One of the biggest constraints on the growth of a business is the lack of support for managers. As businesses grow, meeting the challenge of having the right data, and expertise to collect and interpret it, becomes a critical success factor.
For small and micro-businesses, the administration support tends to be highly compliance focused. At this stage, it is about minimising the risks of not meeting compliance obligations; usually in areas such as taxes, licenses, and contracts. For example, to reduce compliance risks the business will usually engage a bookkeeper, and put in place an accounting and payroll system. Or they may engage experts and put in place systems for project management and/or CRM.
These technicians, and their systems, then get the business through to the next stage of growth. They become valued partners as they add efficiency and instil structured ways of working that enable operational capability and capacity. Without them, the business would stagnate and struggle under the weight of regulatory burden, operational inefficiency, and the inability to consistently deliver for their customers.
These technicians and their systems are like the morning coffee. They kick things off and provide the quantitative business data for dealing with the issues of compliance, operational capability, and business efficiency. This is data such as financial, sales, production, and capacity information.
As the business grows there becomes a need for more management capability. This happens because with more customers comes the need for more people, and with more people comes the need for more managers. The business needs a different type of data, and a new system for obtaining and using it.
Despite everyone's best intentions, with more people the business naturally experiences the challenges of maintaining its productive culture, instilling consistent management decision processes, and continuing its growth.
One of the most critical success factors for growth, is how well the business transitions the administration effort and focus from compliance to supporting managers in driving the productive behaviours in the business that generate profitability. This requires a system for qualitative data - so that managers can have consistent information about the human qualities that are driving business performance.
Businesses often invest heavily into their quantitative data systems, but they often over-look their systems for gathering consistent qualitative data. This data is often more difficult to systemise as it's responses to open questions, and it's words rather than numbers.
Qualitative data provides far better information about the barriers to human performance. For example, quantitative data can provide managers with information that shows the need for changing something, but qualititative data gives the information that drives the behaviour to achieve that change.
To achieve the next phase of growth, the data system in the business needs to provide a sound process for gathering and using qualitative information. This supports decision making, enables management consistency, and drives productivity. It is like giving the business its second cup of coffee every day, as it drives the business energy towards removing the barriers that are preventing sustainable performance.
Our question to you, Change Agents is: Are the systems in your business only focused on quantitative data, and what process are you instilling for enhancing the human experience - the qualitative experience - in your organisations to achieve growth, sustainability, and ultimately, your purpose?
H Agents write about the joys and challenges of entrepreneurship and managing people.