Scaling Up!

I am a “leader”, but I’m not a “natural leader”. I have learned how to lead as my career developed. However, I am a “natural manager”, facilitator, coach.

I work best when I’m supporting “natural leaders” and I’ve had the privilege of working with three strong, natural leaders in my past career, so I know!

Why am I rambling on about this? Because it pains me when I meet people who excel as leaders but are “bogged down” with the burden of management – and no more so than in cases of start-up businesses where growth is essential for business success.

“Scaling up” directly addresses this by delivering the tools and processes for an organisation to scale and grow while remaining agile and lean.

This is the third article in the series on Scaling up blogs. Here I plan to focus a bit on the Scaling Up book.

I’ll start with a quote from the Scaling Up web site: “In Scaling Up, Harnish and his team share practical tools and techniques for building an industry-dominating business. These approaches have been honed from over three decades of advising tens of thousands of CEOs and executives and helping them navigate the increasing complexities (and weight) that come with scaling up a venture. This book is written so everyone — from frontline employees to senior executives — can get aligned in contributing to the growth of a firm. There’s no reason to do it alone, yet many top leaders feel like they are the ones dragging the rest of the organization up the S-curve of growth.”

In my opinion, the Scaling Up book does a good job at tackling the complex topic of practical business management in a growth environment, from two scenarios:

  1. 1. The busy executive with limited time and a need to absorb the essence of the scaling up concept.
  2. 2. The more detailed focussed consultant or coach who needs and thrives on the details – the processes and tools and how they integrate together to form an overall management process for mid-sized growth businesses.

The overview chapter delivers a birds-eye view of the concept that summarises the key concepts of Scaling Up, centred around the “4D Framework”  introducing the 4 key aspects of successful scaling up:

  1. 1. Drive – the passion of the executive team to drive the Rockefeller Habits across their organisation

  2. 2. Demands – understanding and balancing the demands of process efficiency and stakeholder reputation – bringing these two dimensions into alignment

  3. 3. Disciplines – deploying a rhythm across the organisation that delivers routine while retaining and enabling agility – and in doing so frees up leadership time to lead and develop the business

  4. 4. Decisions – introducing the 4 decision areas of people, strategy, execution and cash – the 4 elements you need to master in order to scale up successfully.

The overview then continues with a summary of the core tools (templates) that support the scaling-up process.

Finally, it concludes with a short “essay” that overviews the typical “barriers” to scaling up – the hurdles that businesses typically face as they grow from a handful of people to 100 employees to 500 employees etc.

Easy to read in 20-30 minutes.

The remainder of the book delivers the “beef” of the concept. It comprises four main sections, one for each of the (4D) Decision Areas: People, Strategy, Execution, Cash.

The chapters within each of these 4 sections explain the templates/tools that make up the Scaling Up concept. Some of these templates are quite complex and require several chapters to introduce fully, the centrepiece being the OPSP (One Page Strategic Plan),  but the book does an excellent job of explaining and demonstrating the value of each part of each template.

Each chapter is prefaced with an executive summary of its own, followed by interesting and relevant case studies, techniques, best practices and additional reading recommendations. I’m on my second reading of the book and fully expect to do at least one more read. For me, this book is like the “Holy Bible” of Scaling Up.

If you’re engaged in a business that is growing rapidly, or that you plan to grow rapidly – I would strongly recommend this book to you.