Invest in Process and Communication.
As the co-founder of a tiny design and development shop that currently consists of three people (including me), our communication problems are miniscule compared to those of larger organizations. Yet these are the kinds of things that keep me up at night:
I was employee #20 at the first start-up and the first engineering lead. Over the course of two years, the team and the company exploded to close to 200 employees. This is when I discovered that growing rapidly teaches you one thing well: how communication continually finds new and interesting ways to break down. The core issue being the folks who’ve been around longer who also tend to have more responsibility. As far as they’re concerned, the ways they organically communicated before will remain as efficient and simple each time the group doubles in size.
They don’t. A growing group needs to continually invest in new ways to figure out what it is collectively thinking so anyone anywhere can answer the question: “What the hell is going on?”
That was Michael Lopp in “The Rands Test“. Communication is some non-trivial percentage of the success of any operation. When your job involves communicating on a day-to-day basis with multiple separate clients each with internal teams and expectations, it’s easy for things to get out of hand. We get along right now with Basecamp, Campfire, Skype, Gmail, bug trackers, version control, and face-to-face conversations, but it’s hardly a perfect solution. Each engagement brings its own challenges. Processes need to evolve continually. Managing the design and development of a brochure-ware site is a almost almost indistinguishable from that of a large web-based application—which itself is different in degree if not kind to designing and developing an iOS application and working as part of a larger team. Point being: invest in process and communication if you care at all about the quality of your product.