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It took a lot to get a lean organization into a huge company with offices scattered all over the world. I am so lucky to be in one of them and oversaw all the way through the change in around 7 years.

After a long way for being flexible to change, responsive to market and caring to customer’s actual need, the organization turned into a real company. And the real company start to face challenges like every mature companies would do: profitability, rate of return for investor and financial status. Changes seem inevitable and I have spotted 5 traps that you may want to avoid.


1. Enforcing Regulated Process

Your company is having more and more clients or partners. They have signed contract in different formats with you. They tend to work with your team in different ways. It is getting more and more costly to handle them differently. So your management would want to establish regulated process.

Regulated process could be a good stuff for a well established organization. The critical point is all about the enforcement. Every client would find value from your organization in different ways. Some of them would probably be that your organization is flexible and pragmatic. When enforcing regulated process, all the client has to be communicated well and allow time to accommodate the change. A “sharp cut” to switch to a new process would be rude to client and get them run away.



2. Aggressive New Blood

The team swell quickly along with the team growth. Some new department are set-up in order to tackle the new process or the new direction. For most of the time you may need to hire professional externally to handle those new process and the new team. Getting new hires previously work in sounded organization could be reasonable but they need to be reminded that, although their methodology may work perfectly in their previous organization, they couldn’t simply rule the way to get it implement in the new company they worked.

Even worse, there would be some opportunists that would jump among management roles in different companies every 1 or 2 years. In every position they would strive for their own benefit and achievement prior to organization’s interest. If they couldn’t get what they want, they will jump to another job.

3. Saying ‘No’

As the company grows, the salesforce would have a higher sales target and the delivery team would have a tight profitability baseline. It is obvious that there may be some clients that no longer be of value to our company. Those clients may be requiring service which is not our core competence or the cost is simply not justified. In that case, it is very reasonable to be selective and turn down some clients.

Getting to say no is difficult and it is kind of politically incorrect for the business developers and nobody would take the consequence of losing a client. In this situation, a regulated process could help to determine when to carry out the exit (or graduation) plan. Same as point 1, proper time should be allowed for communication with client and closing down (or migrating) the related deployments in order to keep a good relationship for future possible deals.



4. Innovation Process

In a lean organization, innovation is the high priority. All the staff are encouraged to innovate and new minimal viable product (MVP) rolls out every quarter. However, after years of trial, you organization eventually find the “signature move” and grow well with that. The activity of “disruptive innovation” gradually change to “sustaining innovation” which tend to improve the major product only.

Your organization may still want to catch up with the marketing trend and be ready to bring about the next wave so innovation process is still in place. The trap is that, the company tend to set up a team/department for innovation and try to isolate the responsibilities from everyone. The “innovation department” would actually discourage other staff in the company to involve in the innovation. Moreover,  by setting up a team as ‘cost center’ or even a group of staff working part-time basis or volunteer, the “innovation department” would lose the urge on getting out new products.



5. Retaining talents

As your company got stable and labour specification is widely spread over the whole company, all the staff would have one specialty or small responsibility. The talents used to grow with the company starting to find it no longer fitting their appetite and they may want to seek their achievement elsewhere.

To retain them, your organization could take good use of the current scaling and offer more job rotations for those challenge seekers. They could be assigned to office in other countries, rotated to other departments and teams. You could even support them to get their new idea into a new product (and even spin-off to a new subsidary).