Empires are not built ‘as is’. They evolve from startups. But only a meager fraction of the startups make it up to the empirical formations.
As startups, it’s usually a bunch of people with an idea to stick to working for their own sake. People involved are mostly stakeholders and have a participatory role; their growth is directly proportional to that of the company. With the number of people in some lower 2 digits, there isn’t a high hierarchy of roles that separate personals involved. People are accessible. The faces are familiar, the workplace is habitual and there is positivity and optimism in the air.
If innovation gets marketable and ideas sale, startups grow. All of a sudden there are now faces popping up, departments formed and cubicles constructed. There are now regulations and processes, HR departments and regulatory bodies. The firm now has workers and managers, and not stakeholders. The top level people are now strangers to the base level employees with the only interaction shared being the grin exchanged on that pavement. The startup is now an organization.
As an organization, there are opportunities as well as challenges. Once the company overcomes the friction of rest and gets momentum with a brand name and a client base, new dimensions are formed and a self stimulating chain reaction of growth is a realistic possibility. But there are new challenges as well. The end deliverables to the client is not the only thing to be worried for now, there are also people to be managed. As hierarchies are formed and levels are differentiated, delegation of responsibilities and decentralization of power follows. Indices are created to measure the productivity and performance of people, group and process. With contradicting schools of thought and complex theories of management, there is no single universal structure to adapt to.
Yes, growth is an indication of success, and all startups have the aspirations to grow. But paradoxically, growth management itself is the most difficult phase on the path to success. As companies grow, there is no single mode of management or roadmap that will lead to a definite success. As the doctors put it, each case is unique and the diagnosis and treatment of each patient is customized. A company that follows too stern a management practice risks to create a ripple of negativity among the employees. When everything looks bound by rules and when processes are rigid and forced, people lose the sense of participation and ownness. And when people fail to associate the success of the company to their own, innovations decline and productivity fails. On the other extreme, if the management is too flexible, then it’s nearly impossible for the company to follow a single consolidated direction and individual efforts tend to go wayward. Growth management as such is all about choosing the right line of success between two infinities of failures. The role of the manager is now a diverse job that demands a mix of tech and soft skills, from good communication abilities to tracking emerging technologies. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ management approach may not be a good approach. Individual staffers require varying amounts of supervision, feedback and motivation, and keeping the overall organization motivated may require a mix of both managerial and leadership skills.
And that’s one reason why all startups do not make it up to the empire. Growth is too hard to handle.