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07 June 2021
How to manage growing at YouTube's pace
Websites, online services, appsYouTube
The co-leader of the YouTube team has offered a detailed insight into how its rapid scaling was managed, following its purchase by Google.
Writing a piece in Coda, of which he is co-founder and CEO, Shishir Mehrotra, who co-led the YouTube team from 2008-2014, says that YouTube at the start of that period of hypergrowth had a far-from-certain future as a viable business.
Core challenges included melding a start up with its own rituals with Google, an iconic company already known for its own rituals, and adapting teams at breakneck speed to what has been described as “blitzscaling”.
Mehrotra describes how a set of rituals and best practices was slowly formed, which helped the YouTube team move out of “controlled chaos” to become a well-aligned team able to run a complex business and simultaneously take on strategic initiatives.
YouTube’s weekly business cadence was based on several key philosophies surrounding meetings, Mehrotra writes:
Avoid ad hoc meetings – the lack of a clear structure often leads to unproductive meetings. People don’t know whether it’s an information or decision-making meeting. Making “Bullpen” time during meetings turned out to be good replacements for ad hocs – these were unstructured periods in meetings with no rules other than the requirement to stay present. Better than ad hoc meetings as they can be handled in a timely manner and the list of relevant parties was often wider than originally imagined.
Replace read outs and meetings with broadcast emails – key regular broadcast messages to teams recovered a lot of meeting time. Presentations in meetings were hardly ever a thing – participants were all expected to have read up in advance. The result – all meetings were no longer than 30 minutes and many ended earlier. Similarly, avoid rescheduling as this has a butterfly effect on the whole organization.
Framing questions in the right way really matters, as does asking questions rather than jumping to conclusions. Framing being the process of deconstructing a problem into a series of choices, trade-offs, and options that enable a team to make a call and move forward.
If you don’t need a meeting, cancel it! “With standing forums and materials sent in advance, it’s generally clear before the meeting whether or not there was reason to meet. We often sent out an agenda, resolved the remaining issues, and canceled the meeting.” Shishir Mehrotra.