Marketing had a bit of fun at this year’s kick-off. I must say, I hate hearing myself, or seeing myself on camera. I’ve got more respect for actors.
Archive for the ‘Ping Identity’
I have been an entrepreneur for over 15 years. Like many, I have made many mistakes along the way. Fortunately, I’ve have had the great benefit of having mentors with incredibly varied experience to help provide perspective and learning through these years. From these trials, tribulations and lessons, I have developed and honed a set of guiding business principles, which now define who I am as a businessman. I am sharing these principles in this paper with the hope that it will help both those deciding to take the venturous business route and those I work with today whom would like to better understand my business philosophy.
Principle #1: Pursue Good and Fair Profits
A fair profit comes from the melding of resources, over time, in such a way that the resulting widget is worth more than the value of the sum of the parts. This is the point in which true “value creation” happens. It means you don’t charge customers just because you can at a particular moment or circumstance – say an emergency. This is price gouging. Beyond being illegal in most circumstances, it is also a sign of an opportunistic company thinking of immediate term only. Good and fair profits leave both transacting parties in a place of satisfaction. The pursuit of fair profits speaks to the overarching integrity of an organization across multiple dimensions. Understand that your value will change over time depending on competitive factors and you’re ability to keep pace. “Good”, long-term profits means you have to keep up with growing customer demands. If you have leverage over a customer and you use it unfairly, customers will take note and pay you back at their earliest opportunity (e.g. think Blockbusters late return fee policy in the age of Netflix and video on demand.) If you care to build a sustainable business, balance profit taking of today with profit earning of tomorrow. Here are some things to keep top of mind.
● Pursue the win/win with customers in every situation.
● Strive to beat your competitors, not your customers
● If you decide one day you must stratify your products, “reach up” with augmented features and functions, versus creating a “reduced” version by removing features from the product you have. This is not value creation, this is value destruction.
Principle #2: Lead with Vision, Values, Culture & Passion
People are the biggest input to most businesses. Hire for passion, attitude, values, IQ and train for aptitude. Treat people with respect, create a positive working framework and then get out of the way and let them do their job. And remember that there is no substitute for passion, values, culture and vision. These are not just words through about, but descriptors to a manner of operating. Good passion, values, culture and vision cannot be faked. They are earned and owned. It’s how you lead, it’s what you say, and it’s how you live. Get this right and everything will fall into place. Get this wrong and you will always be sub-optimized. Ignore them entirely and you will fail eventually if not immediately.
Principle #3: Put People First; Put “We Before “I”
So many companies treat people like machinery with a defined output. This is short sighted and wrong. If you care to manage to the minimum bar, treat people like revenue producing units (“RPU’s”). If you wish to do something spectacular, put them first and let them put your business and customers first. If they don’t know that you have their back, they will spend their time and energy mitigating their perceived personal risk, and this deprives your customers and your business of energy and focus. When the needs of teams and the needs of individuals come to odds, focus on the team. Great accomplishments require a group effort.
Principle #4: An Unchecked Ego Makes Poor Decisions
There’s a saying that an “Ego is a terrible thing to waste.” A healthy ego is a requirement for entrepreneurs and their early teams as cowering to rejection and self-doubt are the suicidal tendencies of a young company. Often times unfortunately, it’s the ego that tends towards narcissism and emergence of the destructive ego – an ego that is unhealthy and wasted. An ego that empowers with perseverance, not arrogance can only come through process of “self-actualization.”
When it comes to behavior motivated by ego, the ends do not justify the means. Perhaps if you’re one-dimensional and only care about short-term profits, you can manipulate people, customers or future debt to obtain unfounded near-term profits. But if you look at winning holistically and consistently, and take into account winning across every dimension, you cannot make good decisions based upon ego.
Watch for the ego-driven individuals feeding their own need to stoke the savior complex by lighting the very fires they must organizationally extinguish. It makes them a hero and it feeds their ego. You won’t see them actively lighting a fire, most do it unconsciously by not pro-actively managing the business. They key to successful management is to head off a fire while it’s yet a trace of smoke. Ignore it and you have a fire, and an opportunity for an ego to become the hero.
