It is important to know your constraint and to work on breaking it. The resulting focus and management attention may already be enough for the constraint to disappear. However, that approach alone may also lead you to chase constraint after constraint. That would be confusing to you and everybody involved. Why should you allow (virtually) everything to potentially become a constraint that keeps you from reaching your goal?
Let me give you an example:
- When I became self-employed in 2005, I started Catalysts in the smallest room of our rented flat.
- In 2006, Christian joined me, but we didn’t have a proper office.
- In 2007, we moved into a commercial building in Goldwörth (more like an office garage). However, being half an hour away from Linz was cumbersome.
- In 2008, we moved into an 84 m² office in Alturfahr/Linz. Space became a constraint.
- In 2009, we rented another flat with 80 m² in the same building. But that was all the space that was available in that building, so our growth stalled due to the space restriction.
- In 2009, we could have chosen to stay with around 150 m² and thereby limit our team size to around 20 people (red line). Instead we chose to not allow space to restrain our growth any more in the future (green line).
- In 2011, we moved into an office building in the center of Linz with 533 m² on one floor (another 533 m² reserved for us on another floor). Of course, that cost us more, but we gladly traded that for the potential of future growth.
We did not want something that could easily be resolved with money to restrain our growth. From that time on, we only accepted something as a constraint if
- we could not easily resolve it with money, and
- that was persistent, i.e. hard to change.
Catalysts is a software development company. We have not yet automated our business – it’s still manual and intellectual work performed by humans.
From the beginning, we decided to strive for nothing less than a world-class team. What kind of work do you need to keep a world-class team engaged and happy? It must be challenging and diverse!
So Catalysts is destined for the niche of custom software development for individual needs that could not easily be satisfied with standard software products like SAP, Sharepoint, a CMS, a DMS, etc.
That’s why we allowed only two constraints:
- Finding the right people for our destiny
- Finding the right work, i.e. customers with the right challenges for us to solve
Both could keep us from reaching our goal to become a profitable and highly respected company.
Once that was clear to us, life became much easier. At any point in time, we knew what our constraint was. For some months it used to be finding people, until it switched back to finding more business. Since a couple of years now, we have managed to strike a delicate balance between those two poles: enough people ⇔ enough work.
Due to our focus on those two areas, we’ve developed our own specific methods and techniques to address those two constraints, e.g.
In order to become visible among software developers we organize the world’s largest onsite coding contests with a couple of thousand participants in more than 15 locations, for more information see 25th Catalysts Coding Contest on March 31st, 2017
In order to become visible for potential customers we organize great interactive open days for hundreds of visitors, for more information see Open Day at Catalysts on March 2nd, 2017.
Maybe I’ll write more about those aspects in the future …