Size Doesn’t Matter in Small Business Cultures

Workplace Success

The term “silos” in relation to company culture is typically associated with larger organizations.

For that reason I was flabbergasted by a conversation with the CEO of a small, but very well respected not-for-profit in my community.

She told me she wanted to improve teamwork in her organization.

That sounded typical and not unusual to hear from a small business CEO.

Then, I probed a little deeper and she added, “well, we need to break down the silos in our organization, too.”

“So, how many employees do you have?” I asked.


I replied, “Oh, that’s interesting.”

Can you imagine? Cultural “silo” issues with just seven total people in a work environment?

She chose not to hire me to help her with those challenges.

And then, less than two years later we reconnected at a holiday event at which time she gave me an update.

“I’m very upset with Sally (her “former” CFO), she left me in August and only gave me the standard two weeks’ notice.”

I just listened.

As I did, I was thinking, “isn’t it odd that in such a small organization the CEO and CFO would have a relationship where the CEO would not have enough of a trusting relationship with her CFO to know she was looking to move on?”

Obviously, two years later, the silos (even in the C-Suite) were still entrenched.

This is an organizational culture issue.

All organizations have a culture.

As usual, in most things, size doesn’t matter.

A couple of key things to understand about organizational cultures:

  • They develop through one of two ways, default (the most popular) or by design.
  • However they develop the most important influencer is the senior most leader of the organization. He or she, through their behavior and communication style, sets the tone that flows throughout.
  • Peter Drucker, the founder and guru of present day organizational management consulting once said, “culture eats strategy for lunch,” meaning that regardless of how great an organization’s strategy, if the organization’s culture is not in the right place, the strategy will fail miserably.

Organizations large and small invest tens of thousands to millions of dollars to create their corporate strategy, yet invest virtually nothing in creating a culture that will be THE driving force to move the strategy towards success.

This, I believe, is a universal truth in business.

Yet, it is violated in virtually every company, regardless of whether it has six, 600, 6000 or 60,000 people working in it.

Only a precious few get it right.

Does yours?

The simple question to ask when developing your company’s strategy is, “does our present organizational culture function in a way that will support the successful implementation of this strategy?”

If the answer is “Yes,” don’t stop there.

Test your assumptions behind that “yes.”

Chances are those in the boardroom creating the strategy have no clue whether that “yes” answer is true.

Keep that in mind as you begin creating or adjusting your strategy for 2016.