One of the challenges I find facing rapidly scaling teams & organizations is the speed at which they outgrow their current approach, and the subsequent need to constantly overhaul their strategy and processes to fit the next stage of growth–e.g. more volume, new offers, changing customer expectations, new locations, clearer policies, higher level of accountability, new metrics & targets, new organizational roles and structure, etc…
How do you overcome this challenge? How do you come up with the right model for an unknown journey ahead? Not to mention doing it fast enough to keep pace with an ever-changing business environment and needs. It certainly seems daunting and the risk of paralysis is high–either because leaders don’t know what to do (continuing the status quo), or get lost in a painstaking quest to create the “perfectly tailored solution” because they think “their situation is so unique” (trust me, it’s not!).
One of my professors at Stanford University, Dr. Huggy Rao, co-authored a book (“Scaling Up Excellence”) with Dr. Robert Sutton in which they share their learnings from studying and working with high-growth companies. In reference to the question above, they give the following valuable advice:
Finding the right blend of “standard” and “custom” when you are scaling up an organization often requires a messy, time-consuming, and costly process of trial and error. But some strategies speed such learning. If you aren’t sure, a good general rule is to start with a complete model or template that works elsewhere and watch for signs that certain aspects of the model aren’t working and need to be rebuilt, replaced, or removed. We recommend resisting the temptation to roll out an unproven mishmash of best practices if you can avoid it.
I love this guidance and think it’s extremely powerful. Why? First, using “someone else’s model” gives teams a place to start with a certain level of confidence, based on real-life references and examples. Second, it allows for intentional adaptation “as you go,” based on your own learnings and unique needs of your business model. Third, and most importantly, it’s a shortcut to action, creating momentum to keep the organization moving forward.
So where are you stuck? Who else is doing something similar? What’s a possible “starter model” you can begin to adapt and move forward?