The causes of “Swarm Management”- Part II

When your company is small your organization chart is super straightforward and easy to understand. Everybody reports to the owner. (Or maybe in an owner-operator situation it is “you reporting to you”!) If orders are to be given it’s usually the owner who does the giving. (And many times the “doing”!)

But as a company grows, it’s easy for our organizations to mutate into a confusing mess (what I called “Swarm Management” in my last post) where a) people don’t know what their responsibilities are, b) employees are afraid to make even minor decisions and c) two or three people are doing what only one should be doing. Frequently for a company like this their “chain of command” will look more like obedience school than organizational charts since everybody continues to report to the owner.

Think about it. Either by accident or by design you started your business with a structure that works well. Everybody knew what their job was and simply did it reasonably well. Things seemed to click along smoothly. Then things changed: sales grew, employees were added and the balance that seemed to work so well in your smaller company—where everyone knew what his responsibilities were and where all the bases were covered—doesn’t work anymore! Sound familiar?

Sometimes people get added to the company so quickly that nobody takes the time to reassign job responsibilities. Or perhaps old, loyal employees have worn a rut in their jobs and don’t want (or simply aren’t qualified) to do jobs that need to be done in your new, larger company. So you add even more people to the payroll in a Band-Aid attempt to plug the holes and stop the bleeding.

For example, you might add someone to help receive rugs or chase receivables or answer the phone or return your phone calls. Maybe it’s somebody to supervise projects, estimate work, and keep the warehouse organized. Or maybe all of the above! Before long the structure of the company has morphed into a creature that nobody recognizes and is neither efficient nor a fun place to work at!

Too often we feel we don’t have the time (or the patience) to organize our company correctly as it grows. Instead, we waste countless hours of our time and precious emotional energy breaking up petty squabbles between people. Or we suffer from “managerial dilution” soothing the bruised egos of employees involved in internal turf wars because nobody knew who is responsible for what. We race around redoing jobs and fixing customer relationships because jobs fell through the cracks because nobody knew who was responsible for what…or at least that’s what they said.

Listen carefully here: Adding people to your company without making the necessary changes to your organizational structure is like a person who puts on an extreme amount of weight in a short period of time. Their skeleton can’t support the weight. They become bloated, lose their agility and their health is seriously compromised.

Equally, any time you add people to your company ask yourself whether it’s because of sales growth OR because of disorganization within your company. If you are simply floundering in chaos don’t “band-aid the problem” by adding more people! Instead, it is time to to streamline things and reassign responsibilities. (Which of course is hard, intense work.) If you are enjoying fantastic business sales growth (which is good!) then you need to revisit your organization chart to re-evaluate “who does what” BEFORE you hire more employees. Trust me- you want to avoid “Swarm Management”!

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates

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