The other place where ego’s get into trouble is in expectation management. An ego driven individual is motivated to receive praise in the moment. This leads them to create unrealistic goals and expectations to receive praise in the moment. This behavior inevitably leads to situations where a company under-performs to expectation. Everyone loses when this happens.
Principle #5: No Short-Term Decisions
Many companies and management teams are plagued with short-term thinking and a focus on short-term gains. Many incentive plans only exacerbate the issue, focusing on quarterly or annual performance without due consideration for future ramifications. In stark contrast to the shorter-term American business philosophies are those of
The consequence of short-term decision making is that, over time, it will limit your future options, largely because they tend to compress tomorrow’s profits into today’s time frame, while pushing today’s costs into the future. The result of this over time is that you will eventually have to pay, and when this happens, you will lose people and market momentum. Perhaps this is sad commentary on the state of much of today’s leadership, but many appear driven more by short-term personal gain than by building world-class businesses and long-term market value creation.
Principle #6: Beware of the “Hail Mary Passes”
We all love the idea of the 11th hour win or the so-called “Hail Mary Pass.” It creates the dramatic Hollywood ending. If it happens, be thankful, enjoy the drama for one minute, and then figure out what when so terribly wrong with the business that the ending of a financial period was met with the unexpected. When you rely upon a silver bullet or a Hail Mary, you place your future in the hands of luck. This is a poor strategy that will likely end badly – statistically. Remember the following when you plan to win by Hail Mary:
● If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. See “Think, Plan, Aim, Act”
● If you believe that balance is the key to sustainability, and strive for the win/win, you abhor living a roller coaster ride of ups and downs (optimism followed by reality)
● You will understand and appreciate the beauty in having near term focus on long-term gain.
Principle #7: No Future Debt
Don’t push the true cost of today’s actions into the future or worse yet, onto others. The first is a bad strategy, which will harm you later, and the second is simply wrong.
Principle #8: Maintain Balance
Finding and maintaining balance is hard. Our society teaches us to be myopic and short sighted. Yet achieving balance creates a foundation for sustainability. It’s powerful when given time to work, but it is an investment in your future. If you don’t plan to last, perhaps you don’t need balance. You can sprint and subsequently crash. Planning for short-term outcomes can be profitable, but it’s risky, because it limits your future options and creates a future debt that eventually you will have to pay. Some don’t worry about the future debt they create because they don’t intend to pay for it themselves. Instead, their strategy is to make it someone else’s problem. This strategy lacks integrity.
In nearly every decision, a view towards balance should be considered.
● How does this short-term decision impact us long-term?
● How does our focus on tactical execution not set us up for the future (strategic)?
● What takes precedence when work and family life are fighting for my time, attention and energy?
● If I sprint now, how long will it take to recover such that I can sprint again? Is now the right time to sprint or is now a time to conserve energy and resources?
Principle # 9: Innovate!
Innovation is how we grow the pie or create matter from energy (something tangible from an idea). It’s the foundation of abundant thinking and a win/win philosophy. Innovation comes from within. Don’t expect your customers to lead you to innovation- they may not know what they need or want until you show it to them. You need to think out of the box to innovate – and this is the core of entrepreneurialism. Focusing on the problem at hand won’t get you there. You need to think non-linearly about problems. Often times, scarcity is the sandbox of innovation — which is in of itself ironic. It’s ironic because scarcity is the spring well of abundance.
Principle #10: Run Lean. Always
Just because you can throw money at a problem doesn’t mean you should. In fact, it likely is the worst thing you could do, and it’s lazy. It deprives you of the creative solution (e.g. an innovation opportunity) and it saps the company of precious resources that could be used more effectively elsewhere. Running lean doesn’t mean run your resources to zero. It also doesn’t mean run your existing resources at 90%+. Save for a rainy day and unexpected events that are beyond your control. Running lean day-to-day saves resources for when they’re really needed.
