How To Scale Without Breaking: 4 Common Symptoms To Watch Out For

on 02 | 20 | 2019

Those new employees…they haven’t been indoctrinated in your systems, culture or your vision. And let’s not forget all the new responsibilities that are pushing your team to their limit. Scaling without breaking is no small feat.

Scaling stresses all aspects of your business, making identifying risk extremely difficult. Symptoms seem to bubble up everywhere from people to product to process. In my experience, the root of the problem…and the fix…comes down to people. Your software is buggy? Q&A test wasn’t strenuous enough? Product too complex? If you trace problems back to their root, you’ll find people…and also the requirements needed to scale without breaking.

Pay close attention to any product delivery flags signaling that you’re not meeting customers’ expectations.

Here are four common symptoms that need to be addressed in order to scale effectively and prevent breaking:

  • Talent Leakage: If you have more good people leaving than joining, you have a problem. Attrition during any transition is to be expected, but our data shows that a scaling company with 100 employees gains three FTEs for every one lost. I think of this as a leakage coefficient. A healthy scaling company has a leakage coefficient of less than.33. . Conversely, if your coefficient is greater than .5, you need to take a closer look what is causing people to leave and what can be done to attract and secure the right talent.
  • Customer Experience Gaps: This symptom seems innocuous. After all, your company is scaling, it makes sense that requirements scale as well. But ignore customer service at your own peril. Pay close attention to any product delivery flags signaling that you’re not meeting customers’ expectations.Missed deadlines, delivering less than expected or the wrong deliverable, sacrificing quality for quantity, are all indicators that something is breaking down as you attempt to meet greater demand.
  • Siloed Departments: Silos form for a multitude of reasons. Although functional focus has its benefits, if leaders don’t understand the entire organization, silos tend to cause a breakdown in communication. It’s no surprise that the ability to work cross-functionally is a top requirement for scaling companies. Engineering, Product, and Design all need leaders who have a holistic understanding of how your organization functions and your business operates.
  • Damaged Culture: Scaling is stressful and if you’re not careful that stress can be a culture killer. Ted Krantz, CEO of App Annie recently described in Business Insider how awkward silence at an all-hands meeting served as a cultural wake-up call. Employees feeling scared or too apathetic to speak their minds are symptoms of your corporate culture in decline. As with silos, toxic cultures often develop when leaders become defensive and put their fiefdoms before the organization.

I spend a lot time helping our clients peel back layers and diagnose problems as companies scale. Often times, seemingly minor issues are actually symptoms of much larger issues that need to be addressed. If you’re experiencing issues with talent, customer service, silos or culture, take the time to thoroughly diagnose the problem at its root and design the requirements of your next leader accordingly.