I have been a part of many organizations who have experienced growth. Some of them were ready for it and others were not. I worked for Kinko’s when FedEx purchased the company and immediately added thousands of employees to the mix. I’ve worked for a small for-profit college that doubled its enrollment and staffing over a 5 year period. I am now a part of a church that has seen steady growth over the last 3 years.
In each of these situations, there have been many ways that they’ve been impacted because of this growth. However, the way that people interact with each other is probably the most significant one that many organizations fail to prepare adequately for. Here are 9 shifts that must happen as any organization grows – rather its from 2 employees to 10 or 10,000 to 15,000:
1. The people you had relationships with before are going to change as the organization grows. As organizations grow, people get promoted or take on different responsibilities. Also, there are simply more people added to the mix. As these things happen, its important to recognize and be prepared for the fact that those that we have relationships with today may be different as the organization grows.
2. The decisions you may have been a part of before will change as the organization grows. Before growth happens, it’s easy to include everyone in decision making. When there are only 4 or 5 employees, you can pull everyone into a room and collaborate. However, as an organization grows, the more people that are a part of decisions, the longer it takes to arrive at a solution. And, everyone must be ok NOT being a part of every decision that is made – whether it directly affects them or not.
3. The way you communicate with people will change as the organization grows. As more people are added, it becomes more and more difficult to have the face-to-face conversations that you once had. The use of email, memos, and other forms of electronic communication will grow in importance. Otherwise, communication will lag or be absent altogether because of our inability to talk to everyone about everything.
4. Personal confidence in leadership will have to increase as the organization grows. Because everyone will not be able to be a part of every decision and due to the fact that communication will change, it’s important to recognize that everyone must trust and have confidence in the leadership of the organization and that they will make the best decision for the organization.
5. The ability to follow through on projects and assignments increase in importance as the organization grows. It will become increasingly more difficult to micro-manage and regularly follow up with those you lead as an organization grows. It will be vital that those you lead complete tasks on their own and without much supervision from you. And if they can’t, it’s important that you find those who are self-starters and have this ability.
6. The value of collaboration increases exponentially as the organization grows. Although not everyone will be a part of every decision, it is important that the level of collaboration increases as the organization grows. This comes as both formal and informal collaboration. It can be a planned time to get together and work on a project or just happen in a hallway around the water cooler. Also, the collaboration I’m talking about is not necessarily decision-making in nature, but usually comes as implementation teams after the decision is made.
7. Lines between positions, responsibilities, and departments become naturally blurred as the organization grows. Job descriptions will be even more important during growth, however, there will be some blurriness between who does what, at times. And this is ok. If you’re focused on #6, it shouldn’t matter. There are still titles, accountability, etc. But, there will be some gray area that will need to be resolved – often NOT by leadership.
8. As responsibilities overlap, individuals must be willing to give up control. This is one of the biggest things that’s led to frustrated employees when an organization grows. What was mine to control and oversee previous to our growth – I have to be ready to give up control of that thing. It doesn’t mean that I don’t still have this as a responsibility. It means that I may not have complete control over the responsibility and I have to learn how to work in this new reality.
9. Top-level leaders must be freed from day to day issues in order to focus their time on more strategic issues as the organization grows. A small(er) organization’s leader can be involved in the day-to-day. However, as an organization grows, he/she must be freed up to work on strategic issues – otherwise you will lose momentum and the growth will not be sustainable. In order to accomplish this, employees and leaders alike must be intentional about not going to the senior leader(s) with things that could be and should be solved at a different level of the organization.
Those are my 9 observations! Which of these have you seen and/or been a part of? What would you add to this list? Comment below and let me know!