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In a High Growth Company, Your Job May Be Growing But Your Role May Be Shrinking

rocket manI am grateful to be associated with a number of high growth companies, which is a blessing because they are exciting clients.  Especially in today’s economy, if you are building a company you are likely feeling lucky as well as smart.  And tired.

Over the years, I’ve noticed there is a particular transition point that isn’t well understood and can be quite painful.  As the company grows, practically everyone’s job must narrow.  This is even true for the CEOs and founders.  Why?

Flamholtz and Randle wrote a very good – very long – book called “Growing Pains” and one of the things they talk about is the nature of the change you must go through as your company grows – from “Entrepreneurial Management” in the small, beginning stages to “Professional Management” as you grow.  Entrepreneurial management is characterized by – among other things – “an informal structure with overlapping and undefined responsibilities.”  In other words, when you are small,  chances are everyone is involved in some way in doing everything.  Roles overlap, people get called into consult with one another on many things, and you can touch many different decisions.  Then comes growth.  If you transition to what Flambholtz and Randle call “Professional Management” the organization will probably develop “formal explicit role descriptions that are mutually exclusive and exhaustive.”  What?  This means that as you need more work to get done, and more territory to be covered, and more growth to be achieved, everyone will need to specialize into their own niche role with far less overlap.  The jobs will narrow as you grow.


It’s important to understand this because – especially for people who have been involved since the beginning - the kind of Wild West entrepreneurial culture with its broad and informal style of work can be hard to let go of.  Narrowing your role in order to grow your company may make sense intellectually (for example, specialize in a particular market channel and go deeper there) but it can feel like a loss.  It can be hard to stop “touching every decision” with your founding colleagues and be able to say – “I trust you to make the decisions in your area.” 

When high growth companies stumble, it’s often because they don’t see this invisible pull to resist growth.  Executives try to touch every decision just like the original days, and it slows the company down.  People try to stay involved in too many things and become overwhelmed and burned out.  At points like this, it really helps to know that what you are going through is one of the natural consequences of your success.  If you want to continue to grow on that exciting trajectory, you’ll need to sit down and figure out how your roles are all going to narrow.

That means that as we wind down the year and think ahead to our New Year’s resolutions, you might consider resolving to do less. 

For a copy of the “Growing Pains” abstract on the RACI Solutions website, click here

Download the Free Growing Pains Abstract

About RACI Solutions

RACI Solutions has been helping organizations across the globe utilize the power of RACI to transform the dynamic of cross-functional teams since 2007. Whether you are new to RACI or have used it for years, we can help.

Today’s business environment is complex – you may be contending with matrix structures, rapid growth, mergers, multiple locations, virtual employees, and/or digital transformation. 

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Topics: RACI, Delegation

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