Achieving Clarity

Originally published on Medium.

Building a startup can be fraught with a lack of clarity. From having the initial excitement around an idea that thrusts a founder into execution, to managing a large team performing disparate tasks, it is easy to lack clarity and the sense of purpose and cohesion that comes with it.

A lack of clarity can result in trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. It can result in a product that is useless. It can result in a strategy that is inadequate. It can result in employees with no sense of responsibility.Ultimately, it can lead to failure.

Of course, uncertainty is inherent — and even healthy — when building a startup. But uncertainties should be identified, understood, and monitored. That happens with clarity.

Clarity can best be achieved by documenting, in writing, perspectives on the following:

  • Problem. What unaddressed pain point is the startup solving? What do users/customers want on issues big and small? What research and experiments back up these claims?
  • Product. What is the startup’s offering to solve this problem? How does the offering work? What are its features and why are they necessary?
  • Strategy. What short- to long-term tactics will the startup pursue that form a cohesive plan and will result in growth? How are these tactics prioritized? What metrics and milestones need be to achieved, and by when?
  • Responsibilities. What skill sets are needed to execute the strategy? What is each person responsible for? Is there unnecessary overlap?

In documenting these perspectives, be thorough. Spot gaps and flesh them out. If something is unavoidably uncertain or if you are making an assumption, highlight it as such and monitor it in practice. But don’t be too prescriptive so as to dictate the actions of employees. Also be honest. With brutal and brave skepticism, forgo a feature, an employee or a business entirely if justified by clarity.

Once documented, these perspectives should be shared with and ratified before your team. Their sense of clarity is as important as yours.

As your company evolves, your documented perspectives should as well. They should be living, breathing reactions to the environment in which your company exists.

With true clarity and a strong team, a startup is unstoppable.

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For further reading on this topic, check out Fred Wilson’s What Are We Doing? and Alex Iskold’s The Culture of Writing Things Down.