Recently, I’m finding that I’m working with more and more startups. This is exciting – to get an early glimpse at tomorrow’s industries and products. It’s also rewarding in that it shows that today’s startups (as opposed to their extinct Web 1.0 ancestors) are consciously leveraging the proven body of management theory in savvy new ways.
I took classes for my USC MBA at Manchester Business School (MBS) in the UK in the early 90’s. One of the lessons that I still carry with me from that time is that companies, as they grow, face a series of challenges that they must overcome if they are to continue to grow. There are various models that represent this idea, but the basic concept is easy. As a startup passes the 80 – 120 employees mark, the original, light-weight and informal communications channels break down – badly.
To make the successful transition to the next stage of growth, companies need to formalize management, communications and processes. The tribal knowledge that worked so well last year, no longer works when more and more new people are added.
Getting ahead of the curve
What I’ve found rewarding with the companies I’ve worked with is that they are starting on their processes as well as their reporting and organization.
My grandmother used to say “a place for everything and everything in it’s place.” I have the same recommendation for startups as they start to try to document processes. Start with a structured, proven, researched based framework that you can grow into. That is, start with the APQC PCF. This will give you a framework to grow into as you go through through the next inflexion points of autonomy crisis, control crisis, red-tape crisis and growth crisis.
It will also make you a more desirable acquisition if you want to go that way…