• Andy Goram

People Priorities For Rapid Change

Rapid growth and change bring unique people challenges to deal with and require changes to the way a business and its leadership operate, usually. Though legend has it that Google's founders were still interviewing and signing off on new Googlers well into the first 1000 employees. Is that something all those scaling up should do? Is it sensible for everyone to do that? There's a point at which you have to let go of some stuff, right?

In this episode, of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, your host and founder of the employee engagement and culture change consultancy, Bizjuicer, Andy Goram, talks to the experienced scale-up HR professional, and author of the book "Scaling For Success", Andrew Bartlow, on what it really takes to successfully deal with hypergrowth and take your people with you at the same time as you journey towards success.


Below is a full transcript of the conversation, though you can listen to the full episode here.


Two middle-aged smiling men discuss people priorities affecting hyper growth scale-ups
Andrew Bartlow (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss people priorities affecting hypergrowth scale-ups

00:00:10 Andy Goram

Hello, and welcome to sticky from the inside. The Employee Engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier competition-smashing, consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host Andy Goram and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn their lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them and create tons more success for everyone.


This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses, the sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it.


So, if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.


00:01:10 Andy Goram

OK, in good financial times the idea of scaling up a business is an exciting prospect. Whether you start as an established business and growth has spiked, or you’re an entrepreneur of a start-up that's seen rapid growth in the early years, the markets are busy, money is available for the right opportunity and competition for the best talent is hot. Even with all that it's not a sure thing. Even in something like the tech industry, a staggering 54% of scale-ups fail. So, what's it like in a tougher market, like we're in today? Even harder, right?

Interestingly, though, research would say that the failure rate is not actually about the money, in the main. It's about not having the right level of expertise to scale up effectively, and enough talent and will in the workforce to sustain the pressures of hypergrowth. Forbes and Inc. magazine both say that building a great culture and team is one of, if not the biggest challenge scale-ups face. So, in a market like today, how can you scale successfully and maximise the power of the people to do that?


Well today, I'm joined by Andrew Bartlow. With 25 years of human resources and talent management experience in many big and complex organisations, today, Andrew helps businesses to articulate their people strategy and accelerate their growth whilst navigating rapid change. He’s also the co-author of the book “Scaling for success. People priorities for high growth organisations”, so he's the perfect partner to help us look at how to make the most of our people when scaling up a business successfully.


Welcome to the show, Andrew!

00:02:53 Andrew Bartlow

Thank you so much, Andy.

00:02:55 Andy Goram

How are you doing my friend?


00:02:57 Andrew Bartlow

You know, we talked about me fighting COVID over the past week, so you may hear it in my voice a little bit. But hey, I'm really pleased to be here with you.

00:03:06 Andy Goram

It's all good my friend. I think pretty much all of us have been there. And if you haven't yet, it's coming to get you, and then we can kind of move on, I think.

It's really nice to have you here today. Will you just do me a quick favour? How about just introducing yourself with a bit more detail about what you do, and what you're working on at the moment for the listeners, please.

00:03:26 Andrew Bartlow

Sure, sure, well as you mentioned, I have a long career in human resources. 20 plus years in house as the Head of HR at companies from Fortune 50 to less than 50 employees. I've had the top job, four or five, maybe six times, depending how you count it with mergers and acquisitions thrown in there. I rode a rocket ship with a real estate tech company as they went public and had a little tiny piece of that. Pulled my golden parachute and hung my single shingle as a consultant a few years ago. Wrote my bucket list book, “Scaling for success” and you know, now I work with other organisations and other HR leaders to help them be more successful. So, I have a career in both very large enterprise organisations, as well as you know, peer startups.

Not a lot of people have that, you know, that experience on both sides of the fence. And you know, I bring it together by, you know, really focusing on the human resources work. Helping the people people to be more effective.

