No more milestones, I mean it
You don’t need milestones until the route is obvious
A lot of my time is spent in board meetings and in preparation and follow-up from these meetings. Most board meetings consist of reporting the results of the previous month and setting the goals for the next month. The conversation is framed around results and specific business metrics — milestones.
At the seed stage this is often a mistake because milestones imply the route is obvious, and it often isn’t. If your business is still finding its way, you need to fill the tank with gas, forget the milestones, and start reading the map.
About a month ago a company I work with re-framed the board meeting and with a subtle shift in how we talked about the business, the founder drove a dramatic evolution in how the entire management team thinks about the business going forward. He moved all of us from the standard:
what we did last month and our goals for next month
what we learned in the past and the new hypotheses we are planning to test in the future
The sky opened up and light filled the room…epiphany! (or one of the four steps…). Steve Blank talked about this in his presentation at Start-Up Lessons Learned conference (Slide 54 is a good summary) and he is right.
Accepting that the route is not clear and re-framing the conversation from milestones to tests and learning focused the room on the things that mattered most for the business right now. The board dove into the tests run in the previous month and the data the tests generated. We engaged on the emerging hypotheses about the business model, customer acquisition strategy and product direction. We pushed on assumptions and discovered what needed further testing and helped the team think through new tests to run in the coming month and how to prioritize these tests.
As a board, we stopped looking for milestones and started helping the team navigate the map. The founder re-framed the conversation and dramatically improved the effectiveness of his board. You can too.