Principle #11: Be Pro-Active
I measure myself on the number of fires I need to put out. If I’m putting out fires, I’m failing. A form of future debt is denial and neglect. Neglect an issue long enough and it becomes a fire. Neglect it even longer and it becomes a firestorm. Think of fires as a symptom, not a cause. The cause was that someone was playing with matches in the forest on a hot dry day. I have a saying, “Run the business or the business will run you.” I prefer to focus on causes before they become fires. It’s a matter of being proactive rather than reactive. I’m not lazy, but being preemptive is actually a lot easier and less time consuming than dealing with symptoms. When things become a fire, they spread to other departments and take an emotional toll on the company. This saps productivity, energy and enthusiasm. Of course, being preemptive won’t feed your ego, but if you spend all your time fixing things, you’re simply doing it wrong.
Principle #12: Bad News First
Good news is energizing, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the truth.
Principle #13: Stay off the Roller Coaster
Compressing future profits into today’s consumption creates bubbles. Invariably bubbles burst and this in turn leads to emotional highs and lows. Like being on a roller coaster, but only fun for the first few seconds. I love roller coasters, but I hate being on one with my business. I’ll take slower, steadier growth any time. It’s easier to manage, it’s easier to create expectations around and it won’t give me whiplash.
Strive for Better
In business as in life, I truly believe there is no *final* destination. It’s a series of challenges and summits followed by a series of challenges and summits. It ends when you want it to end, or when your poor decision-making forces it to end. “Best” is at best — temporary. There is always better. Life is a journey in which, as long as you’re alive, you can strive to do better.
Principle #14: Simpler is Better
The world can be complicated enough. Don’t make things more complicated. It’s a true gift to distill complex problems into their simple essences to better understand them. Until you truly understand the essence of the problem to be solved, it will be hard to fix the issue.
Principle #15: No Failure, only Learning
When you fail, you haven’t “failed” unless you haven’t learned. Pick yourself up and try again. Anything and everything can be achieved with will, passion and hard work.
Principle #16: Actively Manage Expectations
Whether you’ve won or lost is largely a matter of your expectations. Setting the right expectations, achieving them and then exceeding them early can create an uplifting vortex of momentum that carries you and an organization into over-achievement. Creating the wrong expectations can demoralize you and a team from the start. If you allow your ego to penetrate your decision-making, you’ll set poor expectations. It’s smart to leave some margin in your back pocket. You live the glory of your annual forecasts but once a year with a board. You live the results of your forecasts the following 12 months. Under promising and over-delivering is a lot more fun. Trust me.
Principle #17: Causality is Real (Cause & Effect)
You are not a victim. You are in control of more than you likely assign to yourself. If you take the time to retrace your actions, you’ve had some part, likely significant, in every circumstance that surrounds you today. Taking ownership of that fact is a powerful tool. It means you’re in control and can effect change. Don’t sell yourself short by blaming others for your circumstances. Own your situation. Be accountable.
Principle #18: Think, Plan, Aim, Act
Fools rush in and false starts are more expensive than you likely realize. If it’s worth pursuing, it’s worth the time to investigate, plan and do it right.
Principle #19: Lead. Don’t Manage
People don’t want to be managed. They want to be led. If you’re not familiar with the concepts behind servitude leadership, read up. If you look out for people, your people will look out for your business. People don’t work for you. You work for them. You’re job is to make them successful. Full stop.
Principle #20: Turn Art into Science
If you don’t understand it, you can’t repeat it. If you can’t repeat it, you can’t scale it. If you can’t scale what’s working, you’ll never be successful. There is an art and a science to everything. The art is beautiful. It’s like magic, you can’t explain it, but you love the outcome. When you’re lucky enough to have a person who has the art of making something work, consider yourself lucky, but don’t rely upon it. You’re job is to turn the magic into science, to demystify why something works and turn it into a simple, repeatable processes which can be achieved by mere mortals.
