Usefulness

I think many companies are too large for their own good.

There are plenty of benefits to size. Economies of scale, the ability to leverage great resources, the ability to weather larger storms than a smaller company might. But there are also plenty of things a larger company misses out on, and they can be harder to see.

I’ve worked for companies with more than 10,000 employees. It’s very difficult to make a significant impact. Once a company reaches a certain size, its inertia begins to take on a life of its own, absorbing shocks – both good and bad. Certainly that can mean defense against bad ideas, but that same aspect insulates against good ones.

It’s difficult in such an environment to make yourself useful. You can perform your job well, but if you’re an ambitious person who wants to change things for the better, you’ll find yourself blocked at every turn. That might be in the company’s best interests – after all, you’re not the only person who wants to shake things up, and not every idea can be good – but it’s certainly not in yours as someone who has big goals. You trade the ability to take big swings for a certain level of security.

The long-term effects of that culture on your talent pool begins to show, however. Larger firms attract people who want to play it safe, who are comfortable never sticking their head up. There are many ways that good leadership can fight against this effect, but it’s always a fight. Left on its own, that structure is smothering.

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