Member Jim Flatt Speaks: Scaling? Dust Off That Organizational Chart

The Challenge:

In the case at hand, a CEO was presiding over a company undergoing rapid growth. He was seeking ways to transform his top managers from being great individual contributors to those with the ability to focus on developing their teams and the long-term objectives of the company.

If you were in this situation, what would you do?

If I were in your shoes, I would start by modeling the behavior that I want to see in my team that will allow the company to grow thoughtfully and effectively. It’s proven helpful for me to get out of the weeds of my own role as an individual contributor and to set an example for the rest of the company. Then, it’s time to act. My first move would be to dive into making an organizational development plan – a robust roadmap. I would ask myself, “What does the organization look like 12 months from now? What will it look like in 5 years?” This vision includes details like what functions are required to enable our growth and future initiatives, who reports to whom, how many VPs and managers we’ll need, and so on.

It’s important to unflinchingly assess my current workforce to determine whether and how these individuals can grow into future leadership roles. I might realize that some of the individuals, who were recently hired or had hoped to develop into future leaders, might not be able perform at the level required to fuel our future growth. If needed, I would bring on a few experienced managers who can serve as role models. It’s tempting to want to jump the gun and begin on a marketing plan or sales strategy before organizational structure. However, establishing a strong framework first is the key to scaling in a way that will support the company’s goals in the long run.

In the past, I’ve been in similar situations in which I had already hired my department heads and the rest of my leadership team and they turned out to not have strong enough track records in the skills I needed. To gain outside perspective, I would recommend hiring an organizational development consultant with high-growth, VC-backed experience. This move can prove incredibly valuable, and one I would recommend to anyone in this position.

Unprecedented growth is a good problem to have – you’re in a position to take your company to exciting places. Don’t forget that healthy mid-course corrections are often a part of this process.