Entrepreneurs attempting to grow their business are often led to believe that they should automatically step into a "big" corporate mode of thought and practice. We have all been bombarded with theories, models and general advice meant to help us with negotiating change. But there is a point at which such advice is not suited for small business. And in all honesty, corporate execs and managers may talk a good game, but their efforts to implement new, effective processes and systems are at best a mixed bag.
Listening to the buzz of popular advice, we can easily forget that good judgment may at times suggest doing nothing whatsoever, and that taking a shot with someone else's approach may actually push us into hot water. While large corporations may attempt to train people to manage change, they can also blow through a tremendous amount of money while careening back and forth between multiple strategies and lines of business. When corporate change efforts implode, some heads may roll, but the corporation usually just shakes it off and moves on.
In the face of sweeping innovation all around, management in the typical large organization is often pressed to engage with seemingly small, measurable and even fabricated changes that give the appearance of action. Initiatives that can be easily quantified are probably satisfying on some level, but organizations often end up tackling the wrong issues, which wastes large amounts of money, time and effort.
For example, I worked with a large, well-known tech sector company that decided to implement self-managed teams. A complete lack of forethought led to a multi-million dollar change that clashed with the old corporate culture. Since there was little rationale or conviction behind the effort in the first place, the group quickly reverted back to the old model and the company gave up on self-managed teams altogether.
The logistics of data collection and measurement processes alone can become overwhelming for stakeholders already tied up in the main objectives of their business. In the meantime, some of the most pressing change issues facing an organization are not readily apparent. And issues that are easy to identify and label are not necessarily quantifiable issues.
Many crucial matters are often not dealt with or are ignored altogether because they lack the numbers to get senior management excited. There is also trouble with what can be known about the characteristics of a system, participants or the change opportunity when the act of measurement itself disturbs or influences that which is being observed and measured.
In resisting the siren's song of corporate lore, what can entrepreneurs draw from to manage change in their growing business? For one thing, since your business is small, you actually have an enviable advantage when it comes to engaging with change. Hopefully, you have surrounded yourself with co-workers, partners and customers that have earned and deserve your trust. Trust them! You talk with them all the time, so be sure to really listen to them. When they tell you that something is not working, it is not working, and it is time to consider a change. Give your team the go ahead to take charge in implementing and communicating their best solutions.
Since you are a small team, you don't have to allow your business to fly apart as you conduct studies through multiple organizational layers, and you don't need to spend hundreds of hours crunching data. The word of one trusted employee or customer is enough to initiate a small change.
Many small changes are much better than big, sweeping change anyway, since small changes can be put into place with little or no disruption to daily operations that may affect your customers. If a small change doesn't work after a fair test period, you can smoothly and easily back it out of the game plan. When it is time to change, you and your team already have everything that you need to manage in a way that can teach the big dogs a thing or two.