The emergence of the Operating System or OS has been one of the biggest tech trends of 2022. From Notion to LinkedIn to Integration platforms, everyone is calling their thing the 'insert thing you do' OS.
What is an Operating System doing that a System isn't?
Marketers are usually responsible for naming things with some heavy Founder influence. Everyone is looking for a playbook or a secret recipe. We want to sell more than software, we're selling a way to do things differently. Sell the destination, not the plane ticket. Calling your system an Operating System is one way to tell the world you're more than a little tool to fix a small problem.
Operating Systems are used by Operators, the people who get shit done. It speaks to the personal productivity craze and the idea that with the right system you can produce outsized results. This is what Justin Welsh is selling with his LinkedIn OS.
Personal productivity is a siloed mindset
Where the line gets blurry is when you start applying the personal productivity mindset to company productivity when they are not the same. Personal productivity and optimising are your safe zone as a Founder. It makes you feel in control, it doesn't rely on other people and we hope our employees apply these same productivity hacks to their own work. We will even tell them about our latest Kanban model or 3x3x3 rule for planning our day.
The challenge with the productivity mindset is it focuses on positive habits and optimising our personal workflow. It doesn't consider how we interact with others where we share workflows. It certainly doesn't tell someone who works entirely in shared workflows how to collaborate effectively. A bit like western society has lost its natural rhythm that was set by the church and the 9-5 - if 3 people choose three entirely different daily working rhythms to optimise their personal productivity you're left with everyone working completely out of whack.
To say Ecommerce companies work in siloes is a cliche. Cliches are typically cliches because they're true, even this one right here.
If a Founder contributes £500K in value per year, not salary, but net value to the business through personal output. If you spend 5% of your time optimising your personal productivity the potential upside is £25K.
Contrast that to getting your Design and Buying/Merchandising team to create a shared workflow and defined interfaces for all the processes or information that passes between them. If that was 5% of £4M you've got £250K of upside from your productivity efforts.
The second-order benefits from this shared gain would be shorter, more productive meetings. They may have more time to make decisions. Faster, better decision-making sounds good to me. Have you ever documented all the meetings across all your teams and calculated the cost of salaries? Do you even have a log of all your meeting rhythms to understand the cost per meeting?
The true operating system of your business is more than likely Google Sheets, Excel, Notion, Asana or some other generic, freeform productivity app.
Anything that doesn't happen in a database is lost in your Dark Stack.
Knowing where you are today (Point A) is the first thing you need to build a plan towards where you want to be (Point B). Without deeply understanding your workflows and interfaces between your people you can't set goals or measure KPIs with meaning across your whole business. You can't reliably measure improvement if you don't have a baseline you can trust.
Where do you build your Operating System? Where does work actually happen in your business?
- Thanks, Oliver
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