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Typical Challenge of Scaling Teams: What to Do When Your Process Doesn’t Scale

Scaling Team
Building A Team
Reorganization
Team Processes

30 March, 2022

Christophe Broult
Christophe Broult

Director Test Engineering at diconium

Christophe Broult, Director of Test Engineering at diconium, focuses on how he scaled his team while building organization and management teams in place.

Growing Pains: Challenges of Rapidly Scaling a Team

Scaling a team is never a challenge, but having to scale within a deadline is complex alchemy. About a year ago, when I joined a company, there were about 16 people in the team, and we had to hire more people. As we grew, I could not have the personal development conversations with my direct reports any longer — the frequency of the one-on-one meetings became less. Growth in teams also brought in the challenge of enabling people to do their work more smoothly, as there were too many people to coordinate.

Listen and Observe When People Come Across Stumbling Blocks

As I had regular one-on-one meetings, I built rapport with my team members. One of the first actions I took was to promote two persons to become team leads. Of course, I could not do every work by myself, and delegating responsibilities can sometimes become a more significant challenge. I decided to promote the people who were the most ready and willing to take such a role in the team.

At some point, a team member was escalating certain matters to me, and one of the first lessons that I passed on to the people was not taking ‘no’ for an answer. I coached the person to come up with the right solutions for the arising challenges. Some processes may seem impossible, but it is certainly possible to find a solution through the proper steps. Together, we managed to find solutions that were deemed not possible to find two years ago.

Following the framework from the book “The coaching habit (summary): say less, ask more & change the way you lead forever” by Michael Bungay Stanier, I coached the newly assigned team lead. The framework revolved around asking them questions till they dig into the heart of the problem and come up with solutions that they know would fix it. It was an excellent way to ask them questions that helped in the learning process in the long run.

Providing them with solutions right away would imply spoon-feeding them. Since they found the solutions themselves, they felt creative, and it was also a good point to help them learn and grow.

Bringing a part of a matrix organization, I ensured that everyone working in agile teams was happy. I regularly asked questions about how they have been managing their work and provided ownership and accountability to those who deserved it.

I realized that many were hungry to learn but did not speak up during meetings or express themselves. I empowered those teammates who were curious to know. Having conversations with my teammates built a better-shared understanding of what needed to be achieved.

The model of 70:20:10 helped me shape the challenges related to scaling. While it’s 10% of a person’s knowledge that is acquired via formal trainings, 20% of it comes from interactions with their colleagues, and the rest 70% is something that they learn on the job.

Be Transparent and Make Informed Decisions

  • Communicate with your direct reports regularly, share what you have in mind, let them express themselves, and make feedback a part of it all. Feedback should be a part of your process at all times.
  • Don’t shy away from delegating responsibilities. In that regard, you can even use tools like Delegations Poker & Delegation Board that will enable you to empower people at the right level.
  • While making decisions, make sure to be transparent. Answer questions that your direct reports may have in their mind. Clarify why you’re taking a particular decision and how it will help them in their process.

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