Dear Roland, the more my scale-up grows, the more things start to slip through the cracks. My team picks up all issues I forward to them, but then drops them again soon after. And just now, we failed to join a key partnership in our industry, because the email got lost in my mailbox. People ask for more process but I’d hate to turn my startup into a bureaucracy… What can I do?
Dear Swamped, I can tell you are worrying. Your company is growing fast in size but it is still learning how to grow in robustness. I see this a lot. Founders raise a big series B. Investors put pressure to hire faster. Many people flow in. But the habits and informal processes remain unchanged from the startup days.
From what you ask me, it looks like you as CEO are still expected to take every decision? Is your team waiting for you to tell them what to focus on? Are they optimizing their ability to jump on whatever you ask of them?
A good scale-up grows its decision-making capacity in line with hiring. That means trying to take as many decisions as possible at the front line. That means assigning areas of responsibility. So that your team can set their own priorities and needs less day-to-day direction from you. In an ideal world, every issue in your company is the responsibility of somebody else (than you).
How can you kickstart this change? I recommend that you and your team create consensus on functional accountabilities. Confirm that everyone identifies with your core values and core purpose. Set a few joint priorities for the quarter. And ensure you have a key performance metric for the organization at large.
Afterwards, train yourself to forward any issue coming to you to the person responsible. Then trust them to deliver on their job, and take action only if they fail to fulfill it well. That way you won’t miss partnership opportunities or sales leads. Fewer things will fall through the cracks. And your email volume will become more manageable before you know it.