Imagine a small group of people that have an idea for a product that they believe can “make a ding in the universe”. This is how many of the hi-tech companies we know were born.
In these early days of a company, it is very common that this group of people are working together in tight collaboration and a lot of enthusiasm but, with very little budget…
And when people work on a very tight budget and want to succeed, they are forced to do a very good and effective job, otherwise they will probably be out business soon.
Kent Beck puts it very nicely : They are “Playing to win and not playing not to loose”.
Every action or decision they make is aimed at winning, at getting a valuable and high quality product out the door. This often means that they are required to learn multiple skills.
It is common for a person in such a company to be able to develop the product, test it, demonstrate it to the potential customers and users, support the existing customers, propose new ideas for functionality and basically do anything else that is required.
On top of that they are most likely using an incremental and very lean process that allows them to get fast feedback on everything they do in order to build the right product, and build it right.
If you have worked for in the early stages of startup company you probably know what i am talking about.
And then, on one shiny day, they make it! They are officially a success story.
As the product succeeds, its customer base grows and the demand for functionality increases.
What do they do now?
They hire more developers of course, which introduces a challenge: They need to work together…
They think and think and decide to hire a development manager. Makes sense.
Now this development manager starts synchronizing them, which removes the need for the developers to communicate with each other, which leads to problems. And bugs. Lots of bugs. And unhappy customers.
At that point the dev manager might be thinking: Oh, we have so many bugs, we probably need specialized testers to help us find them before they reach the customer.
So they hire testers, and a testing manager, and support people, and a support manager.
By now we have a 50 people company so it makes complete sense to hire an HR manager to assist the manager with doing HR stuff (What ever that means).
This HR manager of course wants to add value to the company so she suggests to start an employee evaluation process, how else could you detect who are the strongest and weakest people in the organization and handle them.
And in addition to all of that they “naturally” start developing a process to help dealing with all of the challenges mentioned above.
Do you see where this is going? Going down this road will most likely result in a bloated, wasteful, bureaucratic organization. You can kiss fun & innovation bye bye.
Let’s call this approach “more with more”.
But can things be different? Yes they can!
We can take the “More with LeSS” approach.
Why does the model that worked for a small company needs to be changed just because it is different in size? Why do we think we need more roles? Why do we think we need more processes?
Try another way
We can try and scale it up without tailoring down.
We can use (almost) the same model as we did before: teams of multi-skilled people incrementally delivering products while communicating with each other and with customers. How awesome is that?! The LeSS frameworks assumes just that. Scaling up rather than tailoring down.
Get rid of Taylorism! Trust the teams and support them when they need assistance or guidance.
Use the a lean framework that values system thinking, lean thinking and continuous improvement towards perfection, Basically use the same logic that worked before scale it.
It is not rare for a veteran employee in a big company that is undergoing a LeSS adoption to say something like: “Hey, This is how we used to work when we were just starting as a company, you are teaching us things we already know…”
Stay tuned as i will elaborate on the main concepts in the LeSS framework in an upcoming post.
May the force be with you.