From Go to the Number Slide Puzzle

I have managed teams in various stages of growth.

At times there is hyper growth, where a dump track pulls up to you with money and head count and you are charged with running like the wind to grow the team to capture an opportunity.

At others you have stagnant growth (or even worse: negative), where you need to take a breath and tackle a problem with the crew that you have. Sometimes this happens in dire situations, but that isn’t always the case. It often happens after an influx of talent where you realize that you all just need a breath. It takes time to ingest new members and maintain the evolving culture. It can all sounds great and easy to have a large influx, but it is far from it. When you are adding team members like this, it is a lil like playing Go. Ideally you have a strategy and some time in between each move. If you were playing speed Go where you had to lay down the peaces one after the other a couple mistakes can compound and you end up with a bad Tetris game:

My ideal growth state is being able to play it slower with organic growth. This gives you time to play the board and let it settle. Every new player that you add to the game changes the entire team and you need that time. If you get the right flow state you are able to keep a strong culture and give the appropriate time to new recruits to get up to speed. A friend joined a unicorn and left a few months over to come to Google citing the fact that he was on a new team with an awful codebase and everyone was new at the company.

At times you get a large infestation of talent through an acquisition. This comes with great opportunity, a proven team that works well together. It also comes with potential culture clashes and expectations that need to be shaped. When done right the combined force is obviously more than the sum of the parts and you end up with a win win, but we all know that pulling off acquisitions is hard work on everyones behalf.

Back to stagnant growth. At this point you are waiting at the Go board for so long that you need to play the age old number slide puzzle. Moving around parts as changes happen to maximize the health of the entire team. Even when you know where you want to get too, getting there can be really hard. Unlike the numbers in the slider, humans have minds, feelings, and careers to concern themselves with. You can’t just move them around and expect everyone to be happy to go with all the moves. Instead, you need to paint the vision of how the world will be when it lines up that way and be really careful that you don’t mess anything up for people along the way. You have to go slower than you would sometimes like. You need to nudge.

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