I am currently consulting with a start-up client that is getting ready to “put on” its big boy pants. Over the last five years the company has grown to about 30 employees and has annual revenues of $25 million. The leaders of this team are beginning to realize that the high-energy days of a small team wearing multiple hats are over, and it’s time to develop leaders and processes to support the client’s strategic direction, and ensure that all employees are familiar with the values and behaviors that make my clients start-up special.
This work shed light on three must-haves for transforming a start-up culture:-
# 1. Values
When start-ups grow up, the company’s “stand-fors” or values must be committed to writing by the senior leaders of the organization. Values tell new employees, as well as those who’ve been around since the beginning, what the company is all about. Committing these to writing is helpful when on-boarding new employees and helping others assimilate to the company’s culture. Word of mouth isn’t enough when spans of control increase.
# 2. Competent leaders
When start-ups grow up leadership is essential for success. Start ups often struggle with putting technically competent employees in positions of managing employees within their discipline. This can be a huge jump for new leaders. Putting structured processes like coaching and leadership development programs to integrate new leaders and their teams is essential for accelerating new leaders’ success in their new roles.
# 3. A People/Change plan
Most start ups don’t have the luxury of a well-trained HR or OD leader in their organization. However, when start-ups grow up a change management plan for proactively and rigorously managing the impact of change on people is a worthwhile investment. Why? Because changes in technology, organizational structure, roles, and titles have major impacts on employee morale, workplace culture, and productivity. A stakeholder engagement plan, communications plan, and team development plan can help mitigate the risks to productivity and culture that major changes pose.
Growth is fun for entrepreneurs and founding members of a start-up. However, undisciplined growth when it comes to people and culture can threaten the strategic and financial direction of a fledgling organization. Leaders of start-ups can proactively manage growth by defining their cultural values, developing competent leaders through coaching, and formalizing a change management plan that accounts for the impact of change on people and culture.
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