Managed Chaos: Team management in a fast-growing company

In a fast-changing business, the kind of people you manage is more important than your management process or style.

A key factor is employees’ ability to work as a team. In a small dynamic business the ability to cooperate and collaborate is more important than personal achievement. This does not mean having to work in a team in the traditional sense, with lengthy discussions and a protracted approval and decision-making process. Mutual trust, effective internal communication, clear understanding of ranking, and the ability and desire to reach a consensus with all team members are sufficient.

Highly creative companies also need smart people. The ability to analyse, quickly switch from one perspective to another and think outside the box are essential. People who lack these attributes will find it difficult to operate in a turbulent and dynamic business environment and be effective in a team.  

You might say that most employees in general should have these qualities, but there are other important business skills required that are not so obvious. People with such characteristics, at least those in key positions, determine the success of the entire business.

The first important quality that marks these people out is that they are alert. There is a lot going on in a company undergoing rapid development, and maintaining a constant, maximum situational awareness and readiness to influence developments is vital. You should be aware of all the information at your fingertips to be able to quickly analyse the needs of the market, customers and partners.

You should never miss a thing and react in relevant context. Ignoring new developments, signals and events may invalidate any efforts.

The second quality is being responsive. In a large company, developments have to be addressed with varying degrees of urgency and priorities are often well known. In a rapidly changing business, it is difficult to size up all the developments quickly and objectively. Therefore, the only approach to take is responding to everything at once. In a young, or relatively young, company any response should be made with a sense of urgency.

The third characteristic is being detail oriented. Little planning is able to take place in a fast-growing company. Growth dynamics are uneven – some parts grow faster than others. A large and stable company has an inertia that cancels out the impact of many minor setbacks. In a small or growing business with not much experience, it is difficult to foresee the importance of minor details and factor them in correctly – so every detail could be important.

Another important quality of key performers is the frequency and speed with which they are able to make decisions. A highly creative business does not always have enough information to go on or time to make informed decisions. But decisions have to be taken. The head of a group or division that can handle this is more efficient. There is no avoiding making mistakes along the way and that is OK – many questions arise for the first time and the right way to proceed is often unclear.

However, taking decisions, even when they are not perfect, is better than taking none at all. Wrong decisions can be rectified by taking new ones – if decisions are made quickly and with high frequency.

The final key characteristic is to never give up. It is amazing how often seemingly deadlock situations and problems can be resolved at the last moment. In a rapidly changing competitive business the possibility of losing is not something you should take lying down. Making a smart move is always an option and this possibility is the strongest at the last moment when the competition is at its lowest and a fine balance can be struck between winning and losing.

For large stable companies these qualities are not as important and do not make as much difference. But in a rapid-growth business, they are a prerequisite for the entrepreneurial team. There are no common, equally applicable guidelines for fast-growing companies. In a business where everything keeps changing fast, any kind of situation may occur. But with a team of people with the above qualities, a dynamic business does not need firm procedures or a special management system.

Whatever happens, it will likely keep moving in the right direction.

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