00:04:41 Andy Goram

I love that you said that you're living the dream with the golden parachute and the rocket ship and the the bucket list book. Amazing stuff. We will obviously reference the book as we go through today, but can I maybe ask you what’s a seemingly simple question? What inspired you to write that book in the first place Andrew? What was it that thought, you know what, I need to write this book?

00:05:03 Andrew Bartlow

Well, I'd left the internal job, Chief HR Officer of a, you know, very large organisation worth $14-15 billion, depending where the market is today. And I had a lot of choices and was trying to figure out what to do with myself besides be a terrible stay at home Dad for a while. Yeah, I was, you know, drinking too much wine and I don't play golf, so I needed to find something to do with myself. And, you know, as I was evaluating,

Hey, what does the world need and what do I know where I could contribute?”

You know I can work at a food kitchen, I can, you know, mow lawns. I could start gardening. Or I could help other people that are struggling with the same things that I've struggled with through my career and be useful. So that's where the book came from. It's just trying to share my School of Hard Knocks to help other people navigate a little bit more.


00:06:04 Andy Goram

Brilliant! Although I've got to say, the lure of a ride-on lawnmower... I mean, that's, I mean that's a thing, right? Now that's on my bucket list at some stage. Get myself a ride on lawnmower just ride off into the sunset. That would be marvellous.

00:06:17 Andrew Bartlow

Send a photo, please.


00:06:19 Andy Goram

Definitely, my friend. Definitely.

So look, the subject of scaling-up. I mean that's a grown-up topic for this podcast, right. And just so that we all follow the trail. You’re the guy who's done this many, many times and knows what it's all about. When we're talking about scaling-up, what are we referring to here? What are we really dealing with?

00:06:41 Andrew Bartlow

Sure, well let's define a couple of terms. Hypergrowth is thrown around wildly, some days. You know, I define hypergrowth as 50% headcount growth over a 12-month period.


00:06:56 Andy Goram

OK.

00:06:57 Andrew Bartlow

Lots of organisations, particularly venture-backed, software start-ups, find themselves in a hypergrowth environment shortly after a funding round. I live in the San Francisco Bay area. I work with many start-ups, scale-ups and you know, growth equity platforms, and there's a lot of that activity happening out here as well as everywhere else. Boy! It's been amazing in the UK and Ireland and Austin, Texas and you name it. It's no longer just Silicon Valley. Lots of organisations are having success even in this tighter marketplace.


So again, scaling-up is about growth, and for purposes of people issues I think about that as headcount growth.

00:07:46 Andy Goram

Nice and simple. And so I said in the intro about a sort of changing market and the landscape right now and whether it throws in different challenges compared to like a bear market or something. What do you perceive the sort of challenges of the current marketplace for scaling up businesses?


00:08:05 Andrew Bartlow

Yeah, well, we're recording this episode on May 23rd of 2022. The markets here in the US have been highly volatile. Mostly trending down, sadly. And I've been monitoring technology company layoffs. The list is long. You know we have very rapidly swung from this massive war for talent during the great resignation, great reshuffling, whatever you want to call it. To now, we have, you know, quite a few skilled people that are looking for work. It hasn't significantly changed the unemployment rate among knowledge workers, but the market is shifting. And I'm sure that we'll get to this, but I think the formula for success isn't that different.

00:09:00 Andy Goram

OK!


00:09:01 Andrew Bartlow

Whether you're in good times or bad.


00:09:05 Andy Goram

Just maybe the competition for talent is different. Would you say that's the case, or not in your experience?

00:09:11 Andrew Bartlow

Yeah, yeah, you know, no matter whether the market is raising all boats, or whether it's making things tougher for everybody, yeah there is elite talent that organisations compete for. And how to select those people and how to align them and ensure that they're working on the right things and keep them motivated and productive, those are Evergreen issues.


00:09:39 Andy Goram

Yeah, the market doesn't really shape that. It's... there's a rule of thumb, right? And maybe we should start to try and get into that when we think about whether it's good times or whether it's bad times, what is that formula then, for success for scaling-up, from your perspective?


