Maturing from a StartUp to a StartedUp culture – Series Part 4


The takeaway from the previous post on KPI and metrics was that we should proactively monitor process and optimize as needed; just because it worked when you were a startup does not mean it will work when you are “startedup”, you will need it to scale and by capturing metrics and KPI’s you will be able to perform analysis when/if  things go wrong. This however does not mean that you need process for the sake of having process or that you should focus on process over people; agility is important and being lean goes a long way.

The chicken and egg problem: What came first, the chicken, or the egg?
You have great team(s) and you have great product(s). Your team(s) is/are at capacity enhancing and maintaining the current product(s), but you need to create more product(s). In order to grow product(s) you need to add more people but these people need to be grown as well. Hiring people and not growing them will make product growth challenging as there will be a longer ramp up time or will disengage and leave (or you end up with an us vs them culture); and redirecting your current team to grow people rather than the current products will grow the new hires at a rapid pace but your current products will stop growing, what do you do? going back to the chicken and egg problem, I think in the long scheme of things it is irrelevant what came first; what is more important is the realization and existence of the chicken and egg, or the “idea” of a chicken and/or an egg, and that you need to ensure that the cycle continues, chickens give eggs and eggs (eventually) give chickens.

Single points of failure (Single Threads)
As engineers and architects we focus on identifying single points of failure within architecture; as managers we need to identify single points of failure within team members, processes and tools. Ask yourself, if I was to randomly start pulling people out (pto, resignations, etc) what would be the impact? Would we still meet delivery? Do we lose key subject matter experts? Most of the time people end up becoming single threads because there are many hats to wear and things need to get done; documentation and knowledge transfer becomes a “will get to it” task that many never get to.

Single points of failure and knowledge silos end up becoming a real impact to growth when you bring on new hires who need to be brought up to speed and grown because the same resources that need to help grow others are already busy with their existing work. Not only does it impact growth, it also negatively impacts collaboration and team culture, when people do not grow they disengage and this causes further issues. As you grow from a startup company with a smaller team to a “startedup” company with a larger and growing team, your single points of failure can grow and teams/members can get frustrated as they get pulled from different directions.

A few simple approaches to reducing and/or eliminating single points of failure are:

  • Focus on collaboration and knowledge sharing among teams (culture), the more people share what they learn the more people know.
  • Work-load for single threads can be split between product development and people development.
  • On-boarding programs and training documentation can be built as part of a product backlog.
  • New hires can be paired with senior resources to create mentor-ship and knowledge transfer programs.

Each organization is different and each has its unique attributes that require a solution or several approaches that solve the problem for that specific organization; a silver bullet approach doesn’t really work.

Summary

  • To grow new product(s) outside your current capacity you need to grow team(s).
  • To grow new team(s) who will grow new (products) your current team(s) can be impacted.
  • Your current team(s) can end up becoming single threads and/or single points of failure.
  • Recognize that this can become a problem.
  • Focus on culture, collaboration,  knowledge transfer, documentation, etc. so that the impact to the current team(s) and product(s) will be minimal and your new team(s) will rapidly grow and be engaged.
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