In last months’ blog I looked at how the organisational structure of your company can help overcome the problems of scaling a company. This time, I’m getting passionate about the last of the three key areas: introducing process. This will tie together the previous two articles and should mean that all your new departments and specialised roles can work reliably with each other.
Why you need processes
Processes can help with a number of things, such as ensuring consistent product delivery or support; but under all this they are really enabling communication. If there are five people in your company, you don’t need a process, because you can just talk to each other. But when your company reaches 40 people, communication becomes more difficult. The same ad-hoc communication you used with five people will no longer work as it’s impossible to personally communicate all the information needed to everyone involved. To combat this you will need to put robust processes in place.
A process is a formal, well-structured method of communication. It can be a heavily engineered Prince2-based system, or it can be as simple as a regular meeting. The size and complexity of the process should be scaled up or down to meet your needs.
When communication in your company spans departmental boundaries, processes help ensure that the communication actually happens and that the correct information is communicated. If you need someone to design the new process, then there are none better than your staff as they are already doing the work, so will know what needs to be communicated and to whom.
It is never too early to start implementing processes. Just remember that it is far easier to add new staff to an old process than it is to get a new process working with old staff. Think dogs and tricks.
What will work?
Process design is a very subjective thing, and it really is about what will work for your company. You need to look at your company culture, the type of staff you have, what the process will do and how integrated you already are with existing procedures. If you are developing your first process, here are three things to remember:
1. Focus on the output first
You need to focus on what you want to get out of the process. In the case of an interview process, you want the very best employee. If that’s the goal, how do you get there?
2. Figure out how you’ll know if you are getting what you want at each step
You need to build checks into your process to make sure that it’s working, and that it is being followed properly. Then you need to decide how you will measure these checks. With the interview process these might be: Are you getting enough candidates? Are you getting the right candidates? Will your interview process find the right person for the job? Once you select the person, will they accept the job?
3. Put accountability into the process
You need to make sure the process includes the individual or department that is responsible for each step or the overall output. Without this there is no-one to make sure that mistakes are recognised and fixed.
Finally, scaling a company is not that dissimilar to scaling a product. Different sizes of companies impose different requirements on the staff, managers and directors. If you address those requirements too early, your company will seem heavy and slow to make decisions. But if you address those same requirements too late, your company may crack under the pressure before you get a chance to address them. Always keep in mind your true growth rate, sales pipeline and client feedback. It’s good to anticipate growth, but it’s bad to over-anticipate growth.
David Barker is technical director and founder of the green colocation and connectivity supplier 4D Data Centres.
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