00:09:56 Andrew Bartlow

Yeah, well I would suggest that it's not rocket science, and it's not found on the latest Apple News article or HBR News Feed. It's a focus back on the basics. It's being brilliant at the basics. And that means, figure out what's important to your organisation. What are you trying to accomplish? Communicate that repeatedly to your organisation and make sure that you're working on the most important things all the time. And that is just a very simple sort of, you know, big rocks, Franklin, Covey concept of,

If you're leading people, then you need to provide clarity and a simple plan for those people to together get something done.”

00:10:56 Andy Goram

And if we start with that focusing on brilliant basics. If we've got this stat in the background. And I don't know, like I've tried to do some research. But you know it's what you find on Google. So, if it's reliable we’ll see. But it seemed to be fairly common statistic that 2% of start-ups get to IPO, right. That they get all the way through into an IPO. That's a shocking statistic for me, when I saw that. But if we think about those brilliant basics, that can't be happening all the time looking at the failure rate that we talked about, before, for even the tech stuff being about 54% or whatever. And then you've got this other shocking thing about getting to IPO being tiny percentages. Why are the brilliant basics, not happening?

00:11:50 Andrew Bartlow

Well, I think that venture funding is like gasoline, or rocket fuel. That's better set. Boy, it can help you go fast and far, but it's also highly explosive and really dangerous. So as you're taking funding for growth, you're accepting a burn rate usually, and that means you're you're taking on more costs than revenue is coming in, and usually those costs and in SAS companies, in software as a service companies, is people. And so that is dangerous. You've got to figure stuff out pretty quickly as you're burning cash, and you've got to be able to raise again, assuming that you're not getting to profitability. There's some danger in the idea of blitzscaling. A popular book came out a few years ago around, you know, double sided marketplace, and this idea of a single winner, and you've got to make rapid traction to win in your space. That led, I think, quite a few organisations to take it too far, or to apply it in their organisation when it didn't really apply to them. And there's this overhang, and that's where we're seeing layoffs today. Where organisations got out over their skis, hired too many people, got too aggressive and now find themselves needing to trim back.


00:13:27 Andy Goram

Yeah, I guess this stuff sort of comes in, I guess, in different sorts of categories, because in the different stages of growth, I guess there are very different people challenges, right? So that bit at the front about, I guess, even to secure the funding to go on, you need a certain amount of talent and a certain type of of talent, right? I mean, that must be a challenge on its own, because the people that are going to help you secure the funding there, I guess are a commodity that people go after as well, right?


00:14:00 Andrew Bartlow

Well, you normally get your first round of funding due to your Team and your TAM. So, you know, who's your founding team? Do investors have confidence that they know what they're doing? And can, you know, create something valuable? And the TAM is a total addressable market.

00:14:18 Andy Goram

OK.


00:14:18 Andrew Bartlow

So, what's the potential, ultimate size of this business? So you can get Angel, Seed and even, you know, healthy Series A – Series A’s seem to be 5 to $10 million nowadays, with a Team and a TAM. But beyond that... and I named my own consulting business, Series B Consulting. That's not because my last name starts with B - Bartlow, but because of people issues start to get really interesting and complicated around Series B.

So around Series B you're typically seeing teams of 50, 50 Plus

00:15:01 Andy Goram

Yep.


00:15:02 Andrew Bartlow

And so at that point it's no longer just the founding team and, you know, the people in their garage, or their army of contractors. You have employees, you have layers. You have managers of managers, and that's where things get complex. In an organisation, it's around Series B, which coincides with around 50 people.

00:15:22 Andy Goram

100% this is the... where I call it. I think I call it “The Frozen Moment” for me. This is about letting go, right? This is the point of which distributed leadership comes in. And it's not you, the dude making all the decisions and and carrying the can the whole time. You're looking for others to kind of take that burden, right? So your challenges, and it's staggering, actually, when you think how you classed hyper growth, that 50% people growth in a 12-month period. I mean that's big, right? I mean, that's noticeable change. That's people coming in every day, or every week, new. And we know what it's like when you're trying to onboard people at a really simple cadence. But when people are coming on a constant stream that must throw up its own different challenges. The whole kind of onboarding strategy process must be way slicker than the normal, perhaps at that point.


