All enterprises face challenges (of varying magnitude and complexity). These challenges are either problems to be solved or opportunities to be pursued. One way of considering these challenges is through the following three lenses – those arising due to:
- external change
- internal change
- growth and development
It hardly needs saying these days – change is constant, change is accelerating, living with change is the “new normal”.
For any enterprise, there is a vigilance required in understanding the environment in which they operate. A high performing enterprise can suddenly find that its performance is dipping – not because it is doing anything different, but because it is not doing anything different. The market now expects and values something different to what the enterprise has become excellent at offering and providing, and the enterprise must respond accordingly.
Customers needs may change, competitors may introduce new services which place our own services in a different context, new entrants may shake up the market. Disruption to the market or environment in which enterprises operate require enterprises, whether small or large, to monitor the changes and respond to the changes.
Even if there were no external changes, there is still the challenges that arise from internal changes. Such changes may or may not be initiated by the enterprise.
It only takes one person to leave and be replaced for “things to be different”, requiring the enterprise to take action to ensure that its products and services are offered and delivered in an acceptable manner. Even if there are no personnel changes, there are internal disruptions that can occur, whether that be:
- someone being away sick or on holiday
- someone learning or discovering a different way to complete a task or fulfill their responsibilities
- some change in workplace dynamics, arising from changes in behaviour or interactions between staff
As with external changes, these internal changes demand appropriate attention and response from managers and leaders, whether this is for small or larger enterprises.
Growth and development
As enterprises develop and grow, they face a range of challenges. If you have been part of a small enterprise, you may well have had the experience of and the need to deal with transitioning from:
- knowing everything about the enterprise to only knowing some things about the enterprise
- doing things yourself to trusting and delegating others to do things
- feeling like a family to feeling less connected and perhaps even lost or ignored
Think about the changes that occur in progressively transitioning through the following stages:
- A founding CEO and his / her team of five to seven staff
- An independent CEO with four direct reports being managers, each leading a team of five to seven staff
- A third generation CEO with six direct reports being executives, each leading a team of five managers, each leading a team of eight to ten staff
Think about the changing dynamics across this transition:
- A vision, potentially developed in collaboration with the initial team, being a shared vision through to a vision which may be rarely referenced, which may have tenuous connection with the individual aspirations of each staff member
- A structure which was a simple one line reporting structure and evolved through numerous changes, taking varying account of particular staff strengths and weaknesses, changing market demands and geographical presence
- A consistent set of practices because each were performed by a single individual, but now are undertaken to varying degrees of consistency, potentially extending across multiple teams, with varying touch-points with external entities, whether they be customers, suppliers, partners, regulators, etc
- The challenges of communication within a single team as compared to an enterprise of 250 staff, with four levels in its organisational structure, operating in varying locations and with varying work arrangements
Change and integration
I have found the thinking expressed by Ichak Adizes in his book “Managing Corporate Lifecycles” to be helpful and use it here to draw together a number of different elements.
Adizes speaks of change causing disintegration and requiring re-integration of our enterprises. Each of the elements that I have described entail questions about the degree of internal and external integration of an enterprise.
External integration reflects the degree to which the enterprise understands and operates in harmony with the markets / environments in which it operates. This does not exclude the possibility of being a disruptive force. Such disruption will only be successful where the products and services offer value to prospective customers, consumers and associated stakeholders.
Internal integration reflects the degree to which the enterprise holds a coherent view of its aspirations and their realisation, and the associated structures and practices it develops and sustains to support their realisation.
The challenge that all enterprises face is that of sustaining internal and external enterprise integration. Lest this be treated as technical statement, an alternate expression is that the challenge for enterprises, as living systems, is to develop and sustain themselves as healthy, holistic beings.