By Nikita Fedorov
Most companies look to rapid growth as a provable measure of their ongoing success. However, while rapid growth is generally a positive step for any business, it is important to remember that it comes with potentially severe growing pains that must be addressed early in order to maintain the health of the company overall.
These types of serious growing pains are inevitable in any rapid growth scenario, and they have the potential to hurt collaborative efforts and reduce the overall effectiveness of your teams, sapping them of productivity, motivation and innovative spirit.
When speaking of rapid scaling and fast growth, this generally translates to onboarding a steady stream of newcomers in order to maintain a consistent growth rate since conventional wisdom says that headcount growth follows revenue. This can range from hiring additional developers to work on new features that can generate extra cash flow to bringing in more customer-facing employees to sell the features and manage the overall user experience.
In all rapid scaling scenarios, companies quickly run into a bottleneck because they must simultaneously figure out how to scale people, products, and processes. There is no way to only scale one of these three aspects without expanding the others as well.
For example, it’s important to remember that the processes put in place for that small startup team of 10 are completely inadequate for groups of 100, and they are usually insufficient even for teams of 20. Another critical component of successful rapid scaling is being able to hire well, onboard quickly and integrate new members efficiently.
The more expansion your business sees, the more essential it is to develop highly streamlined processes that can be scaled alongside your growing team. However, this level of rapid growth can put a strain on collaborative efforts between engineers and non-engineers as well. For instance, it can complicate something as seemingly simple as consistent, normal documentation processes, and it will inevitably make more complex tasks like transferring testing expertise slower and more difficult.
While this does not have to hamper your company’s productivity, you must deal with these challenges right away. Otherwise, they can negatively impact seasoned team members’ motivation and make newcomers feel alienated from your corporate culture.
Here are seven steps your company can take to streamline the onboarding process, improve information-sharing techniques and maintain a consistent speed of development through QA and non-engineer collaboration.
1. Hire seasoned management with outside experience.
Conventional wisdom often states that it is always better to grow people from within the company when it is time to expand the management team. While this is a critical aspect of creating a positive company culture, it is not always the best plan of action when your business is in a rapid scaling stage.
In these cases, it can be extremely helpful to bring in managers that already have prior experience in their roles. This is especially true if they have backgrounds in successfully navigating other instances of rapid growth and scaling. Onboarding leaders that can shoulder certain aspects of development independently can ease some growing pains by establishing a go-between for less experienced employees.
Hiring Tip: Whenever the opportunity arises, hire people who can hire people. These are the strong, long-term leaders you need for success.
2. Create and implement a highly detailed onboarding plan.
Many small businesses make the mistake of glossing over hiring processes as a “problem for later.” However, investing time and resources into creating a highly detailed, information-rich onboarding process can save a lot of the growing pains that come with rapid scaling.
Remember that knowledge is power, especially for new hires who have no sense of your organization yet. Clear, comprehensive training ensures that all new team members get the same level of initial information and creates a cohesive body of knowledge they can reference, limiting accidental misinformation or excessive questions.
Onboarding Tip: If you still need to create a robust onboarding plan, the fastest way to craft one is by asking recent newcomers about what they wished was different about their onboarding and addressing those challenges first.
3. Utilize a “new-with-old” buddy system for faster, better team integration.
One way to foster better collaboration and integration during periods of rapid scaling is to use a one-to-one policy for all new hires. At Qase, we have a standing rule to always pair one newbie with a seasoned employee for a period of time to act as a mentor.
Pairing new employees with veterans not only facilitates the transfer of employee-specific knowledge, but also gives the new hire a “safe” person to gain practical knowledge from without feeling like they are burdening team members with their questions.
Utilizing a buddy system like this is a tremendous help for integrating new and old teams, creating a more collaborative blended unit. This is critical for successful, fast scaling.
Buddy System Tip: This is also an excellent way for existing employees to refine and polish their soft skills. It helps to give them a better understanding of the company and can help them decide if they would like to pursue a management path sometime later on in their career.
4. Constantly seek out new ways to automate daily routines whenever possible.
Automation can make or break a company’s scaling efforts. Before undertaking a massive scaling effort, take the time to scrutinize every aspect of your established routines and processes. Going over them with a fine-toothed comb can help you quickly identify any potential bottlenecks that would hinder rapid scaling, such as how frequently your teams will need to grant access rights with an influx of new members.
