Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurs in Closely-Held Enterprises — I. Close to the Heart
4. Intensive (Face-To-Face) Communication
The fourth issue for organizational psychologists concerns the “feeling” of the organization—the culture of the enterprise. Typically, a closely held enterprise is one in which there is frequent, direct communication among those who work in this enterprise. The entrepreneur typically does not sit in an office at some distant location. She is right there with the employees. Furthermore, with the low levels of differentiation and lack of explicit intentions, people in the organization must constantly talk with one another to make sure that everyone is “on the same page.” One of our clients recently stated it this way: “We are always bumping into each other . . . so we don’t really need to worry much about keeping informed about what each of us is doing.”
The story, however, doesn’t end here. While there are high levels of interaction, there are often low levels of consistency or predictability with regard to the patterns of this interaction in closely held enterprises. There are many rules and regulations that tend to dictate how employees relate to one another in corporate life, large organizations and other bureaucratized institutions. Formal reporting relationships are respected and end-runs are discouraged. This is often not the case in closely held enterprises. Employees typically do not hesitate to go directly to the “boss” with a complaint or request, often bypassing the person to whom they formally report. Members of a closely held enterprise are also inclined to form informal teams to get a job done, these teams being constituted for a specific purpose with informal leadership roles shifting depending on the nature of the task. Everyone pitches in to set up tables for an upcoming meeting and one of the employees with the biggest muscles or clearest sense of seating arrangements “takes charge.” Five minutes later someone else is in charge. She will handle the decorations on the tables or will ensure that each table has water, pens, paper, etc. All of this occurs with very little negotiation or posturing.