I root for small and medium-sized businesses. I enjoy discovering people with great ideas and watch them learn and succeed. Perhaps even grow, although I’m very skeptical of growth as an objective in its own.
The way many SMEs respond to the current COVID-19 crisis is so much more inspiring than what many of the large corporations do — or fail to do.
Improving performance to me is getting more of the outcomes I want and less of the outcomes I don’t want while expending reasonable effort.
Just like the rest of us, many of these businesses could do with some help.
Effectiveness and efficiency — there’s a place for both
One important step towards performance improvement is understanding the effectiveness and efficiency are not the same thing and that there is space for both of them. Even very small businesses benefit from distinguishing the areas in which to focus on efficiency from those in which to focus on effectiveness.
Wardley Maps can help with this — particularly with helping people realise that there is a common and unavoidable evolution process from the very first realisation of an idea to its commoditisation.
Tom Graves’ blog post Building effectiveness in a small business is a great start for thinking about the architecture of the enterprise.
Awareness of the development process
Thinking about one’s own development process is essential. I’m not only talking about software development — which most businesses shouldn’t do most of the time anyway — but the development of any idea for a product, service, process … well, anything.
There are thousands of development, design and delivery processes to choose from. Some of them show original thinking, many of them are bland variations of a common theme.
Same – same, different – different — minimum viable discipline for free thinkers and fast movers
I do get it: People set up their own shop to free themselves of the shackles of corporate life. To be free to do the things that need doing. To be independent from far-away decision-makers with little understanding of what’s happening on the gorund. To be able to move fast.
This is great. Props to you.
To keep doing this, we need to make sure that the stuff we built yesterday doesn’t come tumbling down tomorrow. Otherwise, we’ll be busy with emergency reponse and fire-fighting instead of serving our customers. Clearing the rubble left of our business instead of building our business.
One simple way of building runway and bringing a little discipline to your business is keeping similar things similar and keeping different things different.
This brings clarity to your business. This helps build and maintain conceptual integrity and cohesion. The principle of separation of concerns plays into this.
A very small amount of discipline can take us a long way — even without going full corporate.
A trivial example:
I keep all my business email accounts in Outlook and all my private email accounts in Apple’s Mail on all of my devices. This prevents me from sending private emails from a business account and vice versa.
This is not perfect as I could still fail in sending email to one client from another client’s email account. (Some of my clients like to keep control over project communication.)
What of the above resonates with you? What doesn’t?
What performance challenges are you facing as a small business? What’s growth got to do with this?