10 reasons your people are just like so over your scaling

We recently sent out a survey about scaling organisations and 83 of you responded. Thanks very much to all those who took part! This is a great response and it made us realise we really hit a nerve in our community with this question. If you missed out the first time, you still can still contribute to our results over here.

We asked:

Have you ever left an organisation because of the changes that have come with scaling?


  • 54% of people we asked answered yes.
  • 61.4% of people also said their preferred organisational size is different from the organisation they currently work in.

From this result, we have concluded that half of your employees may leave if your company scales. For example, if you have a company of 100 people that you want to grow to 200 people, you may need to hire ~150 people to get there. Perhaps you could invest that extra energy, time and money into building and supporting your company culture?

This week at Agile Manchester, Minimum Viable Book co-author Emily gave a buzzfeed-style lightening talk with 10 of the most commonly held responses to our survey.

We’ll be publishing the context and the full results of our survey in a new edition of the Minimum Viable Book soon, but in the mean time, here are 10 reasons why your people are like so over your scaling. I hope you enjoy them – and the painstakingly chosen gifs :).

1. They focused on managing spreadsheets rather than meaningful work


People dislike the overhead of meetings and bureaucracy, and these are common features of larger organisations. Most people hate spreadsheets. They just want to do meaningful work rather than waste time reporting on their work.

2. The organisation became more ‘corporate’ as it grew which didn’t suit me


People like the family feeling, knowing everyone and the ease of collaboration that comes with smaller organisations.

3. Lack of managerial experience leading to a lack of support


Fast-growing organisations were thought to have less support for their staff as management were also learning how to deal with the growth themselves. On the flip side, larger companies can offer better benefits to their people as they have more resources available.

4. Mediocre people were hired. It became a game of paying the bills, not taking risks


People felt growth sometimes led to rapid hiring and were frustrated that people they didn’t respect were hired. Money was seen as the focus instead of making interesting things. The flip side in the client services sector is that smaller organisations don’t have the clout to attract the bigger clients, which can lead to fewer options for personal career development.

5. People feeling like they are working against each other rather than with each other. Silos.


Smaller organisations generally have flatter structures and less hierarchy, which was seen as a bonus. Smaller, however, can also mean over-worked people.

6. Being pulled in two directions by two (back-stabbing) bosses


Smaller organisations were thought to have less politics. Although it was also suggested that a small conflict in a small company could affect the whole team more dramatically.

7. Big companies = generally more bureaucracy, sign-off points and politics which can make it harder to do something


HR functions were cited a few times as an indicator of bureaucracy and the inability to ‘just get things done’. HR did not get good press in the answers in general (sorry HR people).

8. Loss of focus and control


Smaller organisations were said to have a clearer shared vision. Larger companies find it harder to keep everyone aligned.

9. The loss of original culture, and a new obsession on the bottom line


Our survey tells us culture was a big factor as companies grew. People felt the culture changed in large-scaling companies and was not what they originally signed up for, while the focus shifted from people to money. In much smaller organisations however, our respondents felt they were likely to meet less people, so they had a higher probability of not liking the people they work with.

10. The company became less focused, more chaotic and lazy


If there isn’t good leadership and alignment, it appeared to be easier to hide. People said they get lazy and get away with it.

What we learned from the Alpha release

As we are OH so close to publishing our beta version of the Minimum Viable Book, we thought it would be a good time to share some of the feedback and lessons learned from our alpha release last year.

The Alpha test group

The Minimum Viable Book alpha experiment was released by invitation-only to roughly 100 people in 2014. These folks had been very engaged with us over the previous year, either by attending workshops, interviews or interacting with us on email and twitter.

We asked these awesome people to read 10 article-length pieces of content online, each with a slightly different format, tone and topic and leave us a rating along with comments.

A few gems from our feedback bank

We noticed that the more thought-provoking, passionate or personal the article content was, the more positively a reader ranked the article:

“People really connect with people and stories about people, so this is a fab way of doing it.”

“I enjoy reading about entrepreneurs and what drives them.”

Most of our alpha articles were quite short and snappy, so they often lacked in-depth examples of how the person applied the concept we described to their work.

“Examples/case studies of how others do/manage process-improvements are really useful.”

“I would’ve found it useful to have concrete examples”

One of the content formats we tested was a simple, but neatly laid-out interview transcript. The idea behind this was to let readers take what they wanted from the interview, rather than us analysing it for them.

“I don’t think the quotes read well. There are just purely transcribed. I think you need to rewrite them to actually make more sense. It’s more important to get the sentiment that was being put across rather than the exact words used.”

“I was confused at the beginning what this was even about, if I wasn’t trying to help, I probably wouldn’t have kept reading. It took me a while to figure out how this might be relevant to me, even after I read the article.”

“I’m confused. I don’t understand how the individual content nuggets, fragments and formats are meant to be read together (if at all) and what binds them together.”

The video format went down well, with almost all participants leaving quite a lot of positive feedback for this format.

“Video > Writing”

“Love the videos”

“I liked the brevity. Saying useful things quickly. The idea being that you can then go and act on the advice.”

“Nice soundbites on the topic; good insights from people who have done it.”

Finally, we also found a couple of comments about a few grammatical mistakes, so we’ve decided to work with a proper grown-up sub-editor on the beta!

The beta

We are close to the release of a beta version of the Minimum Viable Book, and this will be available to buy in a printed newspaper format very soon. We’ve learned from our Alpha feedback, and decided to include many more in-depth examples, analysis and visuals around a central theme that ties the narrative altogether. We’ll be releasing another video too, although not in the newspaper, obvs ;).

In this first newspaper issue, we’ll be featuring stories that explore the positive force of 3D printing on hardware innovation and traditional industries; plus, the links between iteration and diminishing improvement of technology in large organisations. And so much more.

Join us!

If you’d like to contribute in any way, we’d like to hear from you. Drop us line.