A few years ago, I was fortunate to attend a talk given by a former senior director at Tesla. At the Q&A afterwards, a member of the audience asked the director, what it was that really made Tesla different. The two things he offered in reply have stuck with me ever since. The first was that employees at Tesla were encouraged to believe that only the laws of physics are immutable (and that everything else can be changed), and secondly Tesla was unique because it had a culture founded entirely on a bias for action.
I thought at the time (and still do) that this was a profound insight. A window into the workings of a business that has turned the automotive world upside down and become the world’s most valuable automotive company. Few businesses have a genuine appetite to disrupt established business models and even less manage to get their idea to market quickly and efficiently.
That’s why working with the international law firm William Fry on the launch of two new disruptive business propositions was both surprising and refreshing. Surprising because this 175-year-old firm was going the be the first major Irish law firm to embrace flexible working and exciting because the team at William Fry were exhibiting a genuine bias for action.
With a little help from Caffeine the team at William Fry managed to conceive, name, create, and launch two propositions in just ten weeks. ‘William Fry Connect’ is a proposition aimed at senior lawyers who want to work with clients on more flexible terms, and ‘PeopleBridge by William Fry’ a proposition that offers quality interim services to clients and businesses, flexibly and at short notice.
So how was a legal firm able to act in such an agile way and exhibit behaviours often more closely associated with the tech leaders? It came down to six key characteristics:
- The commitment of senior leadership, those working on the propositions were part of the leadership team and knew they had the backing of the firm
- A clear vision of what they wanted for the client; the team knew WHY they wanted to bring these propositions to market as well as WHAT should form the basis of each offer
- A willingness to listen to advice, as professional advisors the team knew the value in listening to the advice of those who were experts in their field
- A desire to debate and sharpen the formulation of both propositions, the team were fully invested in making the propositions as sharp as possible
- The willingness and ability to decide, the team would express a clear opinion about what they liked and WHY and would then move on to the next decision
- A refusal to allow anything unnecessary to get in the way of progress, the team prioritised the project and backed this with the internal resources to get the job done
In addition to these characteristics, the William Fry team consciously built a great team dynamic, focusing all of us on the importance of the job at hand.
So, if you are thinking about launching a new proposition, or simply trying to get something done within your own business, I’d urge you to reflect on how many of these characteristics your own team possesses? And if you don’t have them. Fix them.
Unlike some of the challenges faced by Elon’s SpaceX team, bringing a proposition to market ought not to be that complicated. Getting it done in an agile way requires a will, a way (some help from Caffeine) and a bias for action.
What are you waiting for?
Simon Bailey, Managing Partner, The Caffeine Partnership