Member Stan Schneider Speaks: To Scale Effectively, Treat it Like the Major Project It Is

The Challenge:

In this situation at hand, an Alliance CEO was seeking insight into smoothly implementing functional changes throughout his company with rapid growth on the horizon.

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

When everyone has both long-term and urgent responsibilities, urgent always wins. If I were in this position, I would assign one executive to own scaling to enable growth with no (or few) other responsibilities. Just like any other major effort, scaling takes significant resources. Someone must help long-term infrastructure compete for resources with other, more “urgent” priorities. Isolating long term and urgent is the only way to beat the “tyranny of the now.”

The current challenge is to implement a major change that impacts every department. At this size (150ppl), companies must learn to empower mid-level employees to manage execution, even of strategic projects. The scaling executive should remain focused on long-term growth strategy. So, to manage the project, I would assign a project manager reporting to the executive to lead a cross-department “Scaling Project Team.” It’s helpful to choose someone who knows the systems and is well-liked and trusted across departments. They must be able to challenge the status quo without creating politics.

Implementing cross-company change is a major project, so it’s important to pay attention to project management basics. Start with “why”: sell the change and get everyone on board. Then identify all internal stakeholders and make sure each is somehow represented on the team. Develop a plan and set a stake in the ground on schedule. The project manager should keep a list of assumptions, a “to-do” list with estimates of levels of effort (LoE), and a list of risks. At regular (usually weekly) meetings, the team goes over the lists, analyzing anything not planned and honing the lists. Finally, communicate!  Make sure everyone knows what’s going on without sugarcoating. Good luck.