How do I design meaningful structures in a startup?

This question is usually asked only when things are not going so well in the company, right? How much minimal structure do I need to be able to work efficiently and how much maximum structure so that one does not internally and externally block oneself? Which paths and tools help me to find the right structures, especially in the start-up phase?

Challenges in the initial phase

At the beginning of a startup, everyone is on fire and wants to get started right away, create a business plan, develop products, planning the marketing, and much more. Everyone is highly motivated and contributes according to their personal strengths.

People are different and therefore their respective need for structure. Someone needs a fixed schedule and the other one already hears „plan or to do list“ and closes his ears right away. How do you find a common ground here? Many people also have experience in a company with the „old economy“ style, ie. rigid corporate structures, little room for development, etc. This szenario is exactly what they no longer want. They want maximum freedom to implement their ideas and visions.

But if you work in a team, you need certain structures such. These include, for example, operational structures, communication channels, agreed forms of voting, definition of the flow of information, clarification of decision-making powers, and much more. – Where is the common ground here?

Role distribution in the team

Ideally, even before starting a business, you keep an eye on that every large area of responsibility is occupied by at least one person.

  • Management: Strategy Development, Finance, Networking
  • Product management: Technical Know-how, Innovation Management, Development, Design
  • Sales: Customer Management, Sales, Marketing, Social Media
  • Internal: People Management, Systems (IT), Administrative (Back-Office)

Here you will find another wording for the roles.

Now who looks after the meaningful structures? Ideally, the person who is responsible for Internal Affairs and of course only in close coordination with all others. The internal processes should actively support all other areas in concentrating on their respective core businesses. Only when all areas work together optimally, the added value can be maximized.

Use of meaningful structures and processes

The advantage of meaningful structures and processes clearly lies in the increase in productivity, because

  • processes become faster, because less coordination issues and clear responsibilities of tasks – less can be lost
  • clear role allocation, resulting in fewer interface problems, fewer errors, faster action – professional appearance
  • more motivation, because less friction, work is more fun when you have orientation and everyone is in the same boat – more dynamic and successful

Helpful tools for meaningful structures

Which tools and actions can be used now in everyday life or have to be checked regularly:

  1. Create an understanding of meaningful structures – e.g. a joint workshop with the method LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.
  2. Clear role descriptions – who does what in concrete terms. It is important to check these also every six months, discuss together (!!!) and adjust together in the form of jour fixes – don’t forget to write them down.
  3. Arrange decision scope – who can decide what (alone or together), mostly this is logical due to the functions, but this is important to regularly adjust, so that no internal friction losses occur. Again it’s important to document this in writing and present it clearly visible for all.
  4. Decide the information flow – who needs to inform whom and when? Is everyone always set in cc? Where are to dos documented? I highly recommend the tool „Asana„. Here all tasks can be transparently documented for all team members, so everyone can see what the other one is working on – ideal even for decentralized workplaces!
  5. Document management – use of IT tools, where are all the documents stored? The filing of documents should be based on the product cycle, the same structures internally and externally for fast discovery (how much time is spent searching for a document???)

Conclusion

  • Structures must be recognized by everyone as „meaningful“.
  • Structures must be documented in writing so that they can be constantly adapted and improved.
  • A person in the company has to push the topic „structures and processes“.
  • Meaningful structures facilitate cooperation and increase productivity.

We thank Mag. Sonja Liegler for this blog entry. She is „Strukturmeisterin“ and accompanies start-ups and SMEs in designing meaningful structures.

Links to article:

http://connorgillivan.com/startup-roles-and-responsibilities/

http://dannyholtschke.com/blog-11/startup-rollen

http://derstandard.at/2000034446845/Startups-Wovon-Erfolg-und-Misserfolg-abhaengen