Monday, May 24, 2010

A Trip to Facebook

One of the wonderful advantages to living in the Silicon Valley is the incredible companies located within just a few miles of South Bay Church. Some of the most influential organizations in the world our just out our backdoor. Filipe on our staff has made it a goal to schedule visits to these companies so that our staff can grow and learn together as we investigate the principles that have led to their success.

Our most recent trip was to Facebook (FB). I want to share some of my key learnings from this visit.

Key Facts:
* FB has grown to over 1,200 employees worldwide in about 6 years.
* Over 400 million people are active users on FB. If FB were a country it would be the 3rd largest country in the world. That's a whole lot of people.
* Mark Zuckerberg- CEO of FB is 26 years old.

So here are some of my key learnings from our time there:
1. Be Fast/ Be Bold...
FB has become one of the most influential organizations in the world by being willing to be fast and take risks. If you are not failing, you are not taking risks. They have a philosophy of having quick execution from idea to implementation. This culture inspires the best in people and prevents your environment from becoming stale and mundane. We must resist the temptation to protect our achievements of the past. If we stop taking risks we have stopped living by faith!

Questions from this principle- what risks are we taking for God? are we continuing to go out on the limb of faith as our organizations gets larger and more influential? what things in our current structure impede the execution of vision?

2. Be open and transparent...
Everybody works out in the open at FB. There are work stations even for people at the VP and CEO level. In fact, when we were there I saw Mark Zuckerberg meeting in glass walled conference room with another employee. BTW, he was wearing blue jeans, sneakers and a hoody. I love it. We should encourage people in our organization to share information with one another. When you stop sharing info within the team, silos begin to form. Promote an open structure so that people can learn from one another and challenge each other to go to a the next level.

One interesting point as a side note. FB has an open structure when it comes to their office schedule. For example, employees can come in and work 24 hours a day. All of the engineers have freedom with their hours. Each engineer is a part of a team of 6-8 people that meets every other week. There is a team leader and his/her job is to work to keep the group on par and focused. Because there is such momentum in the organization it seems that the open structure promotes diligence and hard work with the engineers. At the same time there are still hourly employees. Our friend who works at FB said that many of clerical positions are more structured and time bound. Makes sense.

Questions on this principle: what is my personal philosophy of open structure with employee schedules? What can we do to promote the greatest level of innovation and creativity in church work? Do the people in our organization feel free and empowered?

3. Be careful with titles...
So many organizations use titles as a way of motivating people to work. If the vision of your organization is not strong enough to motivate someone you have a big problem. FB is extremely careful with the titles that are given. Each employee knows who their supervisor is, and they know what team they are a part of, but as far as title... the organization has been very careful to not use this as a motivating factor for progress. You are given a status level 3/4/5, but you don't know your coworkers status level. This is kept between you and your supervisor. In so many ways, this philosophy also helps fight against politics and turf wars in your organization. It helps prevent people from jockying for power.

Questions: Are there politics for titles and positions in our organization? Do people advance for the right reasons... hardwork, faithfulness, sacrifice?

4. The Leader must stay focused on vision and high level strategy...
The FB teams meets once a month with an "all hands" meeting. Every employee globally pipes into this meeting. This is Founder and CEO Zuckerberg's opportunity to cast vision and discuss high level strategy. This meeting rallies the troops and helps people stay focused. In 2008 Zuckerberg hired Sheryl Sandberg as Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. She has helped take away some of the operational burden so that Zuckerberg can stay focused on vision. I loved that word choice our FB friend used, "he stays focused on vision and high level strategy." I once heard Colin Powell say, "80% of the decisions you make could be made by the average 5th grader, we pay you for the other 20%." A leader must be focused on the strategy decisions that affect the whole company. I also heard it said like this, "average leaders focus on what happens next, extra-ordinary leaders focus on what happens after what happens next." There some serious wisdom in this principle.

Questions: am I staying focused on the future of our organization? am i inspiring our team with the vision God has given us? am i carving out time to hear from God for the future of our church?

So, with all this being said. It was definitely a fruitful time. Our team had some great dialogue after the tour. Special thanks to our friend who showed us around and kindly answered our questions. It is amazing what you can learn when you go outside your camp. All of the principles of leadership we see in these great organizations are principles that come directly out of the Bible. God blesses the principles he established long ago. May we be wise to learn and grow to become be all that he is calling South Bay Church to be!!