Rapid growth is something that companies often aspire to and hold up as a measure of their success. While this is generally true, the fact remains that quick expansion and fast scaling are often extremely challenging to navigate, especially for fledgling businesses.
These “growing pains” can cause serious problems that have ripple effects throughout the entire company. So it is critical to understand the pitfalls and learn how to navigate them as efficiently as possible.
QA Ensure Your Strategies for Rapid Scaling and Collaboration Will Go Smoothly
Logically, founders often think that they should look for ways to avoid the hurdles that come with rapid scaling. Unfortunately, this is an impossible task for any fast-growth situation. The best thing to do is learn about the most common scenarios that occur. Then figure out how to manage them effectively.
The good news is that it is possible to implement rapid scaling without hampering your company’s overall productivity. The solution is to tackle any challenges that arise immediately, which helps to avoid harming your existing team’s motivation or alienating new hires.
Understanding the Choke Points: Scale Everything Simultaneously
Growth always means hiring new team members because steady expansion means more people are necessary for success. This can mean anything from hiring a new team of developers to work on furthering your product to customer service reps to ensure the client experience doesn’t suffer during your scale-up.
In my experience, there’s always a bottleneck in these scenarios. Companies have to simultaneously manage the growth of their team and the expansion of products and processes. It’s common to see businesses struggle with this because they believe they can scale one aspect at a time.
Remember, the more people you have, the more your procedures must adapt. What worked for a team of 10 can’t sustain a team of 20, and it certainly won’t work for a group of 200. This means that a key part of successful rapid scaling is not only hiring well but also creating better, more efficient onboarding processes. It helps newbies integrate fully into their existing workplace culture.
One aspect of this integration is ensuring the newcomers can “mesh” with the veterans — particularly when it comes to engineers and non-engineers working together. Keeping everyone on the same page is critical for maintaining a smooth expansion path.
Below are several steps your company can take to begin streamlining the onboarding process and fostering better collaboration between QAs and non-engineers.
Start by hiring veteran managers with scaling experience.
The advice given by most in the business realm is to always grow your leaders from within. In a majority of cases, this is an excellent strategy. It helps your business flourish and stay focused on its goals.
However, this route often doesn’t work when you’re undergoing rapid expansion. Due to the “full speed ahead” nature of the duties involved, the best course of action here is to seek out seasoned management with previous outside experience in meteoric growth.
When you bring on management that can take the reins of certain expansion aspects without direct supervision, it frees you to focus on the bigger picture. It also gives the less experienced team members someone easily accessible for guidance.
Pair newbies and “oldies” for faster integration.
Following a “new-with-old” buddy system can be extremely beneficial for periods of swift scaling. Creating these pairs is one strategy that worked exceptionally well for us at Qase because of how technical our projects are.
Both sides of this buddy system benefit immensely from these one-to-one pairings. New hires are able to glean employee-specific knowledge. They can also connect with someone who can help them connect with other “old guard” team members. It also gives them a safe haven to ask questions when they need direction rather than constantly approaching unfamiliar colleagues in their department.
On the other hand, veteran employees get to broaden their skill sets and refine their soft skills. They are critical for any person in your company who hopes to become a leader one day.
We also utilize a version of this buddy system when forming project teams. By blending half new hires and half veterans, we create a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. The newbies aren’t yet entrenched in a particular way of thinking, so they are more likely to make bold, innovative suggestions.
Having seasoned employees on the team helps to guide these suggestions in a productive, doable direction. It also speeds up the typical “forming-storming-norming-performing” idea cycle in which untested team members typically get stuck. They can offer company-specific guidance and practical tips as well, further improving the ideas generated. This helps your company maintain its momentum while cultivating innovative ideas and fresh solutions.
Spend time fully developing and refining your hiring and onboarding processes.
In the beginning, it’s easy for founders to “wing it” a bit when it comes to onboarding and hiring. The team is often small enough that it seems logical to put off investing time and effort into onboarding processes until some nebulous “later” time.
