The Scaling Dilemma
YOW! 2014 Melbourne
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: “We used to be small. We made great decisions, got product to the market fast, and were very successful. Now we are big. And slow. Our teams don’t work together very well. Our specialists are spread too thin. Our products are less than awesome.”
Getting teams to work well is hard. Getting teams to work well together is much harder. And the dilemma is, what works in a small organization is often counterproductive at scale. The question is – what do you have to do differently when you grow up?
For starters, scaling is fundamentally a complexity problem, so you should look for ways to reduce and deal with complexity. Second, scaling is a cooperation problem, and understanding what promotes and what destroys cooperation is essential for growing organizations.
Finally, scaling is an organizational problem, and there’s no shortage of models to study for patterns of how to scale organizations. There’s the lean model, the military model, and several unicorn models. These models confirm the fact that scale is possible, and are full of ideas for you to experiment with. But they won’t tell you which approach is best for you – you have to figure that out for yourself.