I just learned The Standard Conversion framework. You should too.
How to unlock better prioritization across any company
I had the opportunity to spend an hour with an incredible talent leader this week. We talked about the key moments when he knew he created real value for founders. Obviously, adding great people to a team is part of this, but he also brought up the moments when founders internalized a framework or worldview he shared with them, causing them to execute differently or more creatively. For example, he saw a founder apply the “Standard Conversion” concept in recruiting, which unlocked better prioritization across the entire company.
When building teams, founders will say, “We’re going to hire nine engineers,” and then set off to get it done as a top priority. But without understanding Standard Conversion, you have no idea what the actual scope of the work is or how it will impact other initiatives. You just start doing it.
Standard Conversion frames the goal result as the outcome of the expected scale of activity. Clarity on the scale of effort and time required to complete an activity informs prioritization. In recruiting, Standard Conversion will tell you something like, “for every candidate you engage, 50% will fail the technical interview, 1 in 4 candidates who come in for onsite interviews will progress to offers and you are likely to close about 2/3rds of the offers you make.” This means that to hire those nine engineers, you will need to run 100+ technical interviews. Of course, depending on your yield on initial outreach, you may need to reach out to a large multiple of that number as you kick off the process.
Most founders won’t say: “We’re going to run 100 technical interviews this quarter.” But doing that will help scope projects more effectively and allow teams to be more realistic about the timing for results. As you prioritize projects, consider the required level of activity and then set your goals accordingly.
In addition to scoping projects more effectively and being realistic on timing and goals, Standard Conversion can help your team course correct early in a process and avoid projects going off the rails. Think of it as instrumenting the process so everyone on the team has an objective measure of performance and can apply judgment as they execute (rather than being managed).
In recruiting, if you are not moving 50% of your candidates forward after the initial tech screen, you have a calibration issue with sourcing and experience requirements. If 1 in 4 of your on-site interviews is not leading to offers, you may want to revisit the key needs with the hiring manager and the specific questions or moments in the interview process that are driving the failure. Last, if your close rate is lower than 66%, you need to diagnose the lack of connection between the potential hires and your company. Do candidates have a feel for the leadership team and their direct manager? Is the hiring team highlighting the growth adventure of your company and what this means in terms of the opportunity for personal growth for each employee? Is your team responsive and communicating effectively with the folks in your pipelines?
In each example, the person responsible for the specific process (i.e. sourcing to technical screen) can accurately judge performance and engage in finding solutions to divergence from Standard Conversion without needing engagement from their manager (or founder/CEO). This is leverage for you!
The concept of Standard Conversion is a fantastic framework and founders can apply it to almost any challenge—from growth marketing to sales to product development and more. Using this framework will dramatically improve your ability to forecast the effort and time required to deliver on a goal, as well as understand the cost of every potential project before taking it on.
In a startup’s constant race against time, prioritization is pretty important. Applying Standard Conversion will make you and your team more effective.