Listen to Les McKeown read this blog post:
How To Scale A Business
As we've all learned (painfully) in recent years, we're currently in an economic cycle that requires openness to change and reinvention for any organization to survive, let alone thrive.
Put simply, what at one point looked like an unforeseeable 'black swan' event became, in fact, just the precursor to a sea change in how we have to think about attaining sustainable growth.
All easier said than done, of course. And even more easily done if it were all to happen in a vacuum, or if you could stop time, or if you could just take your business or not-for-profit 'into the garage' and retool it. But the reality is that you need to somehow do it while continuing to run a complicated organization.
Rethinking how you grow is a bit like trying to swap out the engines on an airplane while you're flying it - I'm sure that somehow, some way, it's do-able, but it would take an incredible feat of engineering, let alone enormous bravery and superhuman focus.
Despite that, many, many organizations manage to do so - not just once, but as often as is needed to stay relevant and vibrant in a fast-changing world.
I can say this, not just because I'm a nerd who avidly follows such things, but because I'm privileged to work with organizations like this every single day. Organizations which have senior leadership teams who stay consistently one step ahead (or at worst, just one short step behind - sometimes that's enough) of even the most tumultuous economic headwinds.
How do they do it? Well, the answer to that is really what this entire blog is about, and we have 1,000 posts and counting, but I can share with you the one solid foundation they all share:
They know how to ask good questions.
Hardly earth shattering, you say?
Truth be told, it is. Why? Because in my experience the vast majority of leadership teams don't really ask high-level, change-oriented questions at all, and if they do, they're usually the wrong ones.
Here is a paraphrased summary of the 10 most impactful questions that highly adaptable leaders make sure their organization can answer:
1. Is my senior leadership team able to consistently make high-quality, team-based decisions? If not, why not?
2. Once decisions have been made, are they fully executed? (Or do they languish and seem to pop up as an agenda item again and again?)
3. Does my organization have the necessary team members in place to not only grow your business, but scale it?
4. Is my organization fully responding to the needs of your customers (both internal and external)?
5. What’s my senior leadership team's speed to clarity – the lapsed controllable time between the emergence of an issue and its resolution? How is it impacting our bottom line?
6. Has our growth stalled for reasons that aren’t fully clear? If so, how do I pinpoint the problem(s) and discover how to achieve successful resolution(s)?
7. Have we developed a genuine strategic plan for this year, or are we primarily reacting to what happened last year?
8. Do I have a vision for where my organization should be this year, but lack a step-by-step action plan for how to execute it?
9. How do we cultivate buy-in to the needed changes to reinvent ourselves throughout every level of our organization?
10. Do I know where my organization stands in the lifecycle every organization goes through, the specific challenges this is causing, and how to overcome them?