Principle #21: Intelligent Reaction
You may be smart but you won’t predict everything. Adapting to a changing environment quickly is a weapon not just of survival, but also of offense. To any surprise in life the human mind has to distinctly different modes that tend to fight each other. One is that of emotion and the other of the mind. It is the leader’s responsibility to tap the motivation of emotion while harnessing it with the composure of the intelligent reaction. After all, business is ultimately supremely rational.
“About a dozen times a year, a CEO contacts me, concerned about how to deal with the founder of his company, who is still in place. Sometimes, the CEO says it’s a pain to deal with the founder’s nervousness, and the CEO doesn’t want his own time consumed with hand-holding. Generally speaking, what are your thoughts? Bernie Daina, Ph.D., Organizational Psychologist, firstname.lastname@example.org
I obviously have a soft spot for founders. But like so many things in life, one of our strengths is also one of our weaknesses. We don’t ask people if we can have something, we just take it — likely because no one would give it to us if asked. We’re genetically overly self-confident optimists. We like to make our own mistakes to discover our own limits.
This means we often don’t take the time to listen until we’ve scraped our knees, or failed in some way.
There’s an aspect to partnering with a founder that’s a lot like taking on a second marriage. In marriage, the first wife trains a bachelor how to husband and the second wife receives the gentleman. Turning the tables, if I were someday the CEO brought into another company and asked to partner with a first time founder, I’d take note of how aware the founder was of his own strengths and limitations. If the founder was aware, then I’d know coaching & partnering is possible. If not, then I’d know establishing mutual respect would be difficult. Especially if tough decisions needed to get made quickly.
I’ve found that lasting business relationships are built on two things. Complementary skills and mutual respect. If you get those right, then you have the foundation for a powerful team. Lack of respect for either party (a founder for the hired CEO or a CEO for the founder) inevitably leads to discontent by one or both.
If I were a CEO brought into a founder’s situation, I’d assess if the founder was open to coaching, partnering and capable of trusting me. If the answer was yes, I’d attempt to coach and mentor and then get out of the way.
Got an email from a friend asking me to install a new iPhone-to-iPhone chat program called “Ping!” Now I know I’ve been in technology too long.
As start-ups mature, many fail to transition in how they deal with decisions. When you’re strapped for cash, you don’t always have the luxury of thinking through the full-cost of your actions. You are essentially forced to compromise, opting for the short term gain, and pushing the full cost of your decision into the future in some manner. I emailed this to Bernie Daina (a friend and corporate psychologist) knowing he’d have something to say about it. I wasn’t wrong.
I’m sure many companies are started that way, it’s in the people’s heads originally and then becomes a fundamental component of the company’s culture as a result of repeated decisions reflecting this mentality. But not many companies last for long this way. In today’s market, investors’ pressure for exits is so profound that even companies that are aimed at short-term gain are exiting earlier than anticipated. Or merging for reasons that — when it comes to mission and business focus — are nonsensical.
Much of the formula for a startup’s long-term viability has to do with a clear yet adaptable vision, faith in that vision, and the readiness, discipline, and competence required to do the heavy lifting in order to fulfil the vision. Many hiring decisions must be made to get from one point to the next point. But if the predominance or decisions are made this way, whether hiring or purchasing decisions, logistics companies — for example — would buy used vehicles cheaply off some rent-a-heap lot on East Colfax Avenue. Your company would purchase its servers on Ebay.
Framing the problem in terms of social comparisons can also be a trap. Making social comparisons is useful in competitive dynamics. The runner sees a faster colleague win a race, and is inspired to beat him, or at least place second. He or she will seldom, if ever, compare his own performance to that of people at the bottom of the heap, unmotivated runners, and so on, unless the subject is also near or at the bottom. Comparing ourselves, or our endeavors, to those that rate our contempt just drags us down. Even if the comparison is made with “good” performers, whose methods, ethics, or standards we disrespect.
