The Challenges of Growing Big

How much money did you make for your business last year?

If you are an entrepreneur in a small business (or in sales), the number probably pops in your head right away, or at least a method  to get there. If you work in a large organization, you probably don’t know and don’t even know how you could know.

How does this impact what you focus on?

In a large organization, each individual is highly specialized in the task that they are assigned, often with little ability to measure the impact they are having on the entire organization. This lack of connection causes people to seek two things as a measure of their success: management approval and peer approval. If both their management and their peers think they are doing a good job, then they must be doing a good job.
This is maybe a good proxy for whether you genuinely are doing a good job, but it creates several counter productive effects.

First, it becomes inbred. Since everyone is looking only for the approval of those around them, people grant their approval without having a measure of true success. This causes people to focus on the wrong things, or to do what the group seems to be most happy with.

Second, blame avoidance becomes king. This causes large organizations to be inherently less risk taking and as a result, less innovative. People aren’t rewarded or encouraged to step out and do something that might pay off big, because if it doesn’t they earn disapproval, and if it does, there is not a commisurate payoff for the risk that one takes.

Third, silos are created. Since your peers and management tend to define the reference group for success, the result is that there is little to no incentive to help other organizations outside of that group out. Generally, kudos are given for the work in your reference group. This can be so much the case, that at one large company I was working for, people wouldn’t ask me directly for help, they would ask my management to ask me to help (which always frustrated me as I would have been more than willing to help them, but I digress).

There are those that don’t buy into the above logic and really do strive to do what is best for the business as a whole rather than focusing on only what benefits them most in the immediate term.

If you are working in a large organization, you’ll find you get much further by trying to see beyond your reference group and work toward the company good (in part because so few others are).

If you are managing a large organization, recognize and reward those who are doing what’s right for the business and taking risks.







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