Ambiguity is a natural outcome of size.

Imagine an Interior Design company with 3 people, a marketer, a designer, and an executive who handles the business side of things. When tasks are split up, it’s pretty easy to understand which tasks should be assigned to which person.

Who would you give a brochure design task to? The marketer.

Who would you give a kitchen design revision to? The designer.

Who would you task with pay the bills? The executive.

Grow this business to 75 people in size and it’s much less likely that who the tasks should flow are this clear any more. There may be multiple people in the marketing group now, each with their own specialty skillset. Design concepts might be handled by a senior designer while revisions are handled by a junior designer. The executive may have a bookkeeper or accountant underneath them to handle the day-to-day bills.

As growth occurs in personnel, it also grows the ambiguity of each employee knowing how to operate and interact with others in the business. This can be a source of frustration if you let it. It can also be a weakness if you let it.

Here are a few thoughts about dealing with this:

  • Create systems where possible.
  • Document as much as possible.
  • Hire at least a handful of people who are good at thriving in ambiguity (they are out there).
  • Make small incremental pieces of progress towards improvement.
  • Find your right balance of size and ambiguity.

An experience I had yesterday reminded me of this fact, as someone I work with felt “trapped” between other internal forces at the company while trying to accomplish their objectives an didn’t know where to turn. Sometimes it feels like no one wants to work with us, but often times, it’s that EVERYONE is stuck in ambiguity of what to do with an idea or problem. When in that trap, don’t think you have to overhaul it, think that you need to make it a bit more clear than it is currently. Then the next time it comes up, a bit more clear again. Eventually, over time the ambiguity fades to nothing at all.