What’s Different About Managing Change in Small Organisations? Mark Webb reflects on the strengths and weaknesses of small organisations undergoing change

Renee Leon

Mark Webb, IPAA NSW President and Chief Executive, Department of Parliamentary Services, Parliament of NSW 

Managing change in small organisations brings comes with unique opportunities and challenges, Mark Webb, Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) NSW President and Chief Executive of the Department of Parliamentary Services, Parliament of NSW, writes.

I’ve spent about a half of my public sector career in large agencies, and half in small. In my experience, change isn’t either easier or harder in a small organisation, but it can manifest very differently. 

In a small organisation there is usually a clarity of purpose, and it is much easier to communicate consistently about what is happening and see how the changes are impacting everyone. If you are in a leadership role, you can bring together a big portion of the organisation into a single meeting. You can hear individual voices more clearly and issues don’t get as watered down as they make their way up the lines of management.

In other words, small agencies can react to circumstances as they arise, and make adjustments quicker and easier. 

However, people in small agencies are often more close knit. Change can feel more personal. Resources are often stretched thin, and the capacity for a small agency to take on a large change and still keep producing “business as usual” can be more easily compromised.

Corporate staff in small agencies tend towards generalists who can turn their hand to anything, which means there is sometimes less specialised support options available. 

For those leading change in a small organisation, remember that it is just as important to take a rigorous approach to managing that change, even if arrangements seem less formal on the surface.

Change can be difficult, and everyone who works in the public sector deserves dedicated, compassionate leadership who are looking to maximise the opportunities that change can provide, and mitigate any down side.

And that is true no matter what size organisation you work in.