Scaling Up and what Small Teams can mean for Big Businesson 9 October 2015
As small companies morph into bigger companies, the challenges come thick and fast, opportunities need taking, problems need solving, and in amongst all the excitement something gets lost.
Chipping in to get the job done
It's natural that in the earlier phases of a company's lifecycle, everyone chips in to get the job done. The depth and breadth of business to be dealt with expands and evolves, and in order to keep the company meeting its monthly quota of challenges, people end up working in multiple departments, spreading their skills and energy across the full extent of daily operations.
Meanwhile, there is a commander-in-chief overseeing it all. And at the same time as staff scurry between all the various areas of responsibility required to keep a fast-growing company on track, the one orchestrating this controlled chaos points and directs, allocating individuals to teams, shuffling the pack, relaying key points of information to the relevant parties as and when necessary.
But two problems are developing. On the one hand, large numbers are spreading themselves too thin; burdened with too much responsibility to too many teams across the company, individuals are unable to deliver according to their potential in their area of true expertise.
On the other hand, the leader is now the go-to silo of information, a singular focal point of reference upon which too much of the organisation is hopelessly dependent. He or she is now spread thin also, unable to fully perform the more essential responsibilities of developing strategy and empowering others.
In truth, the process of delegation has been damagingly reactive all along. On the one side a list of problems/challenges/projects; on the other side a list of names. Between them, managers have been drawing lines, messily connecting one side to the other until all the projects are taken and all the names used up.
But, knowing that people work well together, and recognising that strong teams who understand each other will be far more effective than brand-new teams or sets of individuals that are serially organised for the purposes of short-term projects, the emphasis should be placed elsewhere.
Rather than leaders focusing their energies on how to respond to jobs and challenges as they arrive, they should be concentrating on how to formulate and nurture high-performance teams.
With a balanced skill set across the group, a mutually-held understanding of where those skills lie, and a small number of clearly defined goals and targets, teams can form strong bonds and become superb units of huge problem-solving capability.
Having the opportunity to work together for periods of at least six to twelve months at a time allows teams to develop trust with one another and create excellent, effective channels of communication.
Finding the solution
By placing faith in these strong teams, and by ensuring that they are able to effectively interact and communicate with one another in order to help achieve their common purposes, leaders can edge closer towards realising what must surely be their ultimate aim: redundancy.
The commander-in-chief that is truly successful will have created the circumstances under which intercommunicative yet interdependent cells, or teams, exist and prosper throughout the organisation, completing their respective goals as they each make essential contributions to the whole. And as new challenges arise, those teams will be able to arrive at the solutions that, previously, said leader would have been manfully struggling and failing to find alone.
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