-quality feedback often.
You gain exposure to cross-functional initiatives and work groups.
You’re compensated fairly and competitively for your work.
Career Advocacy — Beyond Aptible
You have opportunities to build your professional network.
You have opportunities to share your professional expertise.
You have opportunities to participate in experiences that improve you professionally (e.g. Conferences, Trainings, Workshops, etc).
You receive benefits that support your and your family’s health and well-being.
Goal #4: Management at Aptible empowers teams to be greater than the sum of their individuals.
At Aptible, most work gets done in small teams, led by Managers who play the role of coaches. We believe that everyone is deserving of good management, and that Leadership — the act of building the team — is open to everyone. We want:
People Managers to know what is expected of them, and receive the resources and training they need to run effective teams.
Individual Contributors to know how to work effectively with their Leads and feel empowered to provide upward feedback often.