00:16:22 Andrew Bartlow

Yeah, well it certainly increases the attention on talent acquisition and on onboarding. And often, you know, it makes organisations a little sloppy in their speed. And you can trade off your time, cost and quality to an extent, right? So those are the three levers and you can move really fast, but it's not necessarily going to be, you know, cheap and good so, you know, you can get 2 out of the 3, but you can't get all of them, right?

00:16:52 Andy Goram

You can get two out of the three. Absolutely I worked in marketing my friend, but that was definitely something I would say to clients or departments that were asking me for stuff. Yeah 100%, I know the triangle. And I guess at that point also, you're deferring recruitment to other people, right? At that point of growth, you've probably done it yourself at that point.

00:17:12 Andrew Bartlow

Well, you need to. Boy! Famous stories with Google... the founders of Google were still interviewing the first how many 1000 hires.


00:17:26 Andy Goram

Wow!


00:17:27 Andrew Bartlow

The recruiting team was preparing a CV for each candidate and one of the founders had to sign-off that this was a Googler. And they did that into the 4-digits of their company.


00:17:39 Andy Goram

That's incredible, isn't it?


00:17:40 Andrew Bartlow

Yeah, that's one of my, you know, key ideas that I talk about a lot, which is, just because Google did that, and Google is a wildly successful organisation, I wouldn't suggest that's a great practice that lots of other organisations should adopt, right? You could make an argument and say oh you need to have control over your talent, and you need to have, you know, deep assessment by the founders for all your critical first X number of hires. Well, I'd suggest that they may have succeeded because they have a great product or products, and in spite of an awkward people management practice.

00:18:25 Andy Goram

And do you see that? Well, in your experience, how well have people coped with that leap of faith? About that, letting go, period. Have you... I mean, you must have seen various kind of degrees of happiness with that letting go stuff.


00:18:40 Andrew Bartlow

Oh! Not really.


00:18:43 Andy Goram

Oh really? OK.


00:18:43 Andrew Bartlow

I have not seen a great range, but I've seen a lot of consistency that it is really damn hard. Can I say that on a podcast?


00:18:52 Andy Goram

You've said it and it's cool, it's cool with me my friend.


00:18:54 Andrew Bartlow

Alright, great, it's really hard for a founder/CEO to delegate, to empower, to trust. Their organisation is so deeply wrapped up in their identity and ego, that it's scary, it's terrifying to have anybody else make a decision of consequence. And so I have just about invariably seen founders struggle, to varying extents, but there's always some level of struggle with delegation, empowerment and you know, it's, I guess, it's letting go, but managing a larger, more dispersed organisation.


00:19:42 Andy Goram

And this is why I think this is an interesting topic for us. Because, and I've referenced this guy before, but there is a piece of work done by Ranjay Gulati and then if you're familiar with him, but he talked about and the soul of a startup. And he talked about this, I guess, quandary that startup Founders face. Like you just said, their whole DNA is in this business. You know, it's pretty much everything they're living and breathing. It's every waking hour that they're doing. And as the business get bigger, you know they're relying on other people to kind of carry that message through. And yet the first thought for them isn't to hard wire and code this DNA. It’s just to live it. And he talks about the need to capture the soul of the business and to absolutely replicate, hard-wire, tell the story, you know, breathe it into the business through other people as early as possible. Particularly when you're doing this kind of hyper growth of people. Because you need other people to tell the story as passionately, as engaging, as authentically as you are, right? And is that something? Is that a big banner that you waived in your career looking at all the people stuff for big growth businesses?


00:21:02 Andrew Bartlow

What I end up spending a lot of time on is the CEO or the Head of HR will approach me and say how do we keep our culture the same? It was going so great when we had 25,50, 150 people. And now we're dispersed and we're working remotely, and it feels different. And how do we stop our culture from changing?

