The Scale Problem…

Posted by in Engineering Management, Startup, Thought

Today while interacting with a bunch of tech savvy people and trying to understand the challenges which they are facing now, the one thing which was very common was ‘the scale problem’. This problem is not limited to one of the domains, it exists for all domains/towers/verticals be it engineering, team management, general operations, etc. Every leader in a team would have faced or will face it sooner.

What’s the problem?

This is not a general/common problem, which can be solved by following a set of guidelines. This problem is very subjective to the situation, the team, etc. For an engineering team it can be how to ensure the stability of the system in production, for a product team it can be how to ensure that users are engaged/retained on the platform, for an operations team it would be how to ensure that cost is very much within the budget. Things look simpler when smaller, but once they grow they grow very weirdly and things never happen as planned (Thanks to Murphy’s Law). Hence there is no clear definition of the problem.

How can you prepare for it?

Since there is no clear definition of the problem, you can not solve it beforehand. But you can prepare for it. How?

  1. Experienced people: Consult with people who have gone through similar problems, they might not have an exact solution but they can help you prepare for the worst. They can share their experience when they had faced similar things. A lot of time I have seen people saying that we won’t face it as we are doing things differently, but trust the experienced guy he might be wrong, but he was the person who also thought the same once. Hence don’t completely reject his view on it.
  2. Thinking ahead: Scaling never goes from 10 to 100 at once. Things scale up gradually, so what you need to do is watch things closely as you are scaling. Always be ready for plan b in your head howsoever stupid it might seem at that moment. Example: you know that your operations cost is increasing linearly, you know that you have to cut it down in future. So start executing a part of it at that time itself.
  3. Learn from your mistakes: Another important thing is what are the mistakes you have done to reach this point, what did you miss when you reached this point. Ensure that all of those angles are covered up for future. Missing something there is like leaving a small hole in the dam which is about brim to its capacity.

How can you solve it?

If you are adopting the needed changes, you are already solving the problem. But if you are thinking that you can resist it, what you are doing is that you are just increasing the friction and trust me someday that friction is going to create a lot of stress, which is going to then bounce back on you. So don’t resist.

I think if you prepared for it and have adapted the changes, you have pretty much solved your scale problem.