Home Concepts Organizational Theory Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurial Professionals in Closely-Held Enterprises

Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurial Professionals in Closely-Held Enterprises

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The entrepreneurial challenge associated with this issue of inexplicit intentions is a bit complex and even contradictory—a dilemma. On the one hand, it seems obvious that the entrepreneur should be more explicit about the intentions of the enterprise that she leads. She needs to articulate the mission, vision, values and purposes in a way that employees (and other stakeholders) can understand and in a way that enables other people, independently, to assess achievement of specific goals and objectives.

On the other hand, it is critical that the entrepreneur does not become too attached to an explicit set of intentions. Haile Sellassie, the legendary king of Ethiopia (kingdoms are closely held enterprises!) once indicated in a moment of remarkable candor that he never wanted anything he said to be written down, for he might change his mind! Like Sellassie, the entrepreneur has to remain “fleet of foot” and expedient. She must always be thinking out of the box (“thinking the unthinkable”) and open to new opportunities that may stretch the mission or vision of the enterprise (while remaining true to its fundamental values). I live in a New England community where many residents make their living going out to sea. They will readily shift focus (and tackle) if they find that their primary commodity isn’t there to be harvested. This is a delicate balancing act—between clarity and flexibility. As coachs, we can provide important assistance in helping the entrepreneur find this balance in their closely held enterprise.

3. Informal Performance Criteria and Review

The first two issues facing the entrepreneur – diffuse roles and informal intentions – inevitably culminate in a third issue. In many closely held enterprises, there are high levels of informal control but low levels of formal evaluation and review. People working in the closely held enterprise don’t know how their performance is being evaluated. Their “boss” is likely to tell them: “I can’t tell you exactly when we are doing it right, but I know when we’re doing the right thing.” Our coffee bean entrepreneur comes to mind.

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