00:21:28 Andy Goram

Yeah.


00:21:29 Andrew Bartlow

Right, so the connotations there are, it's still control. It's still kind of holding back...


00:21:34 Andy Goram

Yeah, yeah, yeah.


00:21:35 Andrew Bartlow

So I do my best to help educate them that,

Hey, this is a natural evolution. Like, congratulations on your growth. More growth, more problems.”

00:21:46 Andy Goram

Yeah.


00:21:48 Andrew Bartlow

And as you grow, those problems evolve. So explaining the mission, explaining the critical few, helping your broader team to make similar decisions as you would make as CEO, Founder, Boy! That's powerful and pays massive dividends.

I do tend to steer a bit away from the really deep vision, mission, values, purpose exercise. I think that a lot of that work ends up going, you know, down the rabbit hole and involves massive teams for you know dozens, or hundreds of hours and ultimately, it's the decision makers who need to decide who are we and how should things operate and take accountability for disseminating that throughout your organisation.

You can't bubble up culture. The decision makers own it. You know, that's what culture is. It's how decisions get made. It's who is rewarded, recognised, hired, fired, promoted, you name it. And so, yeah, I tend to work with founders and leaders that are at some transition point and helping them understand this is normal. This is OK. Your instincts are probably hurting you. And here's what it looks like around the corner.

00:23:18 Andy Goram

I think it's interesting, isn't it? 'Cause I agree, to a very large extent with what you just said, about that involvement piece or getting involved in the wormhole that could be vision, values, etc. and purpose. I think the top team has to absolutely set the vision and agenda for that. I think how it gets validated comes through a number of ways in the work that I do, and let's be honest, I haven't scaled up billion dollar businesses and I have no golden parachute of which to jump out of a plane with, right? But my little experience has been that some of those things are about transference of behaviour. And I think there's a great amount of work of role-modelling and storytelling and all this stuff, that the leaders need to do, but the guys on the floor have to sort of like have some belief in it. See that stuff. Make it relevant to what actually happens in their day-to-day work. Because, I think a lot of that stuff ends up getting detached, you know, and there's no relevance in someone’s day-to-day work. And an element of involvement in that I think is really, really useful. But I agree. I think the map has to be determined by the top team, but then they can't just clap themselves on the back having prepared the map and go, “Well, there you go gang. Over to you.” Like you say, everyone needs to see what's happenening. They need to see it in real life. It needs to be living.

00:24:49 Andrew Bartlow

Well, hey, real talk about culture. Vast majority of organisations, their leader wants it to be air quotes “Good.” Right? Wants it to be healthy, where people want to work there. People want to work hard. And maybe they'll get engaged in the wordsmithing of what ends up on the wall, or the mouse pads, or your screen saver. And maybe they don't. So without naming names, I've worked at more than one organisation where the CEO said, “OK, we just went through a merger, we probably need to communicate values to the organisation. Andrew, you're my HR leader, go help me figure out what those should be.” Right? that massive exercise. Oh! OK salute.


00:25:38 Andy Goram

Yeah, yeah.

00:25:39 Andrew Bartlow

Let's go there. Let's pull together the team and let's send out a survey and we'll have the focus groups and the outcome. And I've seen this repeated with bunch of organisations I work with, so not just the one experience there.

00:25:53 Andy Goram

Yeah yeah, yeah.


00:25:55 Andrew Bartlow

It's meaningless. It doesn't mean anything if the leader doesn't own it authentically and if it doesn't embrace the good, the bad and the ugly about the reality.

00:26:02 Andy Goram

100% correct.

00:26:07 Andrew Bartlow

Sure, it can be a little bit aspirational. But if you're putting out the pablum of - we pay competitively, and we, you know, embrace diversity, and we encourage work, life balance, blah blah blah. Everybody says that. Very few organisations actually do something meaningful around it.


00:26:29 Andy Goram

Correct.


