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Scaling — being ‘just good enough’

As we grow, it is important that we remain competitive. We can achieve this by remaining operationally efficient and ensuring the timing of our investments are spot on. We continually challenge ourselves and ask if we are making the correct sourcing, process and technology decisions. This is necessary so we can continue to scale flexibly, without requiring big blocks of investment to reverse previous decisions, or jump from one size to the next.

I’ve written before about some of our Agile behaviours, but one we don’t often talk about is the need to only be ‘just good enough’.

For clients, we strive for perfection in each deliverable area. ‘Just good enough’ in this case means focusing on our core function to deliver great results.

For me, just good enough internally means the day-to-day is improved to become better than the current state. We ensure our improvements are made just in time so we don’t have excess capability going to waste. For example, we provide specific learning for consultants just before they start a project, rather than trying to teach them everything and relying on them being able to access that at some point in the future.

We love process, after all it is a big part of what we do for our clients. However, one of the key things we have to do is make sure we don’t accidentally over-engineer as a result of our institutional backgrounds, or seeing how our clients do things. We shouldn’t have to document the nth degree of Clarasys policy for process, as we trust our team to do complex jobs for our clients. Therefore, we should trust our people to do the right thing for our business.

One example of ‘just good enough’ is our office strategy. Clarasys started in my front room. We didn’t have an office until a few months after our first graduate course started and our team grew to 12 people. The first office left something to be desired. It was a rooftop conversion and you could hear the pigeons walking on the roof. Moreover, it was a meeting room as part of a shared space, so sometimes the smells could be interesting! It also had shared milk, but that’s a tale for another day. In common with office #2 it was boiling in the summer and freezing in the winter. Office #2, our current office, caused us to re-evaluate the need for a slightly smarter dress code. By the time we relocated here, our team was 80-strong. It is a decent enough space and we have a good coffee machine (which is important to me personally) but the space is still only ‘just good enough’. It gets a bit crowded on Fridays.

In other areas, SaaS allows you to operate just like the big guys, albeit with less overhead. For Clarasys, it has enabled us to focus on our core function — doing excellent work for clients and providing our people with a great place to work. Many of our clients decide to outsource their non-core work, or automate it, but we’ve been able to do that from the start. Providing you have an overall vision of where you’re going and what you need, you can start small and iterate. You have to be careful not to over-elaborate — it’s easy to see an elegant solution for a problem you don’t really have.

The same is true of our processes and benefits. We don’t aim to be perfect but to be agile enough to respond rapidly and fix something. Every member of the Clarasys team is trusted to do their best to make the company a really great place to work. Inevitably there will be times when something doesn’t quite work the way we want, or someone spots a much better way of doing something. Then we collaboratively build that capability within the firm using a master backlog so everyone can participate in our growth.

How this operates as we grow and age will be an interesting journey. We’re currently thinking about how we build a sustainable firm, organised in a way which enables us to continue delivering excellent results for our clients. That, in turn, means everyone in the firm, as far as possible, is happy.

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