It is also useful to bear in mind that decades of research have established that making social comparisons can help performance in well-mastered, routine tasks. In complex and unfamiliar tasks, and especially ones we are learning, having a real or imaginary audience or base of comparison only hampers performance. True in humans, primates, and cats; true cockroaches running various types of mazes that also vary in how dark they are.
The bromides and cliches suggesting delayed gratification are so numerous, it’s not worth mentioning them. World religions are founded on this principle. Popular cliches also proliferate to the opposite, e.g., A bird in hand is better…” In today’s times, the way we are reacting as a nation, a Jihadist can blow up a pizza parlor in St. Louis and throw our economy, and that of nations we trade with, into an abysmal depression. This would not be the consequence if an insane citizen performed the same act. So who’s to say if short-term versus long-term is the wiser course? Best be prepared for both.
But if you are a man with vision, vision pertains to longer term thinking and actions. Short-term is more about risk aversion. A modicum of risk aversion is healthy, and even healthy to have on hand in stable, upbeat times. When caution drives the decision making and momentum singularly, you don’t have an entrepreneurial endeavor. You have a lemonade stand set up for the day a safe distance from the road on a quiet cul-de-sac; by some children who wish to garner a little cash for tonight’s charity event or visit to the toy store. Or to “show” their ingenuity and enterprise in order to please parents — who invested in plastic cups. A little too saccharine for your tastes, I imagine!
Bernard L. Daina, Ph.D.
Management and Organizational Psychology
730 Seventeenth Street, Suite 690
Denver, Colorado 80202
PingFederate Express exists because companies wanted a simpler way to SSO enable their applications. With PingFederate Express, a company can do that now in minutes, and the entire thing can be remotely managed and configured with a central installation of PingFederate.
The demo’s are truly impressive. Download, install, configure and test standards based single sign on in less than 5 minutes. It’s insane.
I value a healthy work/life balance. My wife might disagree with me, and cite my inability to stop working, even while on the couch in front of the TV with my laptop, but quite frankly, I think we’ve achieved a pretty nice balance here at Ping.
On occasion, which I think is both normal and healthy, when we’re nearing a major product release, a big trade show, or we’re at the quarter end push, things can get pretty hectic. In those situations, I don’t think it is that uncommon to have to put in some extra hours to get things done. That’s normal. But if you find yourself always under the gun, working mad hours just to keep your head above water, you likely need to re-examine your priorities and planning process. Sooner or later, this style of operation catches up with you, and your people, the company and ultimately your customers will pay the price.
In the past 5 years, our engineering team has delivered on time 97% of the time. As major product release dates approach, and the known defects list grows, our teams often have to work extra hours to meet our high quality standards. This is normal. We try however, as best we can, to keep weekends sacred. We don’t always succeed, but it’s important that we recognize the boundaries between life and work balance. I think this is especially true when a company values tenure and wants to inspire confidence in its people.
This week, we discovered the fact that we will likely need to pull some extra hours to wrap up our next release on time. I have 100% confidence that our team will deliver, after all, they’ve earned their reputation. But, our VP of Engineering had a few words to say about it, which I think are simply beautiful, so I thought I’d share.
…Obviously I have strong feelings about overtime and family time. Hoping this note gives you some insight to a perspective I’ve developed through a lot of years.
Engineering Requires Overtime: I have generally found that some level of overtime is needed to meet the shared goals of the team and company. Things happen and hopefully the overtime is a speed bump, contained to the work week and does not spill over to weekend time. When it does we need to think about what it means.
Overtime as a Life Style: People have different work patterns and different feedback loops to “have they done their best”. We have team members that constantly pull some level of overtime as reported in every two-week period. I do this as I have a >8 hr work day pattern that I am comfortable with each day and I actually draw energy from. It is reasonable for me and I have strong boundaries to it not going unreasonable. I’ve learned that with such a pattern, things can get out of hand as I can recall billing 3,400 hours one year (consultant world) versus a normal year of 2080 hours minus vacation, holidays, and sick leave. This pattern, something I kept up for many years at levels above 3,000 hours, was not fair to my wife, not fair to my work, and not fair to me. Oddly enough, I had no leadership person in my life to ground me to what was best for all and I blocked everything my wife said about long hours. You could say my CEO took advantage of me but because I did not draw a boundary, I took advantage of myself.
