As an agency grows its headcount, the complexity increases.

When you have fewer than ten staff information flows easily — everyone can be in the loop and feel connected.

  • You can easily get everyone together, around one table, to talk things over.
  • The company chat channels are manageable.
  • Everyone feels part of 'one team'.
  • Everyone can be across all the work the agency is doing.

As you grow past ten people this gets progressively harder and harder to maintain.

  • There's always someone on holiday/off sick/caring for kids/etc whenever you want to schedule team meetups. You can't get everyone in the same room at the same time.
  • The chat channels get too busy to keep up with.
  • There become clusters of team members who collaborate and communicate more between each other, and seem opaque to others.
  • The agency has too many clients and too many projects for everyone to be across all of them.

Without actively working on handling this growing complexity of connections, you'll end up with confusion, chaos and conflict.

Therefore, a key area for your leadership work is nurturing alignment within the agency.

Ensuring everyone shares the same expectations and commitments, information flows effectively, discussion is easy and productive, collaboration is smooth, and everyone feels in the loop.

This Alignment is the A in the FLAME agency leadership framework that we're exploring at the moment.

Here are some things you can think about this week in your founder time, to work on improving alignment:

  • What communication tools could you establish to enable you to spread information? E.g. Retreats, town-hall zooms, 'note from the founder' email updates, chat channels, forums,
  • How can you more regularly communicate via these tools about the desired culture of the agency, the strategy and the purpose? How can you share more news?
  • How could you get people 'working out loud' more, so they actively share what they are working on and thinking about to one of your comms channels?
  • How could you work out loud more yourself?
  • How much further could you push openness and transparency with company information?
  • How could you better educate people on the way your agency works, what it's working towards, and how you all do the work? E.g. your own agency 'university', internal documentation, improved onboarding, regular training events.
  • How could you create more connections between team members, across team boundaries? E.g. communities of practice, random coffee zoom pairs, a buddy system, mentoring, social events (not everyone can attend out of hours though)
  • How could you and your leadership team 'gather and radiate' more? Actively going out around the agency and discovering what's going on, then letting everyone know and actively making useful connections.
  • How could you more regularly celebrate the right things happening? When you spot people doing great work, representing your culture, making great strides on the strategy, and so on. Put the spotlight on what you want to happen more.

This thinking is a start, and of course I'm currently growing this section in the Agency Leaders Playbook with in-depth practical guidance.

Making this thinking about alignment and how to improve it a regular part of your founder time will dramatically reduce a lot of the issues your agency faces, and the stress on you.