PlaybookChapter 4

When to Start

Find out if now's the right time to get started with common warning signs.

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What’s the right time to start thinking about process? The stakes are higher than you might think. Early on, it’s easy to die of starvation if you’re not careful. But if you wait too long to introduce more process, you’ll probably die of indigestion.

Small Teams See Outsize Benefits

Even if you’re not hiring new people every month, it pays to invest early in process. With a nimble team and a streamlined operation, you’ll move faster than if you continued to waste time and money on preventable mistakes. And without the baggage of a larger organization, your team can iterate quickly: by the time you hit 50 people, things could be running like a well-oiled machine.

“Respondent is an entirely distributed team, but at only 12 employees, we weren’t sure if it was too early. However, an early investment in process is paying massive dividends in almost every aspect of our fast growing business. It’s amazing to see the impact.” — Harri Thomas, CRO, Respondent

5 Signs It’s Time to Start

Sign 1: People Don’t Talk as Much Anymore

Now that you have people in multiple locations, instead of chatting face-to-face, everyone’s on Slack and email all day. Information isn’t traveling as quickly, and people are finding out important details after it’s too late to adjust course.

“I can’t believe I’m only hearing about this now. We sit right across from each other!”

Sign 2: Tribes Are Forming

Now that you’ve split up responsibilities, teams are forming their own subcultures. You don’t want to standardize everything, but language differences are slowing down communication, and you can’t let every team invent their own expense report format.

“I probably understand about 30% of the things engineering says during daily standup.”

Sign 3: Managers Aren’t Managing

You’ve promoted early hires to senior roles, including some first-time managers. They’re struggling to keep up, putting out fires in their old projects while trying (and failing) to meet for one-on-ones. Their reports are frustrated with the lack of direction and support.

“I haven’t talked to my boss in over a month, and I have no idea what I’m supposed to be working on right now.”

Sign 4: Mistakes Are Getting Expensive

You used to be able to weather a day-long outage, but now every hour you’re offline costs you hundreds of dollars. Bigger customers means a botched sale or a lost account can cost tens or hundreds of thousands. And more press means a lot more eyes are on your team.

“Those 2 hours of downtime caused us to lose 3 of our best customers, and we just lost a month of runway.”

Sign 5: Star Performers Keep Saving the Day

Your top engineer is pulling nights and weekends to get releases out on time. Your star sales rep is busting ass to fill out your revenue targets. And you’re worried those people can’t keep it up for long without burning out—or walking out.

“I’m pretty sure our lead engineer’s going to end up hospitalized for stress if she doesn’t take a vacation in the next month.”

Start Before You Need It

Rolling out a process doesn’t happen overnight, and progress is measured in months and years, not weeks. If you’re seeing the signs below, move quickly before things escalate.

Even if things seem fine, don’t put off the conversation. If you’re forced to start, either by conflict on your team, a bad culture, or the threat of legal action, it’s too late.

Feeling overwhelmed by growth?

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