In my first article dealing with small business, I shared my thoughts on why I believe there is a great opportunity providing products and services to the smallest unit of small businesses, micro-business. I want to bring the reader along my journey by providing some breadcrumbs, insights to my thought process, assuming there is logic. I smile with that thought because often our minds can make leaps in logic that is “spot on” but defies reason. Yet I offer to bring you along my Yellow Brick Road.
Our first step in improvement is to refocus as it relates to teams, work groups, and organizations. I try not to overthink whatever I choose to improve; I just believe in the process: Simplify, Reflect, Refocus. This approach is the same as the Plan – Do – Act – Check Shewart/Demming Improvement Cycle but useful in unstructured situations. Once we have a structured improvement scenario, we can fall back on tried-and-true processes.
Our first step will be to simplify. So I am going to minimize the characteristics of teams, work groups, and any organization. By inspection, we can recognize ‘individual’ as a core component. Each individual must have some sort of relationship inorder to create the larger entity so there will be a level of dependency between each individual. Finally, there are expectations of how each individual interacts between each other and with others outside the relationship. These are not earthshaking revelations but they are our first steps in simplification of small businesses.
Individuals may participate in informal structures such as friends or associates (from school, sports, etc) or formal structures such as a private club or a job. The introduction of someone into a formal organization is often performed within informal structures such as introductions, references, a heads-up call that a job opening is secret or opening.
In a structured organization, often dependencies for accomplishing a task with missing organization members is a key management concern. But, it is not necessary for there to be a direct link on the organization chart. Unrecognized dependencies are organically realized allowing unforseen circumstances result in a passage of invaluable institutional knowledge and process improvement. Let’s look at an example that affects task accomplishment.
Consider Bob and Sue, employees of a furniture store. Bob and Sue meet in the employee breakroom each afternoon for a quick bite to eat. Sue has worked at the store for a year as a bookkeeper. Bob has been at the store for only three months. Sue learns that Bob is doing well but he loses certain kinds of sales. Sue also has a friendship with Michelle, one of the loan company representatives, who has helped other salespeople close a number of sales. One day after work, Sue invites Bob and Michelle to a local happy hour. Bob learns how to work with Michelle and close his problem customers.
Structured organizations are filled with individual’s with dependencies we will refer to as Very Small Business Units (VSBU). Often these VSBUs can cross over business units and company lines, as with Bob, Sue, and Michelle. VSBUs form informally, at watering holes such as breakrooms, cafeterias, formal meetings, etc. We are not concerned on the ability to create nor negotiate within the formal structure based on a perceived level of power. We just want to recognize that levels of dependency provide ways to
Norms of behavior – organization cultural norms such as paper forms in structured, and handshakes and expressions in informal structures. For this exercise, we will ignore the latter two qualities and focus on individuals.
We see two important divergent ideas that occur with individuals in micro-organizations. Informal and formal structures. These two options appear in each of the other qualities. How does this idea of formal and informal structures come into play as we re frame the concept of Micro-Organizations to the individual? Is this even possible?
Remember that we defined micro-organizations as organically formed groups to fit a need. We can reasonably assume that this dynamic of organic formation occurs in both structured and informal organizations. This presents the first evidence that at the individual level, micro-organizations operate similarly.
This can be examined another way. There are four associated functions of Services: Management, Finance, Distribution, and Sales. We will explore each of these functions in greater detail in a future article. Consider that in structured and informal organizations, these four functions occur at a micro level. (Note: we will discuss micro as a definition but for now, this is 1-20 contacts.) This provides a way to decompose needs for all types of micro-organizations by seeing how they operate in each function. Perhaps more interesting is if we examine the transaction activities of the organization, we will see them all act as a business.,