00:26:30 Andrew Bartlow

It doesn't really describe how your organisation operates.

00:26:33 Andy Goram

I'd rather you didn't even do the exercise, if that's what it's going to be, you know.

00:26:36 Andrew Bartlow

Totally agree. Totally agree. If you're not going to do it well and embrace some of the warts, don't do it. It's a waste of time. Your organisation has plenty of other things that are probably more valuable to work on.

00:26:50 Andy Goram

100%. 100% right. That's definitely my mantra on here. That's only because I get a bit antsy about people just playing lip service to it or chucking the word innovation and integrity into a set of values and thinking it's done. You know? It's not good.

I'm interested to dig into your secret formula a bit more, Andrew. So, when you're thinking about a successful people focus for dealing with rapid change, how do you break that down? What is the recipe?

00:27:26 Andrew Bartlow

Great, and I love how you position this “rapid change”. That applies to rapid growth as well as reaction to a new market dynamic, you know?

00:27:38 Andy Goram

Yeah, quite.

00:27:39 Andrew Bartlow

So it's scaling up, or maybe you know, tightening the belt too and it's the same recipe.

00:27:47 Andy Goram

OK.

00:27:48 Andrew Bartlow

Yeah, I think it starts with “Have a plan.” A people plan, right? You have a business plan, but have people plan. And you know, often when you're dealing with rapid change, that's an excuse not to plan. “Oh, things are changing so fast we need to be nimble.”

00:28:09 Andy Goram

"We need to be agile!”


00:28:12 Andrew Bartlow

Right! Failure to plan is to plan to fail. And that doesn't mean you need a, you know, 100-page deck from McKinsey that's out of date before it's ever printed. You know it should be simple and ready to evolve, but basically, what are the most important things around managing your organisation that will help your organisation succeed? Far too few organisations spend even a few heartbeats thinking about that question.

00:28:45 Andy Goram

And are there like, into your mind, some kind of key categories within that plan that you know they're the must haves. You gotta have these things in this plan, or you've got to have thought about certain particulars?

00:29:00 Andrew Bartlow

I commonly you'll have a workforce plan. So how many people doing what, often where, do I need? Right, so that's something that certainly evolves as dynamics change, but that's very closely tied to your expenses and your burn rate and how you organise your recruitment work. So, some form of headcount plan or workforce plan is immensely useful, but that's not the plan itself. That's more of an output. So, you know if an organisation says, we want to expand into Europe, we want to, you know, increase revenue through opening a B2B channel, and we want to improve sales force effectiveness. Great! From a people management perspective, what are the short list of things that directly support those most critical business priorities?

And we HR people often get stuck working on HR’y things, right. We come with solutions that are trying to find a problem. Like “Oh, I just know that we need a mental health benefit. I've got this great solution. Let's say that can be helpful to our expansion into Europe because...” and it becomes a stretch.

00:30:26 Andy Goram

I was going to say, it must be easy to get distracted, right?

00:30:29 Andrew Bartlow

Oh yeah, yeah so be really clear about your alignment of your most important people priorities with your most important business priorities. So it starts with having a plan and then it flows to number 2.

Ruthlessly prioritise within that plan. So you don't bring the solutions that are looking for a problem. Make sure that you're allocating your time and resources and attention appropriately so that's number 2.

Number 1, have a plan. Number 2, ruthlessly prioritise to ensure alignment. Number 3. I'd say clarity.

You know, clarity is part of the recipe. It's part of the people formula around dealing with rapid change. That means communicate and repeat. Set very clear expectations. Reinforce those ruthlessly prioritised priorities. Reinforce what's most important to the organisation. Reinforce who should be doing what. Clarity is super important.

00:31:40 Andy Goram

Sorry, Andrew, when you're communicating, and I only say this because I've worked with a few people who came from very different schools, as sort of CEOs. You know one guy was,

They don't need to know the why, they just need to know what I want to do”,

and another guy wanted to really explain the reason behind stuff. And I'm kind of more aligned to the second guy, right? Because I think the first question anybody asks... either they've read an announcement, or they've walked away from a briefing is, “Well, why are we doing that?” What's been your experience with that sort of clarity piece.

