Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Smallness Excuse

During a conversation I had with an IT executive today, he mentioned something along the lines of how large organizations tend to be more process oriented and smaller organizations tend to be more ad-hoc in their activities. He then also went on to say that it was too much overhead for a 50 person company to employ all the various resources and staff and tools needed to implement processes. It seemed to me, however, that he was committing the usual blooper of going from one extreme to another. That is, either we implement processes in a big way or not at all.

If an organization is small, does that mean it can be chaotic and do as it pleases? Do processes have no place in a 50 person organization? Granted that fewer staff mean lesser communication issues and less complexity in general but does this mean that there needs to be no discipline whatsoever?

As I mentioned previously in the post “Pick and Choose” a while back, organizations are at liberty to implement processes to the extent that they feel is necessary and beneficial. In this week’s post, I would like to make a few suggestions on how smaller organizations can make smaller scale process implementations. First, however, I would like to highlight the importance of processes to a small organization.

First of all, a small organization is just that and more than likely it is up against bigger rivals with access to greater funds and resources. What this translates to is the fact that the smaller organization has to rev up its game to a high level in any way that it can simply to survive. Therefore, it actually emerges that process is more important to a smaller organization than a larger one. Kind of like how a little kid in the schoolyard has to train harder to stand up to the bigger boys. Secondly, any structure laid out when an organization is small will translate to already laid out groundwork when the organization grows. Processes will only have to be modified in the future as opposed to being implemented from scratch. Therefore, it is far more important that smaller organizations pay the appropriate respect to processes, structure and organizational discipline.

So how does a smaller organization implement processes in a cost-justifiable manner? The answer lies in a proper understanding of processes themselves. What is a process in its simplest form? Simply a grouping of related steps that achieve a common goal in a structured manner. Smaller organizations will tend to have a smaller number of steps or may only wish to structure some key steps that are crucial. Therefore, all they have to do is group a smaller number of key steps in a process structure and they too have a process in place. Confused? Consider the Change Management process. At a large organization, they may have a lot of logging in, analysis and authorization steps which could be streamlined to one or two steps in a smaller organization. Likewise some of the implementation and post implementation steps could be streamlined in a smaller organization as well. However, by keeping the main steps of Change Management within a process and implementing it, the smaller organizations are giving themselves the advantage of being process oriented.

Furthermore, smaller organizations can implement a select few processes to start off with and then keep adding others as they grow and can afford more resources for these tasks. Keep in mind that at a small organization, one person could perform multiple roles. So a Change Manager could also be a Configuration Manager as well and two resources are not needed as one will suffice.

It’s really a matter of how much the folks up top are aware and want it. Where there is a will there is a way. Small organizations can be highly process oriented and enjoy the benefits of that. Smallness is in no way an excuse for anarchy. The reality of it is that it is simply laziness that prevents small organizations from being structured and process oriented.

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