Situation: Sales at a small company have grown rapidly. They need to expand staff to keep up with demand and fulfillment. There are two options: expanding current functional teams in sales and service or adding a back office operations function. Based on your experience, which of these two options makes more sense for a company of fewer than 20 people?
Advice from the CEOs:
Since the company is planning to grow from 10 to 20 people, create an organizational chart for what the company will look like with 20 people. From this back into what it looks like with 15, and then 10 people.
Look at how the positions work, and what talents you want to see in each position. Assess how well your current staff fills both current and anticipated talent needs.
The company’s key market differentiation is and will continue to be exceptional client service. Here are some of the questions to ask:
Are the back office needs of the sales and service teams similar or different?
If there is enough overlap, can one person, and eventually a team, supply the operational needs of both your client services and sales functions?
If there is little overlap, what specific needs are currently unfulfilled by each team? Is there enough work to justify adding more than one person so that each team manages their own operations?
One option is a matrix organizational structure which can work well in a firm of 10 to 20 people. Key factors include:
Establishing a company culture to compliment your strategy and objectives.
Establishing clear expectations of accountability and expectations to govern the model.
Matrix structures don’t always succeed. Ask whether your current people and culture are suited to a matrix organization.
Interview with Jennifer Choate, President, Green Country Integrated Resources, Inc.
Situation: There are many opportunities to team with other companies, whether through partnerships, joint ventures or M&A. This is accompanied by the challenge bringing together different teams to succeed in new roles and tasks. What are best practices for bringing teams together?
People are an investment. Just like the stock market is not up every day, neither will be the performance of your people. Bringing people into new relationships, roles and responsibilities takes patience, work and nurturing to build skills and to get the best out of people.
Build the organizational chart of the new organization that you will build. Fill in all spaces with the individual who currently holds responsibility for each role. This means that some people will have several different roles. This is OK. As you add additional people, they will fill many of these roles.
Build a set of company or project values to guide individuals through the trade-off decisions that will drive future growth. Involve the full team in this exercise so that ownership of the resultant values is broad.
Develop and express in a consistent way the boundaries of the company or project. If Enron had had as one of its boundaries “we don’t embezzle” a crisis would have been averted.
Focus on systems and processes, not just on tasks. The core of any organization is people and relationships. These are best expressed through systems and processes, not tasks. Tasks express discrete roles, even if these may be sophisticated, but don’t encompass the richness or complexity of systems, processes or the people involved.
When dealing with people always ask “What is my role?” and “What is their role?” In each situation, work to understand the other’s perspective and what opportunity or concern they are bringing to the table. Trying to make someone into someone that they are not doesn’t work.
Particularly in a company or venture that focuses on high levels of customer service, act urgently, but avoid emergencies. You want your response to customer needs to be swift, but do not want to destroy operational rhythm.