In large companies winning is all about incrementality

The best way to be successful in a process driven large company is to always keep the focus on small incremental wins. Little wins will ladder up into bigger wins as the smalls wins begin to add up in the impact they are having within a company.

Building a detailed plan for incrementality is so much more effective than creating a plan that will never get executed upon unless there is executive buy-in and a dearth of initiatives across the company – which of course there never will be.

Proposing a complete website revamp is a surefire way to a backburner and the purgatory of no budget, but a refresh of a particular page is a far easier sell. The page refresh might need to be implemented in piece meal, but at least its not a project size that makes stakeholders recoil in fear.

Small wins

When setting these small win targets, it’s really important to make the little wins as small as possible. It could be something like just changing the title of a page which surprisingly could be difficult at a large company. It may even be a smaller goal like getting buy-in from a cross-functional counterpart – again not a given in a highly individual team goal focused culture.

This method for growing by using incremental wins to succeed requires acknowledging that by their very nature large companies are just very different from smaller organizations.  Within small companies with only a handful of employees, culture can be set by founders and a company can be oriented towards results. As an organization grows process is introduced which can add levels of complexity to getting things done. Much of the process will be vital for the future success of the company, but inevitably it will also lead to bureaucracy. For a growth minded product manager or marketer, the bureaucracy can be negated by embracing the process.

Big vs large comparison

As an example of the key differences between large and small companies just compare the planning processes. In big organizations a product plan that is blessed by all stakeholders can take a lot of time to develop, however for a company of this size, the alternative is untenable. A startup can pivot on a dime with founders, board members, and internal leaders reorienting teams on a whim, but in a large company behavior like this what leads to employee attrition. Employees will not feel valued to put a lot of work into a project and then to be directed on to a brand new initiative with no warning.

People

Things are also very different on the employee side too. Employees at smaller companies can have fuzzy titles and responsibilities and goals that change at the speed of the business, while in a large company this would be the complete opposite. Titles are typically specific and aren’t changed unless there is a business need. Responsibilities are narrowly defined and while adjacent responsibilities might be added via projects, big responsibility changes only happen in a job update. Within this environment, quarterly and annual goals are set long in advance and employees are expected to march towards those goals.

The types of people that end up in a company will have their own biases towards an atmosphere with more or less process. There are even extremists at both ends who could not imagine themselves in the opposite environment: a startup employee who shudders at needing to do the same thing for an entire quarter or the large corporate employee who gets night terrors from the thought of a loosely defined job structure that could change weekly.

Summary

There is no right and wrong when it comes to processes and each company will have its own way of doing things that is right for them

The gap between freestyle and rigid is very broad and there will be many companies that fall various places within the spectrum. Companies can even change when something big like a reorganization or layoff forces it. Whatever the culture of the company may there will be a way to work within that system to make things happen.

Keep in mind that in a smaller company it is easier to quote “get things done”, it is incorrect to just throw up one’s hands at a large company and just give up. Initiatives absolutely do get executed at bigger companies, its just that the pathway to making things happen is a bit windy and there are a lot more rest breaks along the way than a fast moving startup.

Realistically even smaller companies need to walk before they run, its just that they are a lot more nimble on their feet.