8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company [Part II]

by | Jun 18, 2015 | Culture | 3 comments

8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company: This is the second post in a two-part series. You can view Part I here.

Last week, I published the first in a two part series on the attributes of a Big Dumb Company.  In that post, I highlighted the the first 4 characteristics which were bureaucracy, prioritizing numbers before people, an intolerance for failure, and a lack of Vision.  Here are the final 4.

5. No Flywheel

Steve Jobs once said “I’m as proud of what we don’t do, as I am of what we do.”

Often, organizations that experience great success in their beginnings, do so because they do some thing well.  They offer a product or service that meets the needs of their customers and provides adequate revenue to sustain their growth.  But as a Big Dumb Company grows, it attempts to become all things to all people and it loses sight of its core-business; it’s Vision becomes blurred.

In his book “Good to Great,” Jim Collins writes that a great organizations remain focused on their core business.  Their “not to do list” is as critical as their “to do” list.

When an organization becomes distracted from its core business, it loses the competitive advantage that its flywheel provides.

6. Lack of People Development

I often say that leaders are in the “people business.”  They don’t fill seats with people who are content to simply churn out a lot of work.  Rather, they fill their bench with individuals who have an insatiable desire to become better.

Organizations that invest in training and development build the greatest competitive advantage- people!

In addition to investing in the development of skills, great organizations also invest in developing its leaders.  They recognize that there is a difference between a leader and a manager.  A manager works in the business; focusing on processes and proceduresA leader works on the business; their focus is on developing people and creating opportunities.

An organization quickly makes the transformation into a Big Dumb Company when its employees cease to grow professionally and skillfully, and when its leaders forget that people are their number one priority.

7. They Measure the Wrong Things

The Big Dumb Company often places a higher priority on numbers than on people and it believes that people can be motivated with numbers.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s critical that individuals and organizations have goals and measure their progress toward those goals.    

At SEI, we use our SR5 performance measurement system to do so at the corporate, department and individual level.  We work with employees to define measurable goals that are aligned with the corporate goals.  It’s a synergistic approach that has had a positive impact for our company and for our customers, as is evidenced in our employee engagement survey results, our 98% customers retention rate, our 92% Net Promoter Score and in our double-digit annual revenue growth.

Great companies measure more than just the bottom line.

For example, if customer service is truly a priority, then performance is measured and results are shared.  The same is true for employee engagement, margin retention and revenue growth.

8. Don’t Communicate Successes or Failures

Another particularly damaging attribute of the Big Dumb Company is a culture of secrecy.  Leaders hide important information behind a bureaucratic veil and they view that information as a privilege that validates their authority.  To them, challenges become theirs alone to solve.

Great companies don’t simply communicate success, but also enlist the help of the entire organization by communicating challenges as well.  These companies attract “A Players” by giving them permission to do what they do best- solve problems.  Great companies know that when something is broken, “A Players” should be called on to diagnose and fix it.

When it comes to individual feedback, the Big Dumb Company doesn’t provide it with the consistent and crystal clear communication that ensures everyone is in alignment with one another.  This kind of feedback should not be relegated to a yearly review, it should be a consistent and continual conversation.

Great organizations view clear communication as a fundamental part of professional development and employee engagement.

These are 8 characteristics that I’ve identified of a Big Dumb Company.  What characteristics have you observed?


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About Me

I am the President & CEO of Service Express, a National Best & Brightest Company to Work For. Service Express has averaged double digit growth every year since 2001.

We attribute our success to a unique corporate culture that we call The Service Express Way. I am a member of the Young President Organization and sit on the Board of the Spectrum Health Foundation.