Growing Teams and Baking Bread

Saturday, January 21, 2017

One of the keys in baking bread is getting the dough to rise well. As the yeast does its work, it ferments some of the sugars in the dough into alcohol and carbon dioxide, resulting in a growing, bubbly mass of dough.

There are some tricks to making dough rise quickly, like using more yeast, using instant yeast, or even with a microwave. These are methods of convenience, because they let you get the finished product out the door more quickly so you can eat your delicious bread.

But how do you make truly great bread? One of the ways to make a great bread is to give it a much longer time to rise. With a quick rise, a lot of the flavors are underdeveloped. For a simple sandwich bread, that might be okay. But for an artisanal crusty loaf, these flavors lend complexity of flavor and depth of development which is key. Those flavors come from having a long, slow rise, where the yeast can take its time fermenting and the flavors can develop, lending subtleties and complexities. A long rise also helps with good gluten formation, where the yeast will develop it naturally instead of requiring a lot of kneading to force everything into line.

The same is true with growing a team.

You can grow teams quickly, but by doing so, cohesion doesn't happen naturally and you have to force it, and the team culture that forms isn't as natural as the team culture if you grow a team slowly over time.

In contrast, if you grow a team slowly and organically over a longer period, you reap a lot of benefits. The team works out a lot of problems with cohesion naturally over time (instead of in rapid, very painful periods) and they will all grow together, leading to a very strong shared culture with similar values and similar goals.

There are definitely some situations where rapid growth is needed or beneficial, but it is worth thinking about whether or not it is necessary. A long, slow rise can make a unique team that has strong cohesion, and a more sustainable one at that.

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