Anant Jain

Scaling People: Tactics for Management and Company Building

Book Review

Scaling People by Claire Hughes Johnson is one of the rare gems which make you go deeper in the appreciation of your own craft, if you happen to be an “operator” in tech. Claire has done all of us a massive favor by writing down her decades of hard-earned lessons from her time as Stripe COO (2014-2021) and prior to that, spending 10+ years at Google leading various divisions. That wealth of experience is rare to find in one individual, and even rarer to have it documented and available in a book. Best of all, this book is not a “thought piece” on managing or operating a company — it is the most tactical guide I’ve ever encountered on how to get “real things” done. In words of Claire:

There’s a Pablo Picasso quote we like to repeat at Stripe: “When art critics get together, they talk about Form and Structure and Meaning. When painters get together, they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine”. Sometimes you want to read a book about Picasso’s life, and sometimes you just want to know where to buy the cheapest turpentine. Consider this the latter: an insider’s guide to management turpentine.

What’s inside?

Since I won’t do any justice to this book by trying to summarize it given its density, I would leave you with the core ideas contained within it. Broadly, there are five chapters. The first chapters dives deep into the Essential Operating Principles, followed by a chapter each devoted to the Core Frameworks:

Essential Operating Principles

  • Build self-awareness to build mutual awareness
  • Say the thing you think you cannot say
  • Distinguish between management and leadership
  • Come back to your operating system

Core Frameworks

  • Core Framework 1: Foundations and Planning for Goals and Resources
  • Core Framework 2: A Comprehensive Hiring Approach
  • Core Framework 3: Intentional Team Development
  • Core Framework 4: Feedback and Performance Mechanisms

My top three takeaways

  1. Say the thing you think you cannot say” is one operating principle that I’ve always followed in my career, but never articulated as well as Claire did in the book.
  2. The Workbooks linked from the Stripe Press page for the book are an incredible wealth of templates for running your org/division/company. Use them!
  3. I truly believe that bringing highly talented individuals together to build something ambitious is as close to a “dream” one can live (at least for me :) ). Reading this book, I found some familiar ideas on managing, but also some new ones, which made me feel quite a bit invigorated that there’s always more to learn when it comes to managing and operating high-performing teams.