Deconstructing Large Businesses
As a part of my Living In The 21st Century series, I wanted to take a closer look at some of the issues I’ve found from working inside and speaking with large businesses. These problems are so universal you have to wonder whether it’s individual organizations or the culture of large business itself that causes them. As always, this manifesto is not exhaustive but it is certainly comprehensive.
1. Most of your problems are political.
2. Those problems that aren’t purely political are exasperated by politics.
3. Any problem that is completely non-political can usually be solved in an afternoon over a cup of coffee.
4. Most of the information you need to improve your business processes already exists within your organization, what’s missing is a willingness to listen to those who have it.
5. Those who have it are often too far down the chain of command to really matter.
6. You care a little too much about your chain of command.
7. You’re starting to rely too heavily on outside Agencies that you neither fully understand nor fully hold accountable.
8. You make the assumption that when these Agencies generate reams of paper and complex reports for you, this is equivalent to doing real work.
9. No one actually reads or analyzes these reports.
10. Nor are you certain what the “real work” you’re trying to get out of them actually looks like.
11. But that’s OK because even if you could get them to give you useful suggestions, your organization lacks the internal expertise to effectively implement them.
12. You move much too slowly.
13. You believe that moving slowly is a virtue.
14. You’re incorrect.
15. Technological expertise is not spread evenly throughout your organization.
16. This lack of knowledge leads inevitably to bad, inefficient decision making — especially around those parts of your business that will drive your growth going forward.
17. You want to change this but the very people who must buy in are the least likely to have the depth of knowledge needed to do so.
18. You too often confuse bad implementation for a bad project.
19. Too many good projects are ended prematurely because of this assumption.
20. You too often confuse bad projects (especially those involving expensive, gimmicky new technologies) for bad implementation.
21. Far too much money is on useless, silly campaigns as a result.
22. You get trapped in thinking that all of your customers think the same way today as they did twenty years ago, and you’re not willing to change your product offerings to adapt to new consumer demands.
23. When you do change, these changes come only after you’ve already burned more than your share of time and money hoping that your customers will start thinking the way that your marketing strategy documents say that they do.
24. You spend $10 for every $1 a smaller organization could spend to get the same result.
25. This is as much an expertise problem as it is the result of the inefficiencies of running a large organization.
26. The real problem is that this fact doesn’t concern you in the least.
27. In general, it’s really hard for you to look critically at yourself, your processes and what you can do to improve them.
28. It’s far too easy for you to be self-aggrandizing, myopic, and willing to distribute blame for any problem so widely that it disappears into the vacuum of diffused responsibility.
Sadly, most everyone in your organization, at one level or another, knows all of this.
29. What you need to remember is that the biggest virtue of a large business is the ability to scale development, share expertise and widen the net of distribution.
30. You need to start trusting more links in your chain of command, modern business demands that you gather this expertise from throughout your organization, not just from upper management.
31. You need to be nimble and adaptable, change happens too quickly to be bound up by bureaucracy which no longer provides value.
32. You need to be willing to audit where bureaucracy is still helpful and where it is holding you back.
33. You need to look long and hard at organizational ego, there is a fine line between believing in what you do and getting punch drunk on the corporate Kool Aid.
34. You need to cultivate internal expertise, while everything can be outsourced, not everything should be.
35. When you bring in outside help, you need to be certain that you have the internal expertise to hold them accountable and the insight to know when that expertise is not available.
36. Everyone in the organization needs some understanding of the technological trends driving your business forward, it’s never OK for decision makers to be blind to these.
37. When this kind of information sharing is not possible, smaller work groups need to be given the autonomy and power to act, not just the mandate to make suggestions.
38. You need to be willing to think like a small business, search for inefficiencies, and keep an eye on where you might be spending $1 to get $.50 back.
39. You need to step back from cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solutions and develop more nuance.
40. You need to realize that even in a large organization, with its variety of often conflicting motivations and incentives, at some basic level you are all working towards the same goal and that getting trapped in the politics of personal ego hurts everyone.
You need to realize all of this. Happily, at one level or another, everyone already does — now it’s only a question of gathering the power and establishing the processes to get it done. (Images)