00:32:19 Andrew Bartlow

Yeah, it’s in my book, you know chapter one, I talk about these two archetypes. Kind of, you know, tongue in cheek of the Mule Driver and the Prophet. And you know it, it's it may be a little outdated. Mule Driver - the idea is you have someone who's sitting on the wagon whipping the mules. And they're making all the decisions. They're deciding what direction to go in and how fast. So the analogy here is your team are the mules. Like you might feed him carrots, you might pet them.


00:32:50 Andy Goram

Yeah, yeah.

00:32:52 Andrew Bartlow

They might get Evian water, but like you're the taskmaster. That's the Mule Driver. The other archetype is the Prophet. That long flowing white beard coming with the stone tablets, who can attract this crowd of brilliant people around them. And you know, capital throws itself at the Prophet. But the Prophet doesn't like to get their hands dirty. Doesn't like to come off the mountain. Has a really tough time making tough decisions and executing. So those aren't necessarily on the same axis. But those are two really common archetypes of founders. The person that's kind of doing it all, and the driver, and the big idea visionary who isn't really sure how to get stuff done, but can, you know, build a great team.


I think there are risks with both of those archetypes. I think there are real positives to both aspects. Like the Mule Driver, you're going to get where you're going. Mules may not be happy. Might change out some mules along the way. But you're going to get where you're going. And the Prophet, you'll have this motivated, engaged, positive team until they figure out somebody actually needs to break ties and we're not getting anything done. So you know, I think the message there is you should look for the Goldilocks Zone, that happy middle. One where, you're getting stuff done and you're giving your team enough context that they can, you know, go down the right road.

00:34:37 Andy Goram

Yeah, now it makes sense to me. Makes sense to me, especially if you put it that way. So we've got to have a plan. We've got ruthlessly prioritised. We've got bring the clarity piece. Anything else for that recipe?

00:34:51 Andrew Bartlow

Yeah I'd add, again, people formula for dealing with rapid change, context is king. So just like we talked about the recruitment and selection process at Google during the early days, what works for you is likely to be different than what worked at some big famous brand name company, that probably had a very different context than you do. So you know, just apply some critical thinking to whatever sort of air quote best practices you hear about.

00:35:35 Andy Goram

Yeah, do you, in your experience now trying to help other business, do you see that as a common thing? Someone sitting there either highlighting a Google or Netflix, or a Patagonia or whatever. It might be some kind of hero company and well, “They did that. We should follow that path.” Is that something you see often?

00:35:54 Andrew Bartlow

Yeah, I think we’re in a silver bullet or pharmaceutical culture, where we want to take a pill, or follow the playbook that will guarantee success. And so and so did this. LinkedIn did blitzscaling, so we should do blitzscaling. And yeah, Netflix did that, so we should do that. Yeah, I think for dealing with rapid change, rather than applying rapid solutions that aren't well thought through, what I'm encouraging is take a couple of breaths. It'll help you accelerate. And map out a really simple plan that has clear, aligned priorities. And apply a light pressure testing of does this make sense for us? And whatever we're trying to bring from your last company, or what you read about over the weekend, or your CEO retreat that you went to with the investors, you know just apply some basic critical thinking of,

Is this likely to work for our situation?”

00:37:00 Andy Goram

And when you went through it yourself, and now you've come out, I guess the other side, you've got your plan, you've got your 4 ingredient recipes, what was the toughest lesson you had to learn actually going through it yourself?

00:37:15 Andrew Bartlow

Yeah, well, I've led this sort of work a bunch of times, and now I advise companies how to do it themselves. You know what's often difficult is keeping the list short. Is keeping the priorities tight. And the judgment around when to swap a priority out, or add one, or delete one. And that's as much art as it is science. Right? It's judgment, yeah. So that's where it can be challenging, because new stuff will always pop up.

