‘From Small to Medium’ – an organisation development challenge

By Liz Mercer, Perla Development

As someone who has spent a significant proportion of their working life in medium to large Pharma and biotech companies, I was drawn to participate in the recent Cambridge Network event run by Janice Steed of Steed Consulting.

Small to medium

‘From small to medium’ was an energetic and engaging talk, delivered from the heart.  As a former midwife, Janice Steed knows what it is like to stay in the moment, supporting and guiding the expectant Mum through one of the most exciting, potentially traumatic and
definitely life-changing experiences they will ever have.  Janice brings this empathy to her work with organisations, teams and individuals helping them through whatever transition is required to get them from A to B.

As organisations grow it’s sometime painful; common challenges include… what kind of
company do we want to be? how does the company hang on to what made it successful so far?  how do ‘I’ stay engaged and motivated sufficiently to stay?

When organisations are operating at their best, they are in a place of ‘total reward’ and Janice recommended four key success factors for moving from small to medium to minimise the labour pains as much as possible!

  1. The four components of Emotional Intelligence (Ref: Goleman – New Emotional Leaders) need to be fired up, across the company: starting with self-awareness, the CEO, the senior leadership team and the organisation need to understand (and share) ‘what is’ going on, not ‘what might’ be going on; to help their organisations to see what’s required and build from a place of honesty, clarity and trust.
  2. Small to medium 2Distributed Leadership needs to be an active management practice, role modelled from the top of the organisation; that is, a commitment to sharing responsibility for business development, planning and decision making. And, to encourage self-development and development of others as the challenges unfold.
  3. The intended purpose, direction and culture needs to be clear throughout the transition process and regularly referred to in order to stay on track.
  4. Time needs to be put aside to pause and reflect; to check the ‘state’ of the transition; to listen to each other and take feedback; to co-create the business everyone so dearly wants!

These conversations are intense, rewarding and not easy, often requiring some skilled facilitation.  From those involved, it requires a genuine curiosity, a mind-set of positive intent and an element of courage (and care) to create safe places for people to have the difficult conversations they need to have.

Persuading senior leadership teams and their CEOs to talk about this isn’t easy – it requires empathy, mutual support and ideas on how to open the right doors into the right conversations.

However, the business case is clear to me.  If you want your organisation to evolve successfully, and gain competitive advantage, then you must tap into the emotional intelligence, leadership culture and psychology of the organisation to help it evolve.  Failing to do this is like expecting to grow a flourishing clematis without the trellis to support it!

Janice’s conclusions come from many years of experience with small to medium sized companies; from CEOs and teams who have experienced and survived these transitions; and from a basis in neuroscience and some pretty convincing evidence from companies who have worked in this space and achieved amazing results.


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