Don't Get Bogged Down in Too Much Unfinished Business
Starting many things but finishing few can make a startup just as slow as a large corporation
Small startups lose their edge over incumbents when they fail to manage projects effectively as they grow. This is a common issue for startups and it severely hampers their momentum.
One of the key advantages startups have over established companies is speed. They're nimble, unburdened by bureaucracy, and able to make decisions quickly. This agility allows them to innovate and run circles around incumbents, who are primarily focused on maintaining their market position.
But velocity can be fleeting. After product-market fit, the founding team expands, and new groups form. This growth brings with it a communication and alignment tax—a demand for more structure and discipline. If this tax goes unpaid, operational debt builds up and execution suffers.
It's a problem that’s difficult to see from within. Projects drag on, excitement wanes, and resources are spread too thin. The result? A slew of half-finished projects that never reach completion—or cancellation.
Looking back on the early years at Semaphore, I wish we'd hired our first project manager sooner. It took us eight(!) years. We believed that teams should self-manage, but we didn't consider the value in having someone solely focused on managing projects.
Makers aren't always inclined to ask the same questions week after week, take stock, document progress, or address performance issues. That's where operators come in. They thrive in these roles, and their presence actually empowers a team of makers by freeing them from the burden of project management.
That's why we're developing Operately—to help startups implement just the right amount of cross-functional process so they can focus their resources on building truly unique and valuable products. As we work on Operately, we'll continue to share ideas and techniques right here on our blog. Stay tuned!
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