CI 101

What is Big Company Disease? How do you cure that disease?

While business is small, you can see all the way from suppliers to customers.  It is easier to stay in contact and collaborate with them to create innovation and mutual processes improvements and growth.  Once the company grows to a certain size, they are vulnerable to the Big Company Disease (BCD).

When the company grows big enough, it needs to create departments and systems to handle things that are handled previously by a few people.  With more employees within those departments, it comes more specialists.  These specialists are focus on one or two things and lose sight of everything else.  If each of those departments has different goals, the shared vision, alignment, and common focus will slightly disappear until they are gone, and silos are born.

Once the silos culture starts, it is hard to change.  Each team has its own set of priorities, and all their activities revolved around them.  Win or lose is defined by their performance around those priorities and goals, lacking alignment with other groups.  Each is pulling to their side, holding information, working with the knowledge of one side of the story only, and blaming others for their problems.  Providing value to their customers with the best quality at the lowest price is no longer a team goal.  

If you see these symptoms on the company you manage or own, it is already infected with BCD.

Silos

Focus on group efficiency and department goals.  The relationship between departments is complicated and full of drama.  Instead of working together to solve problems and improve the operation, there is an attitude of We vs. Them.  Pointing fingers and blaming is part of the culture, and it is common to hear things like “We do things different” or “They never understand”.   

Disengaging people

The energy, passion, and family feeling from the small business times are gone.  Without that energy and desire to be better, innovation and drive to try different and bold things are not there.  The employees don’t feel the same level of loyalty, and some are disengaged.  There is no team or group identity.  

Ineffective communication

Managers and supervisors are information hoarders, only share it when they are questions or specific instructions to do so by leadership.   However, excess emails and multiple lengthy meetings overwhelm people at all levels.  

Lack of alignment

The lack of companywide focus affects the relationship with customers.  Everybody is busy fighting their fires, which makes them lose touch with customers and suppliers.   There is no alignment on critical things for the operation success like communication style, visual standards, and work instructions formats, training, problem-solving methods, and way of thinking.  All these create a complex decision-making process, multiple rules, duplicated functions, and focus on the wrong things.

The cure for BCD is to apply the Lean Fundamentals.  

  1. Customer Value 
  2. Identify all the steps in the value stream and eliminate waste.
  3. Make the value-add steps flow.
  4. Let customers pull value from the next upstream activity.
  5. Pursuit for perfection through Continuous Improvement.

When the company applies the Lean Fundamentals, leadership learn, teach, and promote the basic principles every day. Every person, in every department, participates in daily continuous improvement activities, identifying and eliminating waste, and using PDCA for problem-solving.  Leadership identifies learning opportunities and never lose the chance to have people from different departments working together.  Everybody knows what value their work creates for the customer and how it affects the company’s overall business strategy.  They also know the collective goals and work with their peers from other departments towards its achievement.  Lean is about learning and experimenting together while the company grows and fights big company disease.  

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