Welcome to another Business Smoke Break. This month’s article is dedicated to Clif Gordon at Herban Underground in Denver, CO. I want you to consider fear during scaling. When a company grows it’s scary. Across the board, there are different fears felt by everyone in business. The owner’s sweat they are making the right decisions and employees can be worried about the security of their place in the food chain.
When the action plan is put into place, these things aren’t really considered. That can lead to avoidance and passive aggressiveness, amongst other behaviors which can be debilitating to an operation and undermine a seemingly smooth process. Now, I’m no psychologist, but I can help you prep for some of the growing pains coming up. In fact, I’ll share a way to begin to look ahead at who will have those fears when, where and around what. In the words of human development expert Dr. Bob Wright, “Put the work in early, before it’s a problem.” Recognize the possible issues then you can begin to change the narrative.
I’ve been a part of scaling a few different start-up operations. I can remember being comfortable in my position, feeling like ‘king of the hill’, and in comes the new people. In one case, it was a very outspoken woman who wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers and see that her agenda was met. Another time, it was a young pirate with a comparable skill set to mine. Both times, I felt threatened and unsupported by the organization, whether that was really true or not.
In both circumstances, I became passive-aggressive and did not contribute or help the company’s growth progress as well as I could have. I recently spoke with some of Cresco Labs’ employees about their company’s current scaling of operations and what I heard reminded me very much of those past experiences – a lot of fear that wasn’t being expressed or acknowledged.
- Edward Deming, the father of lean manufacturing made “Drive out fear” #8 of his 14 Points of Management. Sounds simple, but how do you know where fear might pop up, especially if you aren’t trained to recognize it? Here are some steps to implement a system for you to foresee where fear may arise.
If you don’t know the drill by now, then go get some post-it notes, a good-sized wall, and some markers. Set your head up the best way you would like. Put on your thinking cap. Get a beverage that makes you happy. Don’t get too comfortable. This might not be easy. And, pop in some tunes that will help you think and explore. If you have stereo sound in your space, then you might want to try some binaural beats for clarity rather than any particular music that may influence emotions.
Assemble Your Team
If you have a small operation, then get everyone in on this. If it’s a bit bigger, then reach out to people from across all departments, from the counter staff to owners. Get some customers in there, too. Not just the best regulars, but some who aren’t so frequent. You want the extremes of a group that you are really interested in catering to. Do your best to get together to work on this. If you can’t, then you may have to do this in installments.
If you haven’t created a Journey Map yet, you can learn how in this past Business Smoke Break article. Instead of considering the steps the customer will take as they move through your business, I want you to list out all the steps of your scaling. One item per sticky note. Think broadly here. Examples of some might be EQUIPMENT PURCHASE, SET-UP, HIRING NEW TEAM, TRAINING, and INSPECTION. Once you have those up on the wall, see what you can group together into a slightly larger category, like TRAINING and HIRING could be grouped together as NEW EMPLOYEES, and then put everything in order as best as you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect, so don’t sweat it.
Realize Your People
Have a row called PEOPLE below your journey map in which you have listed all the different folks and roles involved during each one of those steps for your scaling. Put one person per sticky note. Consider outside vendors and contractors in this as well. Get everyone up on the board for now. Who does your team deal with throughout the day? Who is involved during hiring? Put them in that column. Think about it for each step to help to keep things nice, organized and easy to locate later when you need to reference it.
Create another row under PEOPLE called EMOTIONS. For each journey, consider what those people may be feeling at the time. If it’s during hiring a new team and you have an employee who has never done interviewing before, they might have some fear around that. Or what about the employee you’ve entrusted to train someone else in how their job is done? How might they be feeling? Will they be happy? Angry? Sad? Hurt? Consider more than just fear. What might cause those emotions?
Create a space for the team to open up and share. Some employees aren’t always comfortable sharing their feelings. Expressing your own emotions at the moment may help them to voice theirs. If you aren’t great at getting people to open up, you may want to find someone who is. A good Service Designer or Design Researcher trained in Emotional Intelligence should be able to help facilitate this. If you have a team that fosters respect and open communication, then you’re ahead of the curve and this should be an enlightening exercise.
Develop Your Processes and Policies Around This New Found Knowledge
Use those emotional insights to help drive your team forward. Consider everything that was shared and use it to inform your decisions. Ownership and management will be better served by considering and utilizing this when building processes and creating policies. I believe in being aware of how emotions can come up. If not considered in a healthy manner they can come back to be a royal pain in the ass later. I’ve seen this have horrible effects. All of these emotions can be leveraged to help move your team forward. Sometimes fear can be a great motivator. Fill in new insights on your map as you stumble into them. That will be your record to reference for future decisions.
Scaling a company can stir up a lot of emotions, a lot of fear, especially if the company is a small tight-knit group of people. Fear can be felt about the stability of the group and of places in the pecking order. While expressing emotions in the moment is a fantastic practice, not everyone has learned how to do this and an organization that has some foresight about what could come up and knowledge of how it can lead to avoidance and passive aggressiveness can begin to have an edge.
That company will be better prepared for growing pains and able to head off some of the pitfalls that arise before they become problems. If you can envision the challenges then you can begin to envision the ideal future. Then you can set up action plans to change the narrative. Now, get out there and grow your business. Be the best damn company you can be!
Meet Robert Grossman, founder, and chief service designer at Grappling Hook, the cannabis industry’s first service design consultancy. In each Monthly Morning Smoke Break, he shares with DCN readers a tool that they can use to stay focused, strategic, and adaptable in the evolving cannabis market. To learn more about Grappling Hook, Click here.
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