My scale-up is grinding to a halt! Why is everything so much slower?

My scale-up is grinding to a halt! Why is everything so much slower?

Dear Roland, I am worried that my scale-up is grinding to a halt. When we were a startup we could bring our first product to market so fast. Customers loved how fast we could fix things for them. But now that we’re a scale-up, everything is slowing down. Each of our three products develops much slower. Sales and engineering are in constant conflict. Customer tech support has trouble integrating what we sell. I thought things should get easier after we added more resources? How can we stay as fast and agile as we used to be?

“BoggedDown”—Palo Alto

Dear BoggedDown, I feel your pain. You have added all these people to cover more ground faster. And all you get is everyone slowing down. Why?

  1. Your people may feel confused about their top priorities. With all the new people added, does everyone still know what to focus their day on and where to make most headway?
  2. Three product lines in a functional organization. Is every department spreading their time across all three products? And are these products serving the same customer or different ones? How do people choose which customer request is most important to attend to?
  3. How responsive is your scale-up to the market? When customer requests come in, how many decisions can people take at the front line? How many need to go to managers or even executives to arbitrate? How much is that slowing people down?

Remember that we are really scaling the decision capacity of the organization. The more decision capacity, the more customers it can sign up and serve over the competition. To increasing that capacity, we not only need more people. We also need the mechanisms that allow them to take decisions.

In your next workshop, take the core decisions that help non-leaders take decisions faster. Confirm your core values and purpose. Define your core customer. Set clear functional and product accountability. Draw up joint priorities for the organization at large.

If done well, this liberates an enormous amount of energy. You will enjoy an immediate leap in productivity and motivation. The more you focus on core decisions, the more you will get back to the startup pace you once had.