Is your organisation developing a life of its own?

It’s easy to let your business grow and develop without having to think too much about the direction it’s taking. But at some point it’s going to become an entity in itself – a ‘proper’ organisation, with a life of its own – and you need to start thinking about giving it some positive direction. Here’s what to look out for.

So when does the change become noticeable? At this point in the process you probably have 10 or so employees, and are turning over somewhere around £1-5m. Round about now is often when business owners wonder what happened, and why it’s all going a certain way, without a conscious decision having been taken.

The reason is that every organisation needs to be managed and consolidated consciously to grow in a healthy direction, and it’s a healthy organisation that will attract customers, reassure investors, and ultimately make your company a saleable proposition.

How will you know you’ve missed the moment?

Here are some of the things you’ll notice when you look up and realise your business has moved on:

  • You’re working harder just to stand still
  • Trusted people are demotivated and may leave
  • Differences over direction among the business leaders
  • Frustration and fingerpointing
  • You’re losing customers
  • You try rapid changes in policy – one week focusing on costs, the next margins, the next profitability!
  • Waste – processes, money, time, repeated mistakes

You’ll suddenly realise you’ve put up with all the above for several weeks or months. It’s time to shift your focus, from working ‘in’ your business to working ‘on’ its development as an organisation.

What should be happening at this stage?

Your business has moved from the first start-up stage of its development, to a second stage of implementing consistent management systems and structures. This is the era of management, and your job is to develop:

  • A second tier of management (who will in turn become leaders of the business)
  • A clear business vision and values
  • Effective planning and systematic goals
  • Durable processes and systems
  • Effective management and leadership skills
  • Great relationships between the leadership group and teams at the next level down
  • Team effectiveness – communication, role clarity and accountability
  • Motivation and ‘buzz’
  • Clear performance and behaviour standards

Your organisation has developed a life of its own, and it needs you to work on it, so that it goes in the right direction!

An effective organisation culture doesn’t happen by accident. All the great, leading-edge companies out there have leaders who consciously decide where they are taking the organisation, and who manage this with as much rigour as they manage the financials.

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