Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why Big Companies are Seldom Great

I had one my random thoughts this morning.  It's almost IMPOSSIBLE for big companies to be great.

This is an important lesson in marketing...and for analyzing a company.

While I was re-reading the book "Purple Cow" by Seth Godin, I kept reading about ways that some companies were making it, and some companies do not make it.

The discussion triggered some memories for me of when I was working in big companies.  (Sometimes, the companies weren't even that big.)

Before I begin this discussion, I would like to frame it by asking the question...

When was the last time you thought someone did a GREAT job doing something somebody else already did?
 It probably was NEVER.

Occasionally, we might notice that someone did a good COVER of another person's song, but we still associate the song with the first person who brought it to our attention.

The cover was GOOD (at best).  The original was awesome it inspired an imitation.

What does this have to do with big companies?


In most companies, the most appreciated employees are ones that do not create waves.  They don't really make mistakes, and they do not upset anyone.

Most of all, they do what they are told.

Within large companies, what usually happens if somebody suggests to do something differently?

Does that person get a raise?  a promotion?   respect from the management?

Not usually!

What REALLY happens?

That person is likely to get reprimanded.  This person might get shunned from getting any work that might give him or her the exposure they need to advance.  This person is might get demoted, if not terminated.

Message #1: If you try to do or suggest something different, something bad will probably happen to you.

Why WOULD you try or suggest something different?  What is your incentive?  There is none.

In fact, you are DE-motivated to offer anything new.  You are safer this way.

Question: How can a company BECOME better if it never DOES anything better?


This leads to another misconception.  Mistakes kill companies.

I contend that mistakes don't kill companies.  What kills many companies is their REACTIONS to those mistakes that kill them.

What do I mean?

What usually happens to an employee, especially of a big company, if they make a mistake?

Are they rewarded for actually taking action and trying something new?  Are they rewarded for trying to find ways to make the company better and simply missed it with this try?

Do most companies see mistakes as simply part of the cost of training?

No.  The blame game begins.  Actually, it's often more like a witch hunt.

If I can blame someone else, they are not blaming me.  I won't lose my chance of a promotion.  I won't get a demotion.  Maybe I can avoid the next round of layoffs.  Maybe I won't get fired.

Message #2: If you make a mistake, you will be punished...and possibly be replaced with someone else who will not make mistakes.

Mistakes happen.  They are part of growing pains, but most mistakes are a healthy part of the company and employee growing process.

Plus, if there is a problem, is it easier to do something about it during the earlier stages, when the problem is often still relatively manageable, or later when the problem is SO big that EVERYONE notices?

What is most company employees' incentive to bring our attention to mistakes earlier in the process?

We don't provide any.  In fact, we reward people who do the best job of hiding mistakes.

We do not encourage growth through trying new things, and we do not encourage people to make mistakes or tell people about them.

Does this sound like the typical workplace to you?

It sure does to me.

Does this seem like the type of place that encourages greatness?

To me, it sure does NOT.

If a company does not encourage greatness, is it very likely to be great?

MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION: Do you want this to be YOUR company?

Like this post?  Other posts you might like are
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