Operational Challenges In Startups


As a startup team leader, you can conduct periodic employee events that involve employees from different levels and functions and give them an opportunity to solve discrete operational challenges that will tangibly impact the business.

For doing this exercise, you need to select projects that focus on clear business goals to enable broad participation. This will create a sense of shared accountability and pride in results.

One of the biggest challenges, faced by the startups is the transition from a culture of ad-hocism to a system where business results are attained by a repeatable and scalable process.

Most of the startup team members are young, and their hectic schedule does not give them enough time to see and visualize improvement areas. This tool can be of immense help, in such cases.

Additionally, this will help you to build strong, collaborative and positive relationships among employees across levels and functions in your startup, as all team volunteers are equally responsible and accountable for the successful completion of event projects, regardless of their function or level.

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Each project should focus on a discrete, line-level initiative, ensuring a defined scope and tangible resuls. Secondly, project ideas should be sourced from employees and line managers to ensure relevance to daily work and performance. And lastly, select a project that can be completed within three days. If more time is required, an action plan is to be developed so employees can continue to work on it after the three-day objective is achieved.

The easy guide to get started

The first step is to partner with senior leadership of your startup to get buy-in for employee events (e.g., process improvement projects, lean events, reducing error rates, etc. ). After that, Identify employees to serve as local coordinators for events in their respective geographic regions. Select widely respected employees with solid business acumen and cross-functional knowledge. It is important to establish the infrastructure for resourcing and supporting employee involvement in events. After receiving the entries, coordinators will review project ideas and select ideas that are:

– Focused on small-scale business problems

– Able to be completed in a short time frame (approximately four hours of preparation and eight hours of work)

– Tangible, with a visible impact on day-to-day work

– Compliant with safety

– To productize and clear any doubts, spend the time to create a toolkit for event coordinators that includes:

– Tips for soliciting project ideas and managing the project pipeline,

– Guidelines for recruiting employee volunteers for the project,

– Checklist for gathering feedback on the project, and

– Template for summarising project results, accomplishments, and key lessons learned.

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When projects are likely to be lean events (Quality Improvement Projects), prepare coordinators to provide lean training for volunteers as needed, or identify alternate methods for providing lean training (e.g., external vendor, another employee). It may be a good idea to appoint coordinators for a longer duration, for they will provide all resources, materials, and support necessary for completion of the project, including the provision of problem-solving/ six sigma/ lean training for volunteers who have never participated in a project before (when projects are based on Lean/Six Sigma). In addition to this, coordinators can gather feedback from the function in which the project was executed and after that document and communicate the results of the project across the organisation to highlight the accomplishments of the group and promote upcoming projects.

These high-quality interactions create a strong sense of connection among employees that lasts beyond the completion of the project and contributes to increased engagement. And to top it all, after the completion of projects, employees will demonstrate a greater support and empathy towards coworkers, which is mission critical for the success of the startup venture.

Jappreet Sethi

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