When you first start a company there’s very little structure involved. You have a couple founders, an idea and (hopefully) a ton of passion for the problem you’re trying to solve. Lean Startup provides a methodology for how to do things, but generally the work and overall experience is pretty chaotic. And that’s totally fine. It’s early days and there aren’t a lot of people to manage.
As your company adds people, the chaos seems to expand like a black hole, and before long it can consume you. It’d be great if each person you added slotted in perfectly, knew exactly what to do, embraced your culture & values instantly and increased your overall efficiency. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Once you hit 20-25 people–especially if you’re continuing to grow quickly–productivity starts to dip…get to 50+ people fast and it takes a nosedive.
Turns out, you need more structure. And more process.
To an entrepreneur, those can be scary words. They sound rigid and formal, the very antithesis of moving quickly. And if you go overboard trying to organize people and the work they do, you’ll absolutely suck the life out of your company, but there are ways of doing it properly too. You need to think about team structure, roadmaps, ownership & accountability, project planning, managing up, increasing communication across teams and more. These are all topics I’m hoping to discuss in an ongoing series of blog posts about “scaling startups”.
What has become clear to me from my own experience and advising others is the importance of structure and process as you scale. Management needs to spend more of its time organizing and empowering others to make sure that rapid growth doesn’t slow the system down to a complete halt. Creating structure and process from the chaos is key, to ensure that your team–as it goes from 5 to 50 people and beyond–gets aligned and adds value.
Image from geograph.org.