I just recently spent a 3-day training weekend with a company that is growing like crazy. They are experiencing two problems that are somewhat related. We looked at the organizational chart problems they’re having. Now we’re looking at another one of the challenges they are experiencing: the inefficiency of resources.
These problems are similar in some respects: they come from growth as a result of putting out fires rather than through slow and steady linear scaling. They result from patching a hole and then patching the patch when a new hole springs.
Why was this office so inefficient? After all, it’s a high-tech company that specializes in helping other people develop their businesses efficiently! The reason is that when they were a two person office, the two people did the work, all of the work. When they very quickly became a 20 person office with another 45 people being outsourced to, they were still doing many things in a way that a 2 person office would do them, only ten times as much. When it was just two people, it was efficient. Doing the same actions on a ten-fold scale is inefficient.
Instead, they should have changed roles after they had become a 5 or 6 person office and rather than having 2 people do everything, those 5 or 6 people (and later the 20 people) should have completely changed their job descriptions to be much more task specific. That way, in the “new order” five people would do five separate and specialized tasks that, when they were a two person office, both people would do by simply communicating across the table.
Fortunately, the weekend training session was more than just a training session for them, it was an opportunity to talk out some of these problems and solidify solutions that would get them to the next level of business.
If you’re experiencing the same problems right now, you might be interested in knowing what they did: They listed the tasks that each person did and then grouped them together and assigned one or two people to do each task. Now, instead of having one person do ten tasks throughout the day, they can have that one person do one or two related tasks throughout the day. It’s much more efficient.
If you’re not experiencing these problems but hope to enjoy growth in your business soon, you should think about ways to scale up your business while maintaining efficiency. When business is going well, be sure to think optimistically 6 months into the future and try to figure out how things would be different if you were to suddenly find that there were 10 times the number of people in your office than there were months earlier. Think now about the tasks that everyone does and divide those tasks into related groups so that, should business boom, you’ll be ready to reassign as necessary.
Extreme growth is enviable but not when it makes doing business more difficult. You can manage rapid growth (and look forward to it) by planning ahead.