00:37:45 Andy Goram

Sure, and you wrote a book about it. And what do you want that key take out for people reading that book to be, Andrew? What's the kind of, for you, the driving message that runs throughout that book?

00:38:00 Andrew Bartlow

Yeah, I think it comes back to, and you opened with Andy, be brilliant at the basics. And it's not about grabbing some, you know shiny new idea. It's about focus and the boring work of repeatedly communicating priorities and clarity.


00:38:23 Andy Goram

Yeah. I love that whole storytelling thing. I found this whole conversation fascinating. It's not a topic we've dived into before, in terms of the rapid scaling. We've talked about distributed leadership and how things kind of change. It's just really interesting to think about it in this context. And this is going to sound daft, but I still can't get over the way that you describe the definition for hypergrowth. It's really visual for me that 50% people rise in 12 months. That's quite a staggering image in my head.

Enough of my waffling. We've got to the part in the show my friend that I call Sticky Notes. So we are looking for you to summarise all the various things that we've talked about, as bits of advice that you could give to my listeners, and they could take their way on 3 little Post-it notes, OK? And then we'll work them up and stick on the Instagram channel and everything will be hunky-dory.


So, if I was to ask you for your three sticky notes in this whole topic of scaling up and getting the best out of your people, as you're doing that, what would your pieces of advice be?

00:39:25 Andrew Bartlow

All right, three Sticky Notes. So let let's keep these short, 3 words for each of the sticky notes.

Clarity is critical. Right, that's one. Self-explanatory.


Second, this may need some explanation. Humans have memories.


00:39:48 Andy Goram

OK.


00:39:50 Andrew Bartlow

Yeah, in the tech world and especially in this digital marketing age, there's this concept of test and iterate. Like,

Oh! We'll try something, and if it doesn't work really well, we'll try something else.”

And I see people approach, I see leaders approach this in the hybrid work environment. “OK, go home.” “OK, come back for two days.” “OK go home again.” People with lives outside of work crave reliability. They want to know how to take care of their childcare situation, or their commute, or their Home Office or whatever. They don't want policies jumping around on them all the time. And you can very quickly breed cynicism within your workforce if you're jumping around with your management practices all the time, “OK, we're going to do a performance review that has five factors” or “No, we're just going to do monthly check-ins", or “We're going to...” Humans have memories. And so that just reinforces the idea about being thoughtful about your management practices and not going too far down the path of testing.

00:40:53 Andy Goram

And your third, Sir?

00:40:55 Andrew Bartlow

I thought, authenticity builds trust. So that ties back to our culture conversation around like, hey embrace the warts. We are who we are. We know that our founder, CEO has certain ways of working and ways of operating. Boy! We're hoping that they develop and grow with time. But own it. Don't just drop meaningless commentary to your organisation. If you're doing too much PR corporate speak internally, your team is going to tune it out and not believe you. And so be authentic. Build trust that helps with clarity alignment and productivity.

00:41:44 Andy Goram

Thank you, Andrew. 3 smashing sets of sticky notes there. I look forward to sticking those on the Instagram account later on. Andrew, look, we've run out of time, but I would just like to say thank you so much for that conversation. I found that fascinating and thank you so much for battling COVID to come here today, to talk to me and provide some really stimulating material for my listeners. I really appreciate it my friend.

00:42:13 Andrew Bartlow

Hey, thank you so much for having me. Hopefully, my audio comes through as I mute myself as I cough, but boy, great conversation, insightful questions, just really hope that this is helpful for your audience.


00:42:26 Andy Goram

I'm sure it will be my friend. Thank you very much and you take care. OK, everyone that was Andrew Bartlow. And if you'd like to find out a bit more about him and some of the topics that we've talked about, please check out the show notes.

00:42:40 Andy Goram

That concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something, maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forwards.

If you have, please like comment and subscribe, it really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the Sticky From The Inside podcast. until next time, thanks for listening.


Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world.

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