The Teams You Worked on May Have Sucked

On who we compare ourselves to.

June 1, 2021 • 2 min read

As we grow at Steamclock – we’re now at 14 and hiring our 15th – we’re getting more intentional about how we do things. I worry less about how to do the work, and more about how to build the team and our processes.

Which is great. But it’s a problem set that is a bit more… ambiguous. We want to constantly improve. But how do we separate the big opportunities from the stuff that’s just inherently annoying?

There’s a sentiment I sometimes hear when we’re considering these kinds of problems:

Well it’s not great. But we’re already better at this than any company I’ve worked at before.

Which is nice to hear – we’re already the best! Phew. Maybe it’s just a hard problem, and nobody’s great at it. We can just move along and… wait a minute. Waiiit a minute.

We’re better at this than any company you worked at before. But how did things go for those companies? Poorly enough that you left.

Do they even exist anymore? If they do, presumably they’ve gotten better. If not, they’ve been replaced by leaner and smarter competitors. Meanwhile, we’re comparing ourselves to companies that couldn’t retain great team members. We’re ignoring the existence of the teams that are out there kicking ‘tocks, and defining the new standard for how ‘tocks can be kicked effectively and profitably.

Of course the past experience of our team members is invaluable. But we need to be actively researching what effective teams are doing nowadays. Find people who work at companies that do great work. Read what they write. When you can, build a relationship where you can share what you know and they can share what they know. Don’t let yourself feel smugly superior to the last generation of companies.

Benchmark yourself against the folks kicking the most ‘tocks.

Next in the Building Teams series: Fight for Outside Perspective →

Next in the Steamclock series: Giving a Shit as a Service →

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© Allen Pike. 👋🏼 You can contact me, or check out Steamclock.