This week’s curator, Lee Bryant, looks at how we can dig deeper into the vital area of individual and collective culture change as part of organisational and personal transformation, shares some related guides from Shift*Base and picks 5 links for further reading on the topic.

Thinking About Scaling Upwards from Small Teams

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the ‘team of teams’ approach to networking small teams as a basic building block for modern organisational structures, but in addition to following the right models and patterns, organisations need to be able to solve the inevitable scaling pain points that emerge along the way.

We have been working on this question a lot recently in relation to agile transformation initiatives, and it is fascinating how much harder it is to solve scaling problems in an existing large organisation that is mid-transformation than in a green-field startup scenario. Part of this is to do with the fact that other parts of the organisation and customers are still often operating more traditional structures and therefore require consistent interfaces between growing small-team-based structures and existing endpoints that have more traditional structures and ways of working.

Another challenge is the layers of scale between the individual and the whole organisation. Sometimes there need to be intermediate levels between the small team and a division or department that make up the main structures of the firm, which necessitate super circles, or ‘teams of teams’. The link below about how Uber recently abandoned Slack is interesting in this respect. Slack is great in small teams, but very noisy and hard to manage for hundreds of people or more. Instead of using a tool like this to create a single information sharing environment, perhaps it should remain owned by the teams themselves who create feeds or other sharing mechanisms for making their outputs available at the whole-company level, perhaps using an Enterprise Social network or similar platform.

We also revisit the famous case study of Morning Star, which is an example of evolved scaling, where people manage their own peer-to-peer agreements rather than try to create more complex super-structures. WL Gore takes another approach, which is broadly one of localising services around individual plants or operations, and not allowing any sub-structure to reach too large a size on its own.Finally, of course, probably the most important pre-requisite to scale small-team structures is the creation of a shared services platform that gives teams what they need to connect into other parts of the business, for things like technology, standards, policies and access to what were formerly centralised services (HR, IT, purchasing, etc).

Anyway, see below for a few links on this and let us know if you have any bright ideas we should pursue to learn more about this topic.

Shift*Base Updates

We have a number of techniques and patterns in the knowledge base that provide hints about how rapid growth companies are solving the problem of how to scale up from small teams to large-scale organisational structures. In our wrap-up of small team and agile team methods, there are some hint about how to address this problem, and case studies such as WL Gore and Spotify are also useful reads on this topic.

Shift*Groups Updates

Our (free) invitation-only community for change agents and internal practitioners of social business, collaboration and digital transformation remains open for new members, whilst we conduct a review of the site and look at how to improve its user experience and utility and consult on how we can better support the community.

Weekly Linklog

  • Is Slack slacking? The chat app couldn’t handle Uber’s relatively small workforce. Is this a serious failing or just a bump in the road for the $3.8bn company?: Hip tech startup Uber ditches hip tech startup Slack
  • Platforms are becoming increasingly central to business value creation. Yet, not all platforms are created equal – some platforms have far more potential to trigger powerful forms of increasing returns that will ultimately marginalise other forms of platforms: “Harnessing the Full Potential of Platforms” – John Hagel
  • Agile and scrum provide ideal frameworks for digital product development, but what happens when you need to expand a team? Learn to manage that growth: Manage the Growing Pains of Scaling an Agile Team
  • “A few years ago, a landmark Stanford study came out showing that people tasked with remembering one digit made much better decisions than people charged with remembering seven digits. The two groups were each presented with a choice to eat calorie-laden cake or healthy fruit. The seven-digit crowd ate 50% more cake. The culprit: Cognitive load”: The Do’s and Don’ts of Rapid Scaling for Startups
  • At Morning Star, the world’s largest tomato processor, employees make all the decisions–from how they’ll do their job to what resources they need to do it: Most Audacious Companies: Morning Star

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