Welcome to Part One of my conversation with Micah Rowland. Micah isn’t your everyday builder. As Chief Operating Officer of Fountain, he builds people, teams, and processes that have taken multiple companies from 50 to 300 people and beyond, and $5 million to $35 million in revenue.
After starting his career as a software engineer, Micah Rowland earned a Stanford MBA before switching tracks to management consultancy. This unusual path from engineering to business led him to roles with industry leaders, such as McKinsey & Company and Starbucks, where he worked in global strategy and brand management before gravitating toward startups in the SaaS space.
Over 17 years, Micah has worked with companies ranging in size from 30 employees to over 100,000 and multiple startups from Series A to Series D funding. Through this journey, he has learned how to solve problems in everything from leadership and organizational development to operations, strategy, and pricing.
With Fountain, the Series A-funded startup providing hiring automation software for today’s high-velocity service economy, Micah now helps to solve problems on a different scale. He credits being allowed to make mistakes and learn from them for sharpening his leadership, coaching, and human development skills. In fact, developing those skills has led him to discover what he most enjoys about his work — helping people grow both personally and professionally through the rewarding friendships he’s been able to build in the workplace.
Key Takeaways From Part One
- A clear understanding of why things are happening (curiosity) is necessary to correct and improve
- Problem-solving in a startup is complicated by the fact that any particular problem may not belong to any single person or group
- You have to learn to apply abstract knowledge to unfamiliar situations – it’s good to be stretched
- Start by introducing team members to the idea that there is a process for problem-solving
- McKinsey & Company Seven-Step Problem-Solving Process:
- Define the problem
- Disaggregate the problem to identify the key issues
- Prioritize the most important/impactful issues
- Formulate hypotheses to resolve each of the issues
- Analyze to understand whether you can prove/disprove the hypotheses
- Synthesize the results
- Reach a recommendation
- It’s an iterative process with stages 4-7 that refine the recommendation by reevaluating assumptions and improving analysis
- The stages can be learned independently and there are tools supporting each of the steps
- Once you have introduced a tool like an issue tree or logic tree, give team members a chance to practice with exercises on real-life business situations
- The most powerful results come when you work side-by-side with an experienced leader who demonstrates the process
- You multiply your capacity by apprenticing your team through complicated processes
- Be laser-focused and precise on problem definition: what is in-scope and what is out-of-scope
- Part of problem-solving is acknowledging that your depth of knowledge may inhibit further progress and other expertise is required
- Deprioritization is just as powerful as prioritization and equally important to call out what you are NOT going to do as a part of this exercise
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
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