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Now I get it!: why big companies can't be as fast....

They say "big companies can't move as fast as startups." I've always kinda accepted that, nodding my head whenever "they" said it. Anecdotal evidence and logic seemed to suggest it was true. Also, I suppose being someone who'd only ever been around a startup or two (until now), I was only too happy to agree with the premise. :) But I never really understood exactly why...until now.

When people say this about larger companies they seem imply something about the people that work there. They seem to believe that working in a large company seems to make them employees (or attract employees that are) complacent; less hungry... There is no way I'd believe that about anyone at the current place of work. Most people around me are ridiculously, even frighteningly smart, driven and motivated. But now I do have an understanding ....or at least a theory on why despite that, bigger companies will always be at a disadvantage at the pure speed game. I think it boils down to just two things:
  • It takes longer to get to a decision-maker(s)
  • Everyone is juggling multiple things

The first: At the startup, if a decision needed to be made, all it involved was a walk to my manager's office. Slightly bigger decision: call a few more people into that office. Really big decision: my manager walks to the corner office. I over-dramatize, but you get the drift!

At the current gig with a company this size, despite the employess retaining a similar attitude, the walks to the corner office are much, much longer, and decisions involve many more people that are really hard to get together to have that decision-making conversation. The conversation takes the same amount of time, getting the people together to have that conversation takes orders of magnitudes of more time (think weeks instead of minutes/hours.)

The second point is why that is the case: no one here is working on just one thing. Everyone is juggling multiple projects and wearing multiple hats. Stuff naturally get prioritized and/or put on organizational back-burners. Also besides "real work", there are tons of other things to do: meetings, interviews, presentations, trainings etc., etc. At a smaller company, there's frozen burritos and the one thing you're working on.

I do think however, that with time operating in this way changes your defaults. Your expectations of how long something will take changes, in time meaning that if you're not careful, they'll take even longer....


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