25 June 2007

Make Yourself Dispensible

Where would your company be without you? Better off?

Most Founders don't even consider where their companies would be without them. In fact, founder organizations often require intimate and frequent communications with the founder. This is the natural result of a driven founder with intimate knowledge of the marketplace and the solution being produced . Founders tend to take few vacations that allow them to become untethered from the organizations they created. Founders make many (most) of the critical decisions for their companies. Founders hire people who execute on the founder's decisions - usually not decision makers themselves.

But have you ever thought about whether this is bad or good for your company? While it may feel good to the founder - no decision gets made by some bumble head who doesn't know as much as the founder - and it may make the early stages of a company function efficiently - no bureaucracy, in the long run this poses an undue constraint on the organization as it grows beyond double digits of employees.

Founder decision making is just like the days of time sharing computers. For those of you who are not old enough to remember, time sharing computers gave multiple people access to a single computing resource (usually connected via a slow dial up line and acoustic coupled modem) by slicing the time the processor was dedicated to each individual task. Usually this was done fast enough to make the user believe she had unfettered access to the computing resource. However, when enough people tried to access the computer all at the same time, the response times suffered. (We actually are spoiled now - we accepted these delays as normal - such lack of responsiveness even under the best of conditions would not be acceptable today.)

Similarly, as the load increases on the founder with more and more employees clamouring for access to the founder, decisions get slower and slower - sooner or later bringing the organization to its knees.

It is the unique founder who "gets this" (before her board steps in) and begins to decentralize decision making. Often founders feel uncomfortable taking this step - allowing the bumble heads to make the decisions. They are too used to being the "go to" person for all major issues that anything short of that leaves them numb. But as soon as a founder realizes that she can hire smart people and permit them to make some of their own decisions, the organization gains a whole other level of potential and cycle times can begin to reduce.

So next time you revel in the idea of your indispensability - think again! Maybe you need a vacation?

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