There is a conflict, or natural tension, between entrepreneurial creativity and systems and structure. I admit it. I have a love / hate relationship with procedures and standardization. By creating processes for daily tasks, we free up time and energy to work on the growth and truly exciting aspects of our businesses. Instead of struggling with daily tasks, wouldn’t you rather locate the next exciting opportunity, vision a bigger and better future, or identify and imprint the values and culture that will make your company unique and endurable?
I have had conversations with other experts about this conflict. I have created models and wondered aloud about whether there is an ideal trade off between rules based and principles or philosophy based cultures; between low structure and high structure approaches. Which combination will provide the balance needed to be a sustainable business?
In this quest, I have encountered more questions than answers. Here is what I know:
- All companies require a certain amount of structure (systems/processes/procedures) in order for the leaders to transcend the daily demands of business. What entrepreneur wants to spend every day working on issues related to production?
- Too much structure, especially too soon, can lead to lost opportunities and a smothering of entrepreneurial spirit.
- Business clarity (documented and applied internal brand) combined with an appropriate structure enables you to authentically empower your employees. The result: you can trust that staff members will be doing what they are supposed to be doing, even when no one is looking.
- A rules based system will eventually break because the environment in which we operate is constantly changing. Without your internal brand beliefs to guide you, how do you know which rules are ok to change as you adapt to the changing environment?
- A base of established systems and structures combined with a rock solid internal brand is like the foundation of a building. It enables the company to grow quickly without diluting or endangering its core essence of who it is and what it stands for.
I don’t know what the ideal combination is. And I suspect that it may be different for every company. It may also differ during the life of a company. Just like trying to find the balance between business and personal needs, the answer may not be neatly defined. Instead the answer may be in the constant striving and adjusting to find that balance.
What do you think?