Was talking to a friend who is executive at large major multinational corporation.
Man, the politics sound absolutely awful.
I asked him - "How much time are you spending on internal politics?"
"Maybe 50% of my time."
"Damn. That's no good. What a waste of your talent."
He shrugs. "That's reality. You've got to deal with it."
We talk about it more. He said if he was in final charge, he could clear house of it. But he can't in the current culture.
Why doesn't this exist in small business?
I think because there's nothing worth fighting over.
In a large company, if you do $100 million in revenues with an 18% profit margin, you made $18 million. If two division chiefs get into some petty bullshit and it costs them one-tenth of their margin - say, they only make 16.2% in margins and thus they lose $1.8 million in profits...
...well, no one really can put it quite on that, can they? Either way, salaries get paid, benefits are delivered, the company is still reasonably successful, etc, etc.
In a small organization, if there's scheming happening instead of work getting done, you're dead. Out. Finished. In a large organization, there's enough resources that you can fight each other and the business will still run; in fact, the winner of the political struggle might move up the ladder.
I've wondered about this as well, though I came to different conclusions than you. I think you get as many political people in small organisations as large, but the environment causes their drives for power and influence to manifest different
ly. Two main features of small companies which are relevant:
Everyone knows each other. This makes being friendly and likable more of an advantage.
Less structure. This means advancing in your career doesn't involve climbing the greasy pole, but rather coming up with initiatives to help the company grow.
Venkatesh Rao at ribbonfarm has some interesting thoughts on this, if you haven't come across him already. Basically he says large organisations tend to consist of three types of people: sociopaths, clueless and losers. Small organisations have only two types: the sociopathic founders and losers. Only as organisations grow do they acquire the layer of clueless middle managers.
I think it's sad but true. Corporate America gets so bogged down on bottom lines that the focus on creativity gets dropped out. And the results seem to be more important than the process. I think that's another reason why extreme growth happens in small business more than in the giants. The processes in small businesses are much more transparent, therefore employees get credit more regularly and may be encouraged to take more risks. Whereas in larger corporate environments individual's creative impulses are often denied because supervisors refuse to take responsibility for their subordinate's ideas.
It would be great if we cold focus more on the process and trust that the results will come.
Great question -
I’m curious as to what your take on getting involved in politics is. For as long as I’ve been reading your blog, I’ve never seen you directly mention the subject, but many of the topics you touch on would be things anyone interested in statecraft would do well to master.
The way I see this, and I guess it is just part of my personality, is that it would be an all or nothing sort of deal. Either you get seriously involved or you stop paying close attention. It has really been wearing on my sanity to be knowledgeable on the subject but do nothing about it.
[...personal details about local government problems removed...]
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