Earlier this morning I wrote an email that effectively ended the 'old' Exetel and started a new version of it. Perhaps thats an overly dramatic way of describing a process that's been happening for some time but it was the way I felt as I 'hit send'. What's so dramatic? Not all that easy to describe in a few sentences but the email was putting in place a more formal structure and a schedule of meetings to support that structure between the directors and the people who have the responsibility within Exetel of either managing other employees or of managing key development and operational projects and targets.
Since Exetel began offering communications services in early January 2004 the company has been run and operated with no formal reporting structure with all decisions and discussions being done on an as needed basis with constant conversations between the working directors and everyone else in the company either face to face, by telephone or by email being the only ways we passed on decisions, corrected what might be becoming problems and all other information interchanges required to run the company.
There were no formal meetings nor many informal meetings with everyone knowing what they needed to do or asking advice if they were unclear or unsure about anything (or sometimes being given advice before they thought of asking for it). Similarly new ideas or suggestions were communicated the same way with an occasional meeting, sometimes schedules of meetings, put in place to get something more complicated operational. This was possible because the directors of the company worked, literally, within eyesight (and often earshot) of the few people working within Exetel over most of the past three and a half years.
For the past two years that structure was varied a little by, for the first year, setting up 5 operating committees chaired by me to address the five key aspects of the day by day operation of the company and to ensure the constant stream of ideas for innovation were brought to fruition as quickly as possible. After the first year these 'committees' continued but without me as the 'chairman' and, without a doubt, they have continued to be highly effective.
The only formal meeting within Exetel since the start has been the monthly director's meeting which has been held each month (with the exception of July 2007) and has been the only 'checkpoint/legal obligations' meeting held over almost four years.
It was obvious, as it's always obvious within companies that grow to the sort of size that Exetel is now (around 30 employees and $A3 million revenue per month) that the 'old ways' of running Exetel couldn't continue, despite the relatively high levels of achievement and success that had been accomplished, for much longer and, although I'd hoped to continue until the end of this calendar year (I've always been very driven by 'neatness' in planning dates), it was proving to be impractical.
So starting this week we will introduce a more formal management structure into the operation of Exetel with a view to fully putting a more formally organised company in place starting in January 2008. I haven't done this for a while, believing that the days of formal structures that I 'grew up' with in my commercial career were past and email and other forms of instant communication had rendered both the expense and waste inevitably resulting from 'company organisation charts' was a thing of the past. Perhaps its one more indication of encroaching age but it now seems to me that this has to be done if Exetel is to continue to reach its planned objectives.
Personally, I'm saddened by having to take this step. I've never believed in doing things in the same ways they have been done in the past and, probably, have always gone out of my way to eschew either copying anything done by others or repeating anything I've previously been associated with. I fully understand that such a modus operandi is quite possibly needlessly elitist - but ......it seems to have worked relatively well over a long period of time..........
It will be interesting to see how well we are able to manage this change over the coming months.