After I read the 20th anniversary edition of the Pragmatic Programmer, I decided to hop back into a business book. One that was recommended to mewas “Rocket Fuel”. The quote on the front explains:
“It takes not one but two entrepreneurs to build a great company. Gino and Mark show how that relationship can provide the ‘rocket fuel’ your company needs to achieve its full potential”
I thought this was an interesting idea worth exploring. Most of the book sets out trying to convince you of this cornerstone premis, that great companies need two great people, one visionary and one “integrator”. The book goes on to explain how this relationship should work in a very practical and quite orthodox way - it’s good to see examples of implementations even if they seem outdated for a book written in 2015.
I’ve always thought of myself as entrepreneurial, and in my formative years had lots of ideas but struggled to execute them. Most of my career has been focused on that weakness as execution is everything. Now I find that ideas often take a back seat and instead I’m often focused on implementation.
This book quite exclusively talks about the idea of an integrator, defining it on the first page as: “one who integrates; one who harmoniously unites the major functions of a business; one who keeps the trains running on time; one who creates focus, accountability and alignment”, it goes on to say “Right hand, Number Two, Steady force”.
It may seem a bit Star Trek, but It’s interesting to me right out of the gate because I’m well known for my ability and desire to bring order out of chaos. I spent much of my time just keeping everything on the rails. Yes it’s stressful and challenging at times, but yes I love it.
One of the things the book points out is that as a person in my position, you can quite often find yourself labelled or accused of being a pessimist or a poking holes. This is not uncommon and is part and parcel of the role of someone in that position, an integrator.
A quick Google for Rocket Fuel and Integrator find you on their Entrepreneurial Operating System company website, only now they appear to have changed the “Integrator” to “implementer” and the two are used quite interchably from what I could tell. I actually prefer “implementer” as it feels closer to how I think of myself.
You’ll also come across their assessment or “crystallizer quiz”, which provides 40 questions for you to answer followed by a score based on those questions as to whether you align more with visionary or implementer. The questions are as follows, in alphabetical particular order, bold provided by me for those that I believe describe me the best, they are:
- I am a great leader. People tend to follow me.
- I am a great manager of people.
- I am adept at quickly identifying and articulating problems, bottlenecks, disconnects, roadblocks and barriers.
- I am comfortable being held accountable, and holding others accountable. I see the value in creating the infrastructure for accountability across the organisation, and am comfortable putting this in place.
- I am constantly generating new ideas. I never run out.
- I am good at (and get a rush out of) being provided with a company Vision, and then turning it into something real.
- I am great at choosing which options are the best priorities for the organisation.
- I am great at taking ideas and effectively initialising plans to make them a reality.
- I am highly optimistic in my outlook.
- I am naturally analytical, skilled at deductive reasoning, and highly adept at implementing solutions.
- I am naturally insightful, skilled at deductive reasoning, and highly innovative in thinking of ways to make ideas bigger and better.
- I am really good at translating someone’s Vision into something others can understand and get on board with—laying a solid foundation for execution.
- I am the creator of, and champion for, the company Vision.
- I don’t like being held accountable, or being told what to do. I find it challenging to establish genuine accountability in my company.
- I embrace and enjoy the role of being responsible for a few large, key, strategic relationships (vendor, client, banking, industry).
- I embrace and enjoy the role of being the “entrepreneurial spark plug” providing passion and inspiration.
- I embrace and enjoy the role of being the engine for big, new, breakthrough ideas, the spark, getting them started.
- I embrace and enjoy the role of effectively integrating all the major functions of the organisation.
- I embrace and enjoy the role of effectively resolving cross- functional issues, making sure they are harmoniously integrated and orchestrated.
- I embrace and enjoy the role of ensuring adherence to the organisation’s core processes and operating system.
- I embrace and enjoy the role of ensuring the communication is effectively flowing across the organisation
- I embrace and enjoy the role of ensuring the organisation is aligned with the company’s Core Values.
- I embrace and enjoy the role of executing and delivering P&L results.
- I embrace and enjoy the role of leading the way on learning and discovery that advances the organisation.
- I embrace and enjoy the role of providing leadership, management, and accountability for the company’s Leadership Team.
- I embrace and enjoy the role of researching and developing new products and services.
- I embrace and enjoy the role of selling and closing big deals.
- I embrace and enjoy the role of solving the biggest problems faced by the company.
- I eventually have the “right” idea, and know it. It may come from having a large volume of different ideas, or a small number that I feel strongly about.
- I get accused of being a pessimist and “hole poker.”
- I have an affinity for tackling and creatively solving the biggest, most complex problems.
- I have zero patience for putting operational policy, structure, and repeatability systems in place.
- I love running the day-to-day of the business, and take great pride in “making sure the trains run on-time.”
- I naturally think about the future of the industry, our product or our service, what’s coming, and how we can best position the company to take advantage of it.
- I naturally think about the present, what needs to happen now, and how to keep everything on track for the future vision.
- I recognize the need for operational policy, structures, and repeatability to make the Vision a reality. I am able to define meaningful rules and put them in place – without slowing things down and while improving efficiency.
- I sometimes find it difficult to translate my Vision into something that others understand. They don’t seem to get it.
- I struggle with follow-through. I lose interest in finishing new ideas. I don’t have patience or interest in a lot of details. I wish people would get to the point. I get bored and distracted very easily.
- My natural perspective is oriented toward things that are external to the company, big picture or futuristic thinking.
- My natural perspective is oriented toward things that are internal to the company. Getting the house in order/ship-shape
When I did this questionnaire, I scored 58 for Visionary and 99 for Integrator, which firmly placed me in the Integrator camp, as according to their scoring, I was over 80 for the integrator questions and not as close for the visionary ones.
There’s a reason they call it the crystialiser, and that’s because it helps to crystallise how you operate within a business with yourself and I’ve found that interesting and insightful, as it confirms, or solidifies, and even crystallises what I’d already thought about myself.
The one thing I will say is that I don’t like to put labels on myself, and I also recognise that people grow and change all the time, so although I feel this label suits my nature at the moment, I’m hopeful that I could regain some of those visionary attributes without losing my implementer abilities.
Rocket Fuel is a short book and lacks a bit of depth and elegance in its suggestions, I don’t think you’ll really find much that isn’t featured in more detail in other business books. Overall I did find it interesting, enough to write this post and complete the assessment. I think the biggest problem for me was that it often felt like it was preaching to the converted, while other parts later in the book were overly opinionated and orthodoxy, but then they do have an “Operating System” they are trying to promote. I could imagine this book would be great for a newly founded visionary, someone just starting out on their journey as a visionary as it would make a great starting point.