In short, it's how you run your business. The concept covers everything from your company's strategy and people to processes and finance.
Your company always operates on an operating system (Company OS), even if you have not considered it. Unachieved results, inefficiency, confusion, employee turnover, undesired behaviour and many other organisational issues can all be symptoms of a poor Company OS. Correspondingly, achieved results, efficiency, alignment, long-term employment, great company culture and—in general—a well-running business are marks of a good Company OS.
So take your time to understand your Company OS. It helps to focus your time and energy on where it matters the most. The way I see Company OS looks like a flywheel:
Here's how to assess your Company OS:
Purpose is the reason your Company exists. It can be anything from money and global impact to lifestyle and becoming the best workplace. Start by understanding what the owners (you?) want to achieve and what kind of a Company they (you?) want to see. Be real. Be honest. Example questions to ask:
How well is the purpose articulated and written down?
Are the owners, board, leadership and team generally on the same page about the purpose?
Does the purpose guide Company's action at all levels?
How well is the Company currently achieving its purpose?
Now that the Company’s true purpose is known, it’s time to decide the general approach for achieving the purpose. Example questions to ask:
Strategy: What strategies have been set? Is the action led in all four levels? Does the strategy guide the team?
Roles and responsibilities: Does the team know who is responsible for what? How is the team kept accountable for what is agreed upon?
Data & decision-making: Does the Company make data-driven decisions? What data is used? Should the Company become more data-driven?
Urgent issues: Do urgent issues drive your team's action? Is the team focused on the right things?
You only get so far if your team does not function well. The next step is to focus on people and how the team works together. Example questions to ask:
Culture: Are the behavioural values known and followed by all?
Team: Does the team have the right people in the right roles?
Leadership: Are the leaders helping the team succeed?
Communication: How does the team communicate? Are the communication principles, tooling, cadence and single source of truth (SSOT) used to help the team communicate?
Health: Is the team alive, healthy and motivated?
Learning: Is the team learning and developing?
Only now does it make sense to look at what needs to be done to achieve the purpose. It's time to look at processes and functions.
Two things to understand about processes. First, more often than not, I never get a chance to look at processes. When the prior elements work well, smart people will find the best ways to achieve the same goal — in a way that suits them the best — with no need to micromanage.
Secondly, as companies are so wildly different, it makes no sense to have a particular framework to assess processes. Instead, I prefer to understand the value chain as a whole: value creation processes → value capture processes → value delivery processes → supporting processes.
The question becomes: which (if any) part of the value chain warrants a closer examination?
Finally, your Company should generate cash or attract investor cash. You can use the cash wisely, or you can waste it. It’s a choice.
Wise use of cash either advances your Company's objectives or makes it healthier. Healthiness is about things that allow the business to continue operations (such as solvency) and things that you are not willing to compromise (such as employee happiness or profitability). Example questions to ask:
Cash: How is the Company's financial situation? Is the Company on top of the cash flow or burn rate? Can the cash conversion cycle be improved? How well and how is the overhead managed? Does the cash work for the Company?
Funding: What kind of funding has the Company used? Could the Company's strategy benefit from any funding?
Risk: How is risk managed, or is everything about survival?
Company OS will be perfect someday. No, it's never going to be perfect. Companies evolve, and so do Company OSs. Sometimes, it is even necessary to prioritise and let parts of a company burn.
Company OS is about specific tools and concepts. No, companies are different, and so are Company OSs. It's a framework to understand your Company better and to prioritise which areas matter the most. When you know the foundational principles, you can choose the methods that suit your Company the best.
Company OS project always follows a similar pattern. No, all Companies are on a different journey. For some, only minor tweaks are necessary. For some, it's about prioritising the most urgent issue. For some, it's a complete overhaul of the operating system.
Assessing your Company OS
If you got this far—and read it all—you likely want to assess your Company’s OS. You have three options:
Assess your Company yourself with the concepts I shared here.
Get me to SITREP your Company OS (it’s how this all started).
Ask me to get access to the digital assessment I’ve designed. It follows the same process I used to complete live. You’ll get an overview of your Company OS and actionable insights on where to focus your time and effort.