Many companies regress to the mean and slow down over time. While some changes are required as a company grows and matures, not all change is inevitable or should be allowed to passively happen. As GitLab grows, we are conscious of how we operate and how it enables us to continue to operate with the agility of a startup while realizing the efficiencies of a scaling company. This is key to efficiency, enables iteration, and helps us to drive results. It also helps us to see progress as we maintain speed and manage cycle time.
A senior candidate once referenced the "Letter From Our CEO" in GitLab's S-1 (filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on September 17, 2021). In it GitLab's CEO, Sid Sijbrandij, documented some of the ways that GitLab plans to avoid the stagnation experienced by most early stage companies as they mature. The person said, "your letter is good at reminding everyone that you are still a startup and need to retain that mindset. It's super hard, as you know. When I reflect upon all the amazing things I experienced at [Company X], it is a poorly managed company. The systems (legal, procurement, security) that grow with success are also designed to manage the downside. I see the same thing here at [Company Y]. I'm fighting to re-create the challenger mindset to reflect our market position outside of virtualization and networking. Cruft everywhere. You have an opportunity to minimize this as you scale."
We try to avoid the downside of maturation, because this better enables us to achieve results and mitigate many of our concerns. It also helps us to dodge many of the coordination headwinds that often plague more established companies.
In any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:
First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration. Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc. The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.