‘You are likely to get management approval for a 500 dollar expense…..but you can call a 1-hr meeting with 20 people and no one notices’. A few days ago I saw this statement in an image on LinkedIn.
I could not help to grin a little and I bet for most of you this is very recognisable. Throughout the last couple of years I have had first hand experience of companies that struggle with fast growth. This growth puts pressure on the ability of these organisation to stay as responsive as they were when they were still small. Below you find three tips on what to keep in mind when facing rapid or exponential growth.
1. Quality is the foundation of growth
I have seen this at every company I have worked with over the last couple of years. They have a great business proposition which after a brief period gets traction in the market place. This creates rapid growth for the organisation putting pressure on internal communication, recruitment, processes and procedures. This usually is scalable until a company reaches 80-150 people. Then things get tricky.
A company this size is almost impossible to manage as a single owner and the management team will get larger. There is no fault in this. However, having scaled the leadership of the organisation requires some alignment and a shared vision on how to lead the company. So the management team retreats to a nice off site location to contemplate on a vision and strategy for the coming years and this is where I have seen things so wrong.
To give you an example, one organisation came with a strategy containing 10 principles to guide the organizations to even bigger achievements. 9 of these points were related to safeguard culture, improve quality and facilitate for improvement. The last point stated:
“In 5 years we will have 500 employees in 5 countries”
And that is a dangerous statement. This is what stuck to everybody throughout the organisation. A machine was created to bring in as many people possible to meet this ambitious statement and the quality of the people brought in was a little below the company standard. This single focus on growth affected the quality focus that made the company achieve their initial success. Every completely lost focus on the first 9 statements of the strategy. Not until customers started complaining or even walking away.
Focus on growth in number and results will not help your achieve growth. Growth is a result from the quality you deliver as company. The other way around does not work!
2. Trust your professionals, do not over-regulate!
Especially in an organisation where you focus on hiring true professionals beware of applying a 19th century management style. Management of professionals has shifted dramatically from telling people what task to perform to enabling professional to use their skills and knowledge to maximize the value they create. This sounds nice and is a well researched and documented such as in Daniel H. Pink’s book ‘Drive – the surprising truth about what really motivates people’.
However, such behaviour, for those who most of the time are still held accountable for results, is extremely difficult to sustain when operating under pressure of timelines, budgets etc. The natural tendency when pressure is high is to fall ‘back’ into a command-and-control mode. Such behaviour is killing the motivation of professionals who will either leave at some point or will become numb to contributing their knowledge or experience.
Think of this phenomenon with the following metaphor of carrots, eggs and coffee beans. In most organizations where people have the energy to contribute and have the feeling their efforts are appreciated you see coffee beans all over. However when such initiatives are turned down again and again you end up with a group of people behaving like a bunch of cooked carrots.
Working with professionals requires a manager to enable them to optimally spent their time and talents. Steering on the clear boundary conditions is the only this a manager should do. How to maneuver within these boundaries is up to the professional. This is how you create environments where people can optimally perform. More on creating such an environment? Check out this video!
3. Hire on attitude & potential
In highly skilled working environments it is all about the people working there. However, finding those people with all the knowledge and experience you wish is almost impossible. Hiring good professionals boils down to attitude and potential. Learning people the content and context they are working in is relatively easy comparing it to crafting the right attitude. Fast learning and highly energetic professionals usually show more potential than those seasoned workers who have ‘seen it all’.
In organisations with highly skilled professionals, culture is key and embedding those professionals in your organisation can be a challenge. When on boarding newly hired professionals starts with imprinting your corporate DNA in theirs. Drowning them in hours and hours of rich of content training courses is only half as effective as telling them the (undoubtedly) interesting history and cultural values of your organisations. Teaching them the common language you speak within your organisation and what you vision is on the services or products you are delivering is extremely powerful in fast on boarding of highly energetic people. I have experienced such on boarding programs twice in my career as well as a few less successful ones and those two organisations I still hold close to heart.
So if your organisation is in the luxury position of rapid growth please focus on keeping the focus on quality, enabling your professionals and hire on attitude and potential.