Every organization starts their journey from step 1. In order for the organization to grow it would be helpful if they rely on resources that provide learning from step 1 perspective rather than (for eg) Step 6! Growth in an organization is stunted if they have to learn from an organization which is at a step beyond them. Step 1 can be regarded as a small organization with less than 50 employees and any step beyond it can be regarded as an organization with a minimum of 50+ employees. The functioning, dynamics, challenges faced by small organizations differs from bigger organizations. Dysfunctional leadership, family strife, extra impetus on economic growth, succession planning etc all these concerns are difficult to manage in a small firm and if not catered it leads to the collapse of a firm. In order to transform the small business, the interventions used for carrying out organizational development must be different than those used in bigger organizations.
A similar problem was faced by a broker’s company employing 21 staff members which were found by a married couple. A third partner was added to the company, all three had equal shares in the business, a positive climate was experienced until three more members were added in the board of directors. Gradually the board members started sensing some problem which on a surface level was described as problems pertaining to poor communication or lack of cooperation between the board members. In order for the business to grow it was essential to address these concerns. Hence the board members decided to implement strategic planning with the help of an intervention.
In order to transform the small business into a formal company, the role of learning is paramount. Learning in small business is effective when it is conceptualized in social terms. A social perspective to learning enables everyday practise and co-participation helping the small organizations critically reflect and contextualize their action. However, it is also important to address the informal unconscious factors that can potentially influence the transformation from small business to a formal company. Thus it is essential to give a small organization the space to get aware of these dynamics and explore how they affect the organizational dynamics. The intervention, therefore, emphasized experiential learning along with co-constructionist (collaborative learning) and a psychodynamic approach towards achieving transformation.
It took place over a weekend and involved five sessions: the first three one-and-a-half-hour sessions were for experiential learning and the last two sessions were for reflection, application and debriefing. This programme was repeated on the second day and all the sessions were attended by the six board members.
IMPACT: (During and Post Intervention)
The data collected during the intervention provided an insight into the experience of intervention by the board members, they described it as “interesting”, “fluff”, “strange”. They also experienced discomfort, felt drained and painful at some point. They also mentioned the urge to “get out of the situation”. This is because during the intervention more open and honest communication took place between the board members which made them aware of the underlying conflict. They understood how their emotions were playing a role in shaping their perspectives especially regarding the conflict in the firm. With enough evidence of increased awareness of their positive and negative characteristics, board members got an accurate view of reality and realized how some unrelated factors had the potential to impact their behaviour. They also realized the impact of group dynamics influencing their behaviour. The intervention facilitated the board members to reflect which helped them relate the intervention into their work experience. Some were optimistic about the future however others were concerned about issues which demanded immediate resolution. They realized their own roles and responsibility when it came to decision making and confronting other board members. The intervention also facilitated better interpersonal relations, leading to engagement among the board members.
As rightly said by Miller, “Scepticism tends to be a more positive indicator than enthusiasm and euphoria” The discomfort and strangeness experienced by the board members initially help us understand that the value of experiential learning in small business is effective and dependent not only when the board members experience positive emotions but also when they experience anxiety and discomfort which if not addressed can cause damage to the firm. Thus, the organizational development intervention must be aimed not only at rational problem solving but should also focus on the struggle to learn from training. Once the board members acknowledged their negative characteristics, they came to terms with the reality which promoted clarification towards understanding the organizational dynamics. Co-constructionist learning helped the board members deal effectively i.e they managed to break the bubble of “how it should be” and realised “how it is” and took steps to resolve it. Not only did the board members understand their role in the dynamics but also understood the relatedness of each other’s role in the organizational dynamics.
Thus, hands-on learning and co-constructionist approach not only helped in clearing the air but also identifying and tackling elements that polluted the air and recognition of their own responsibility towards handling the issue. The intervention also provided improvement in interpersonal relations, setting of personal boundaries. Ambiguous perspectives were cleared with the help of role differentiation. The board members felt empowered and experienced a sense of autonomy which increased ownership. Improvement in their interpersonal relations gave them an opportunity to confront each other without hesitation and communicate various concerns more openly. All of these factors culminated into increased levels of engagement among the board members.
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