In my professional life, few experiences have been more fascinating and fulfilling than to be an active co-creator of a new organization, product, or service. Creative beings is what we humans are. Therefore, experiencing the joy of organizational becoming, a process shared by all the members of the startup team, is as powerful and enthralling as bringing new life into the world. In my career, I have had the joy and the privilege to do it several times—twice as the founder and several times more as an active and eager contributor.
As an exert organizational leadership and architecture practitioner, I never fail to marvel at the journey that a young organization takes from being nothing more than a powerful shared idea, to messy infancy, to vibrant maturity. Similar to raising children, the art and practice of building and growing an organization is about enabling and disciplined risk taking. Each phase in organizational life has it distinct attributes and preferred leadership styles.* Just as human infant is not expected to apply effective time management practices, so do the leaders of an infant organization will frequently forego rigid structure and processes in favor of maximum freedom, flexibility, and speed.
Then, at some point, the need for order emerges to help channel the energy and efforts of the young organization’s team toward achieving the most pertinent, the most value affecting objectives. At this point, many startups, in technology space and beyond, will find that they naturally gravitate toward agile project management techniques. The choice is natural, because agile methodologies offer a great balance between fairly simple structure, intuitively relevant principles, and fast-paced progress that the startup is making. It will be some time, before the need for formalized IT governance enters the stage, but by embracing agile, the startup has already committed to introducing orderly structures and processes to its convention-defying culture.
* For a wonderful discussion of the the evolution of organizational leadership styles of a young organization, read Barbarians to Bureaucrats: Corporate Life Cycle Strategies by Lawrence M. Miller.