Toggling to public & annual thinking

One of my goals this year is to share more writing with more people. Tactic #1 is to pull shareable things out of private channels, and share them.

This is from an email I send to some of the founders I work with.

I talk a lot about context because most business and leadership problems begin as context problems and end as communication problems. Context problems are when people don’t know what they need to know to make good decisions and meet expectations. Communication problems are when people don’t succeed in communicating what they expect.

The new year is a great time for kicking the tires on context.

Building Context - annual thinking for founders


Happy New Year. I hope it will be a year of growth and renewal for all of us, our businesses, and the world.

Each year, we work to rebuild the context of your business. Most of the work we do together depends on it. Strategy issues depend on context to make better decisions. Management issues depend on context to enable better performance by your teams. Leadership issues depend on context to create the conditions for cultures of growth and achievement.

Your business competes in a context, and that context will always change faster than you can. It’s your job to try keep up.

To that end, here are some recent reminders of the context equations I recommend processing your business through as a leadership team. The goal is not certainty, but clarity on the information you have, the decisions you’re making, and the tradeoffs they create with your expectations, time and resources.

The Business Equation

Are the table stakes of your business still clear and sound?

Context Questions:


The Retro Equation

Do you know what mattered over the last year, and what tradeoffs you’ve made?

Context Questions:

Use the exercise to:


The Strategy Equation

Have we connected our strategy to our activity?


The Change Equation

Finally, context is the environment for change. Most change fails, and most businesses fail as a result of it. The hard work on leadership is understanding the needs, gaps, and drivers that will enable your business to become what it needs to be to succeed.

Noah Brier, founder of & Percolate, has a useful framework for thinking about systems change and its set of component drivers.

Each enables a different organizational behavior. And the absence of any has direct executional effects:

Assess your gaps, and plan to address them.


Addendum: Just ran into this post by Hunter Walk on OKRs, and how early stage co’s should think about goal setting:

What would I recommend for the Maker-side of early startup companies instead of Quarterly + Calendar Year Annual? These three:

For me, Monthly Goals combined with N+12 Goals create the right short-term Maker cadence with longer term vision. I never got the chance to try it at Google, but hope to find companies using this sort of planning cycle to see how it works for them.

Posted on January 4, 2021

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