By Dave McKeown, President of Predictable Success
As a leader, you have a clear sense of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to achieving business growth goals. But what happens when the strategies that got you here are no longer producing the desired results?
The Tipping Point
At some point in your organization’s growth (often around 10 – 15 employees), your business ceases to be at any one point on the Predictable Success Lifecycle.
Much larger organizations have entire divisions, departments, offices – even geographic regions – at different stages. The blue dot of your organizational GPS becomes the weighted average of the component parts.
This makes managing a complex business even more difficult as each entity requires a different set of strategies and leadership styles to succeed. The goal in each instance is to manage the organization’s movement into Predictable Success at a meta level whilst managing each major entity separately.
Here are three common dynamics which occur, the potential obstacles that arise and the best way to overcome them.
1. The organization as a whole is in Whitewater but we have one or two new units in Early Struggle.Potential problems:
The solution for the organization as a whole is to add more system and process to bring the scalability required for Predictable Success. This involves building a deep infrastructure of decision making into the organization and adopting the Processor mindset at the senior level.
The problem is that the mindset required to grow the burgeoning units is almost the complete antithesis to the mindset need to conquer Whitewater. Time and again I see valiant efforts to tackle Whitewater having the rug pulled out from under them by the gravitational pull of the ‘just do it mentality’ from the new units.
Put a strong Visionary in charge of the new unit with a strong second-in-command Operator. Firewall the leadership of the new unit by having them be part of the senior team in a reporting function only. Resist the urge to adopt their start up mentality in the whole of the senior team, whose focus should be on building the Processor and then the Synergist muscle.
Similarly, avoid putting too much (if any) Processor into the new unit. Let them follow the cycle organically from Early Struggle, through to Fun. Then, when the time is right, assimilate the management of the unit into the mandate of the senior team.
2. We don’t know if we’re in Treadmill or Whitewater.Potential problems:
This usually occurs when a legacy unit of the business is in Treadmill and you have other parts of the business in Whitewater and Fun. The Processors in the group will think you’re in Whitewater, as to them any hint of chaos is an indication of it. The Operators on the team will think you’re in Treadmill, as they see the bureaucracy of the legacy unit.
The problem in this case is that, for the legacy unit in Treadmill, you need to relax the Processor mentality and inject more controlled risk-taking and innovation. However, for the other units, you must help guide them through Whitewater by adding more process.
Again, try to firewall the units as much as possible. This doesn’t mean operate in silos; rather there should be a clear distinction in your senior leadership meetings around the discussions on each unit. Agree ahead of time who should have input into the decision-making process for each.
You’re going to want to increase the Visionary mindset of the team in Treadmill and the Processor mindset of the team in Whitewater. If you have the bandwidth, a straight V for P swap can be effective in maintaining that balance.
3. We’re in late Predictable Success/Treadmill and try to launch new initiatives, but they fail.Potential Problems:
This is a very common dynamic in the tech industry. Once-quirky startups now dominate an industry – think Uber, Facebook, Twitter. (No, they’re not startups, no matter what the industry wants to tell you.)
In an attempt to stay relevant, they try to either launch new initiatives internally or buy someone to be “our guy in that space.”
The problem is they have too much internal Processor mindset of “how we work”, and it chokes the new initiative. After a number of years, the initiative gets dropped (Google Wave), sold (Motorola mobility) or otherwise subsumed (Nest) into the organization.
Drop the centralized corporate procedures and policies. Put a Visionary and an Operator in charge, and let them grow the business following the lifecycle organically. Only once they have a business at the late stage of Fun should you centralize the decision making into the wider organization.