Speaking from experience, it is much better to go ahead and spend that time creating detailed, information-rich onboarding processes and hiring profiles. Knowing ahead of time exactly which types of candidates will fit in best with your corporate culture and the existing team can save you time, money, and stress.
Onboarding is often the worst growing pain your business will experience during periods of fast scaling. Doing all you can to smooth this process out beforehand will help you hire better and integrate newbies faster. Since speed and momentum are so vital for supporting this kind of scaling, think of it as an investment in your company’s future.
Remember, knowledge is power, especially for newcomers. It can be highly alienating and frustrating for new people who have no feel for your corporate culture to try to jump into their jobs and also fit into a team full of people they don’t know.
Developing clear and comprehensive training guides is important. It ensures that all of your new hires receive consistent, correct information about basic work processes, company goals, and general conduct guidelines. This empowers newbies to feel like they understand their role more thoroughly. It also prevents any intentional or unintentional misinformation from spreading and slowing your team down.
Continually look for ways to automate.
Automation is a key component of your scaling efforts, and it can easily be the difference between success and failure. Before you begin a massive growth spurt, review your existing processes and routines with a fine-toothed comb and an open mind.
The closer you can inspect all of the established processes in your organization, the more minor tasks you will likely find that can be automated, streamlined, or removed altogether. During these review sessions, you will also start to see areas that could potentially cause bottlenecks to your expansion efforts. For example, the need to constantly grant access permissions to newcomers who will be working on current and future projects.
It is also worth noting that no-code and low-code solutions are often excellent choices for a low-effort, high-reward tool to prevent scaling lags. Things like chatbots and dedicated Slack channels are tools that Qase uses to save both time and effort.
Ensure every department has a clearly defined plan of action at all times.
Periods of hypergrowth are often ripe for confusion and miscommunication. Be aware of this possible pitfall before you begin your next round of expansion.
Nobody can help you reach your destination if they have no idea where they are going. It means that clarity and transparency are especially critical during these times.
Remember that unclear goals are one of the most significant demotivating factors in a workplace. When there is a noticeable lack of direction, both new hires and old-timers will quickly begin to disengage — even if they were previously excited to come to work every day.
In fact, confusing goals are especially dangerous for newcomers because they already lack a deeply rooted connection to colleagues and your company’s mission. If they start feeling like they are adrift in the workplace, they are far more likely to leave their position in favor of a brand with well-defined mission statements and clear goals.
Because this is a pervasive problem for companies experiencing rapid scaling, it’s something management must stay on top of. One of the best ways to handle this is with a top-down approach. Start by ensuring your top executives have a deep connection to your brand’s mission and goals. Let the “trickle-down effect” spread this passion to middle management and their team members.
Tools like SMART goals, OKRs, and North Star metrics are all great starting points for creating the ideal solution for your business.
Keep everyone on the same page with a single “tech radar” information hub.
Well-organized information is also a vital component of keeping your internal projects running smoothly. Nothing slows growth and stifles innovation more than chaos and confusion. To prevent this, simply create your own “command center” or central hub for tech projects.
Utilizing a company-wide tech radar (which is just a comprehensive information center) helps everyone stay in the loop about important information. For example, which programs are being worked on, what software is being used, and how existing workflows operate. A repository like this eliminates crossed signals and wasted time by making it easy for anyone to review the guide before jumping into the middle of an active project.
Tech radars also have the added bonus of giving executives a big-picture view of what is and isn’t working well and where there is potential for cross-team collaboration.
Think About the Future Before You Get There
Rapid scaling doesn’t have to be a nightmare, even if it begins happening unexpectedly. While hypergrowth scenarios may seem like a two-edged sword, growing pains are inevitable but don’t have to be unmanageable.
Planning ahead and creating a solid foundation to build upon will help you streamline the process and position your business for great success.
Featured Image Credit: Dylan Gillis; Unsplash; Thank you!