Size Matters

Its true.

Recently Google made news for letting its 20% “free time” policy slip by the wayside. Denials notwithstanding Googlers say privately its more like 120% now as you still get you free time, but only after a full work week.

So that's how they do it…

Google isn't alone in discovering that size matters, merely one of the latest to do so.

From an OD perspective size counts.

Once units exceed 400 heads its harder to make initiatives work, harder to get the critical mass and just more difficult to make change with a sense of immediacy. Larger organizations can lumber a bit.

Change practitioners like to say you don't change organizations you change people, one at a time. If so, I'd rather change a few hundred than a few thousand.

Net, there's a sweet spot in organization size which can be leveraged, so while you may aspire to mega-growth it can often be more fun – and effective – to be David rather than Goliath.

Scaling counts – Staff – accounting, HR, marketing – scales much better than line functions: we do more with less. To take advantage of this avoid the tendency to grow staff at the same rate as the line: they shouldn't equal. Leaner staff size absolutely helps the HR practitioner: you'll share more with your clients and focus on what really counts. Lean is good

Tools work – Smaller organizations leverage tools and technology more efficiently once decisions are made. The challenge here is to be prudent but not prudish – you have to take appropriate risk. The advent of cloud computing means infrastructure costs are not now a significant barrier so web-based tools are easy to adopt – and to discard. Here's where small wins: jettison the crap that doesn't work before it affixes barnacle-like to your fast little sloop

Responsibility is sexy – One thing we know about attracting and developing talent is that responsibility works: people clamor to exercise it, learn from it and enjoy it. Winners want to win and coffee is for closers. Take advantage of your small size to drive responsibility downward in your organization and watch people respond. Avoid the desire to retain control at the top or you end up with a small stifled organization. Responsibility is cool and people want it: small units can exploit this

Speed thrills – Larger units can never match the speed at which small firms can move. In the War between the States, the small calvary of J.E.B. Stuart constantly harassed and harmed much larger Union forces just because of its speed: and audacity. Remember audacity. Remember to move. To take advantage of size. Speed is often the difference between success and failure given relative equity between companies. Speed to market, to plan implementation, to comp change, you name it. Speed wins: use it

It can seem daunting to go up against large competitors considering their market share and deep pockets yet small can be leveraged to win. In many ways its more beneficial and attractive to employee development.

Fear not if you are the smaller firm: start looking for stones.

Goliath is nervous.



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