Why is working for a start-up just way better than a large corporate? Why do companies, as they grow, try to maintain that “start-up feel”? These questions have been debated on many a Twitter thread. We surmise it’s for a few reasons:

  1. Start-ups default to Teams and Roles (even if they don’t know it)
  2. Working on a Team is just more fun
  3. Processes and management of those processes, which cause an organization to hire managers, kill fun

So why don’t companies, knowing that growth in the legacy business world sucks the fun out of work, try to emulate big businesses?

In this point the three of us differ. Donnie, having obtained an MBA, thinks much of the business world is led by Type-A sociopaths who need the dopamine hit of big deals and long hours to feel stimulated. When a company reaches a certain size, it’s easy to justify hiring the McKinsey consultant to “improve team processes” and “collect data.” That person brings the “processes” and need for “managers” to the company, near-instantly killing joy.

Vic senses that implicit trust is lost as a company grows. If a founder doesn’t know all of her employees, then she can’t trust the company will operate properly without managers to report to her. Even if all the reports the managers give are grade-A bullshit, the founder still feels better knowing that someone is “managing.”

Bryan thinks leaders and investors desire to control chaos and attempting (and failing) to control that chaos helps them sleep better at night. Instead of embracing randomness, founders try to control it through systems and processes. Of course, this is a fool’s errand that kills the “start-up feel” as a by-product.

However, all three of us agree on one point:

As companies grow, they have a tendency to migrate from Teams to teams. This change, whether intentional or not, rids the company of that “start-up feel.” 

  • Role-based Teams work together, almost like a family, to get stuff done.
  • Title-based teams work apart, trying to get individual credit, like a dystopian family.

We’ve talked to founders who say that the transition from Teams to teams is inevitable as a company grows. We say, “Bullshit!” 

We are inclined to believe that staying a Team does take effort. It is easy to dissolve into a team as a company grows. But our coffee maker will last for years, despite an infinite onslaught of entropy, when we descale it per the manufacturer’s recommendation. This takes time, (once every three months) but is worth the commitment. We get great coffee without needing to buy a new machine. And in this analogy, a new machine is a manager. Something that isn’t necessary (and a waste of resources) when we could have taken the time and attention to care for our current coffee maker.

Teams take time and attention. But all great things require time and attention: a garden, a relationship, that TV show you can’t stop watching and talking about.

Maintaining a Team is worth the time and attention. Did we mentions Teams are the Future of Work?