I have been asked this question often during the last six to nine month in many senior team meetings and executive coaching sessions. My answer recently has focused on three key points from a delightful book on this subject called Scaling Up Excellence: Getting To More Without Settling For Less (Crown Business, 2014) by Robert I Sutton and Huggy Rao.
First as the above authors explain, successful companies who scale up “spread a mindset, not just a footprint.” I like this answer because we often underestimate the importance of mindset and instead focus on footprint. In particular, this mindset needs to include two elements, namely clarity about strategic direction and clarity about operational excellence. Strategic direction clarity is built around why we need to move forward with a degree of urgency related to change and/or transform. Operational clarity is built on a deep understanding of the current and changing needs of the client/customer. The mindset has to be both strategic and operational.
Second, the above authors remind us to “find your bell cows and take care of them.” Bell cows are members of the herd that other cows always follow. They may be positional leaders and non-positional leaders. What ever the case, we need both in order to be successful.
Third, Sutton and Rao remind us to “fix the plumbing before the poetry.” Every organization has mission critical systems that must work well for the whole company to work well. From my perspective, the top four we need to focus on right now are hiring, managing performance, rewards and recognition, and employee dismissal. If these are not working well, all the poetry in the world will not help the company.
Finally, there is some common sense we must remember when scaling up some growth. It is as follows: “When all else fails, read the instructions.” Regularly review the mission, vision and core values plus the strategic plan. Here you will find the answers to many of the organizations persistent problems.