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One thing I hear from rapidly growing organizations is that growing pains are “a good problem to have”. And, certainly, I can get on board with that perspective given that businesses who are enjoying exponential growth are among the minority.

But from my experience working in organizations that were in rapid growth mode, it’s also a sentiment that should trigger a massive red flag given the strong and palpable relationship between rapid growth and employee burnout.

I’m not an expert on the matter, but we had a great session back in May on rapid organizational growth, with two of our members who are experts at this. They shared their insights, experience, and expertise built from leading organizations through growth challenges.

1. Foundations Matter

When experiencing growth, organizations (and teams!) typically react by looking at hiring new talent and creating new processes. But the foundational pieces of the work environment like the positioning strategy, operating principles, company culture, and org structure also need to be addressed to make growth sustainable.

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2. Your Old Ways Probably Won’t Work

As growth happens and the pressure to deliver mounts, teams will instinctively cling to the tools and tactics that have served them well. But building a skyscraper with the tools you used to build a birdhouse might not be the best idea.

3. Grow. Measure. Learn.

Growth is good, sure. But how do you know when to scale and when to stop? How do you know you aren’t about to hire a whole pod of co-workers to do nothing but wait? By having a reliable way of measuring emotional and functional capacity and doing frequent retrospectives, that’s how.

Alright, but what if you’re not at the helm of your company’s growth? More specifically, what can we as DPMs do to support our teams through the pressure of massive change and avoid workplace burnout and workplace stress?

4. Ask People How They’re Doing

Sounds simple, and it is. Doing an emotional check in with your team members every now and again about their well-being and mental health can be your best early warning system. 

This can help identify early signs of burnout, as well promote employee engagement, job satisfaction, and overall wellness. Not your style? There’s definitely tools that can automate this for you like Perflo and 15Five.

Read more about managing your projects with empathy here.

5. Share What You Know

Sharing what you can and being honest about the decision-making process can have a big impact. Knowing where the ship is heading and seeing leaders recognize that change is tough and messy can go a long way to keeping spirits high.

6. Advocate For Your Team

Some business owners will say that a high employee turnover rate or a lack of retention is just a byproduct of growth and that the people who leave weren’t a good fit for where the business is heading. But I think that’s a fallacy. 

You’ll know if your people are the right people, and you might need to help employees by being their voice when they experience burnout or when there aren’t clear expectations.

What’s Next?

If these are the kinds of topics you’d like to discuss, consider becoming a member of The Digital Project Manager. We’re changing things up and elevating the conversation all the time.

Our membership program is a supportive community leading change in digital project management. We make projects happen, one learning at a time, and we help each other when we get stuck.

By Galen Low

I am a digital project management nerd, a cultivator of highly collaborative teams, and an impulsive sharer of knowledge. For the past decade, I've been shaping and delivering human-centered digital transformation initiatives in government, healthcare, transit, and retail. I'm also the co-founder of The Digital Project Manager and host of The DPM Podcast.

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  • Could you please share which systems/methods have been most effective and efficient for tracking, monitoring and collaboration among large cross functional teams (and team of teams) working on various aspects of one project? Thank you!


    • Great question! Every project can be different, but we’ve seen large teams be successful using scaled agile (SAFe) to define and coordinate program increments. DPM Expert Christina Sookram did a great intro to SAFe here: Similarly, some scrum teams might use something like Scrum @ Scale as a natural and familiar progression as project complexity increases or as their organization grows. I think the main thing is to keep an empathetic lens on your approach to change management in the face of growth. The right system/method has to be one that finds the balance between scaling into new territory and ensuring that change is not catastrophically jarring for the people operating your business. On that front, you might also want to check out this podcast we did on keeping things human throughout rapid, relentless change: Hope this helps!