Automation Tip: Figure out solutions to all potential bottlenecks ahead of time to prevent lags as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to lean on no-code and low-code solutions and chatbots to save time and effort. Slack channels for issues like deployments, vacation, and microservice generation are one tool that helps Qase teams keep things smooth.
5. Blend newcomers and seasoned veterans when forming project teams.
This tip is like the buddy system mentioned above but scaled up into teams. At Qase, we always strive to create a team that is half new hires and half “old timers” whenever a new project comes up. Following this rule helps us get the best of both worlds.
Newbies have fresh perspectives and are not caught up in a rigid mindset of how things should be done, and seasoned veterans have the practical, company-specific insight that newbies lack. When these two sides can be blended together, it becomes a powerful way to generate innovative solutions that work.
This is an especially useful tool for shortening the “forming-storming-norming-performing” cycle, which is a key part of moving quickly and maintaining momentum. It also helps newcomers get a much better feel for your company culture and gives them an “in” with some of the more experienced workers.
Teams Tip: One of the best ways to help newcomers integrate into your team culture without stifling their innovation is to have well-established values and clear-cut goals for every project.
6. Implement a company-wide tech radar system to keep everyone on the same page.
Confusion, chaos, and crossed signals are all too common during periods of rapid growth, but they can make the process far more complicated and frustrating than it needs to be. A simple solution to this is creating a tech radar that everyone in the company has access to.
This is a comprehensive repository (a kind of “command center” or hub) that outlines all of the programs and software being used on every active project so that all teams can easily refer to it before they begin working on any part of an existing project.
Doing this eliminates many of the miscommunications that can slow down development time or set back a deadline during a period of rapid growth. In addition, a tech radar helps you take an objective look at what is working well, what needs attention, and where there is potential for cross-team collaboration. It also opens up pathways for having open lines of communication among all levels of your company and gives you a simple strategy for reviewing your entire tech portfolio.
Tech Radar Tip: For a detailed walkthrough of how to best create a tech radar for your own company, check out this guide.
7. Always make department goals actionable, transparent, and aligned with the company mission.
Nothing can slow down rapid scaling more than confusing goals and unclear direction. Remember that nobody can help you reach your destination if they don’t know where they are going.
When it’s time to scale, everyone needs to understand the direction your organization is heading in. Nothing saps employee motivation and newcomer excitement faster than feeling like you are adrift in a company that has no idea where it is headed. This problem is especially serious for newcomers because they are not yet enmeshed in your corporate culture. If they do not feel like they know what they should be doing or why they were hired, they are far more likely to leave early for another company.
Unfortunately, this is a relatively common problem for businesses that experience stages of hypergrowth and rapid scaling, so it is something that your company should plan for ahead of any major scaling efforts.
The best way to handle this is by working from the top down. Make sure your organization’s mission is well-defined, and your executives all have an in-depth understanding of company goals. Once top management is on board, it is much easier to leverage the trickle-down effect to infuse middle management and other employees with the passion that comes with having a clear goal in mind.
It is also best to make sure that every department and every team within that department has transparent, specific and achievable goals that align with the larger corporate objectives as well as the overarching company mission statement. These layers of added meaning may not seem important, but they help to build a more robust corporate fabric that is more resilient, even in times of fast growth.
Goal-setting Tip: Don’t be afraid to experiment with a range of approaches and techniques to figure out the ideal blend of strategies that work best for your company. This includes well-known methods like All Hands meetings, OKRs, North Star metrics, public demonstrations and SMART goals. Start with one or two techniques and conduct your own in-house A/B testing to create a solution that gets the results you need.
Rapid growth doesn’t have to be a headache
For many businesses, hypergrowth may seem like a double-edged sword. On the one side, it is an exciting situation that proves your company’s product or service is a good fit for the market. On the other side, it can seem like an overwhelming task with lots of hurdles and obstacles between where you currently are and where you hope to be in the near future.
Fortunately, rapid scaling doesn’t have to include nearly as many “growing pains” as you might think. By planning ahead and laying a solid foundation before the scaling begins, you can help to streamline the process and position your entire company for even greater success than you initially anticipated.
About the author
Nikita Fedorov is a founder & CTO at Qase, is an entrepreneur and professional with over 13 years of experience in web development, software testing and automatization. Today, Qase.io is one of the first companies to launch a system that is changing the traditional landscape by providing an intuitive TMS.