Do Not Cast Your Overtime Ethic on Others: First, it is a fair expectation that everyone wants Ping to be successful. However, that expectation should not translate to you laying your personal overtime feedback/allocation on others. Everyone has a different situation and a different ability to handle speedbumps. I like to think that given enough warning, everyone can find 3 to 4 hours on a single weekend to help catch up. Repeating that is family situational as I learned one time.
I was leading a classic waterfall effort and we had fallen behind by a least two weeks. We did the speed bump thing and everyone pitched in but we needed more weekends. The lead engineer came to me and said he couldn’t do it—I was upset as meeting the goal was, in my small mind, what we all lived for. He mentioned he needed to spend time with his wife and children picking wildflowers. I thought, wildflowers over getting a new distributed DB to the market—how crazy. You can imagine how crummy I felt when two years later his wife died of a brain tumor. A painful lesson that touches my heart even today.
Weekends are Special: Work week time is different from weekend time. We have a company ethic of not gobbling up weekends as a normal way of operating. With 30ish years of career, this is the first job I have not worked at least a half day every weekend and in some, a full Saturday. Funny as it sounds, it is my wife that remembers this and made that observation, not me because I had come to expect it as a pattern necessary for being in a leadership role. So, I shorted the wonderful things of value that come with not having every weekend pulled down to a day or, best case, day and half. And, let’s not forget that weekends are about recovery, so we can do our very best during the week.
Families Have Weekend Patterns: So let’s say we have to pull some speed bump weekend time. It’s not an easy thing to do. If you’re are like me, I have a family pattern (with a few variations). We shop for groceries on Saturday, we do house cleaning, home improvement stuff, and yard work generally on Saturday afternoons and so on. Actually we both have an agreed to floating two-hour block set aside for doing our personal work stuff—I generally try to catch up on reading and I scan my e-mails. Even with this built in time, breaking this pattern as a speedbump requires shifts around responsibilities since things still need to be done to keep the “ship” provisioned and running. So, more warning is fair to my wife and to having less stress at home.
Burnout Can Happen: I like people to report every hour spend in serving Ping. This is important as I track overtime for each person so I can alert the PDs to people starting a burnout pattern. I put them on alert to a few people just a couple weeks ago. It is complex, as reset from habitual overtime in a burnout mode is tough as it involves the person’s feedback mechanism and the baseline expectations of the organization. Burnout is bad and I do not want anyone in Ping to say we drove them to burnout. If this should ever happen, I will view it as a failure of leadership.
I am proud of our record as a team. Less than 3% slip rate year-over-year is amazingly solid and easily in the top 5% of development teams. And don’t forget the situations where the release to marketing was a day or so ahead of the timebox end. The stats point to every train requiring some push to higher hours at the end and the indicators are that our current delivery is no different. I think we will improve this situation with better testing automation, faster defect finding, and knocking down defects in flight throughout the release. And this will happen this year!
Estimating software delivery dates is always challenging when you’re trying to factor in complexity, experience and dependencies among other things. At Ping, our very own Brian Whitney has developed what is now affectionately referred to as a “The Whitney Scale.” Shared below for your software development pleasure.
1. Look at open-source alternatives.
2. Figure out how to consolidate vendors at a lower unit cost.
3. Replace manual effort with automation that can be achieved with a 3m payback.
4. Invest in new technologies that will lower cost by an order of magnitude.
5. Break down myths that an application can’t be hosted externally.
6. Challenge costly, incumbent technologies with new upstarts.
7. Look for short-term projects that can delivery value quickly.
8. Attempt to put new products on existing IT infrastructure.
9. Not start any long-term, strategic projects.
10. Hit up your local sales rep for freebies (e.g. tickets to the Broncos)
Contributed by one of Ping’s advisors