What's your number?
If hacking on something in your garage is a 1, and running IBM is a 10, where are you most comfortable as a founder or leader? Where can you stretch to, and where's just not going to be a good fit anymore?
Most of us have a range of two, maybe three numbers. Below our number, we struggle with the lack of process, resource, or data; above it, we can't balance the organisational complexity. Higher numbers aren't in any way better than lower numbers, nor vice-versa.
As founders, we need to be cognisant of this, as if we're intending on building highly scalable businesses, then presumably we want the org's number to go up. The challenge is, as the company scales, can we even scale with it? If we can't, then we need to step aside or make a plan.
This is common, and isn't necessarily a bad thing. You don't need to be able to go from 1-10, and figuring this out will help you optimise yourself and your team.
Different talents are needed at different sizes. The CEO of IBM for example, would most likely struggle to start something on their own. Knowing your number is important not only for your own productivity, but critical to know where you need to grow and develop vs replace yourself in each of the many hats you wear. If you don't, you won't last.
It's valuable to use this concept when brining on new team members. A marketing hot-shot at Google might be (and often is) a really bad hiring decision for an early-stage startup. They might be amazing in their role, but because their working at a 7 and you're a 2, they might not be able to deal with the organisational whiplash.
They might be great in their role because they are able to effectively harness tools like lots of data, a big team, resources, etc. Coming from that type of optimisation, process, and people management work vs working as a one-person-band having to experiment different growth-hacking directions is a huge shift, and an even bigger ask.
In the same way, a one-person-band growth hacker would probably struggle if they took a job at a 7-sized org.
When you're hiring, you need to be aware of your company's number, and the numbers of all your team members, both current and prospective. If you're a 3, you probably don't want to hire an 8. They are unlikely to be successful. You also don't want a 2, as they'll also struggle. Ideally, if you're growing fast, you want a 3, 4, or 5 at the highest, and understand that someone at a higher number will need time for your org to catch up with their optimal complexity.
Same goes for your team. If you go through rapid growth, you'll start to notice certain team members that are beginning to struggle with the organisational complexity, while other team members who might not have been extraordinary are coming into their own. This is normal, and needs to be monitored, otherwise the whole team can be slowed down.
So don't prioritise fancy logos when hiring, make sure your team members are keeping up with your organisational complexity, and check yourself to make sure you know where you'll likely tap out.
Remember, these are generalisations, which by their nature are filled with exceptions. The concepts aren't universal, and obviously different types of roles have different organisational complexity ranges, but it's a good framework to get your head around.
The concept of the organisational complexity ranges was first shared with me by serial COO Adib Bamieh who now runs venture studio Bamboo Orchard.
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