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.

Routine sets you free

Original source of the Rockefeller habits
John D. Rockefeller

This is the second in a series of blog articles profiling the Rockefeller habits and “Scaling Up, both by Verne Harnish.

The Rockefeller Habits is a checklist of the 10 core habits or “routines” that John D. Rockefeller put into practice across his business – the routines that allowed him to build the business empire that is his legacy.

These routines have also served many of the most successful people in the 100 years since Rockefeller. This list was compiled in the ’90s by Verne Harnish and became the title for his first book, “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits“, the predecessor to his more recent book “Scaling Up“.

As your business grows you may already start to notice the pains of growth. How do you manage the chaos as you add new people, new partners, new services, new processes to your business?

The key is in routines – establishing habits across the organisation that complement your strategy and make strategy execution a lot easier for you. As Verne says ““Goals without routines are wishes; routines without goals are aimless.”

So what are these routines, these habits?

In summary:

  1. Your executive team is healthy and aligned
  2. Everyone is aligned with the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move your company forward
  3. Communication rhythm is established and information moves through the organization quickly
  4. Every facet of the organization has a person assigned with accountability for ensuring goals are met
  5. Ongoing employee input is collected to identify obstacles and opportunities
  6. Reporting and analysis of customer feedback data is as frequent and accurate as financial data
  7. Core values and purpose are “alive” in the organization
  8. Employees can articulate the key components of the company’s strategy accurately
  9. All employees can answer quantitatively whether they had a good day or week
  10. The company’s plans and performance are visible to everyone

“No rocket science here” – I hear you say. Yes, these are all obvious business disciplines that make good common sense – but does your business practice them?

Each of these Rockefeller habits is broken into 4 subtopics to make it easier to identify the opportunity for growth and the opportunity to remove waste from your business. For example:

But take the test – download the attached “Rockefeller checklist PDF” and be honest with yourself. Better yet, invite your management team colleagues to take the test with you.

Oh, and as I mentioned in the previous post – if you are interested in working with me on this journey of learning and implementation, please contact me.

Implementing the Rockefeller Habits

Does growing your business feel like you have a “tiger by the tail”?

I have recently returned from a few weeks in Sydney where a good friend introduced me to Scaling Up  and The Rockefeller Habits (Rockefeller habits checklist), by Verne Harnish.

Verne Harnish has created an impressive ecosystem of tools, templates, processes and services to support rapidly growing businesses, with a clear focus on common sense. The core of this ecosystem comprises four “Scaling Up “pillars”:

  • leading the people that are engaged in the business – including not only customers but all stakeholders: employees, vendors, investors;
  • setting a clear strategy for the business – one that is frequently reviewed and renewed but steering the business towards a “big, hairy, auditious goal”;
  • ability to execute against that strategy – with a focus on prioritisation, frequent measurement (daily) and rhythm (also daily);
  • a focus on cash – to ensure the growth of the business continues to have the cash required to feed the growth.

The Scaling Up tools and templates are not rocket science, and are very similar to tools and templates we have probably all seen and used in the past. The difference here is the approach – simple and pragmatic, eliminating the “fluff”, focussing on the core elements needed for a business to grow without being “eaten by the tiger”, and supported by guidance from the Scaling Up book or through “the Gazelles” coaching network.

In the following posts I will focus some of the elements of this Scaling Up ecosystem:

  1. The Rockefeller Habits – the main attributes of execution that every business needs in order to manage and flourish in a growth environment
  2. The Scaling Up book – which serves as a “user manual” for the operating model of your business

Meanwhile, I would recommend you test your business with the Rockefeller Habits checklist. I also recommend, especially, reading the book, which is available from Amazon but also free as part of a Scribd subscription.

Oh, and of course if you are interested in working with me on this journey of learning and implementation, please contact me.

What is my “why”?

Last week I had an interesting meeting with the CEO of D11 Helsinki, Heikki Leskinen. We discussed several topics including the Millennial Board, and as part of that discussion Heikki asked me “what is my why?”.

An obvious question, one that I had tried to address in my first blog post. But being on the spot, being asked that question, and being the slow thinker that I am, I stumbled with my answer – and realised that I haven’t really defined my “why” well enough.

Why do I want to coach and mentor? Why do I want to help people improve their health and balance their lives? Why do I want to engage in change assignments and projects?
This called for some introversion and reflection. What excites me?

  • Grateful and positive feedback for a job well done? Yes!
  • Seeing people I like and love excel in their goals? Yes!
  • Being able to bring cohesion to teams and help get things organised? Yes!!
  • Innovation – engaging in the ways technology is changing the world and solving big and small problems? Yes!!!
  • Fixing things – applying tools and technology to solve problems? Yes, that too!

I remember when I was a kid – my bedroom was a “rats nest” of cables, connecting old bits of HiFi and TVs to try to make music sound good. What I loved was being able to address the challenge of making things work.

And when I was older I got involved with computers in 1971, and in 1975 had my first opportunity to be a programmer – and got a real buzz there from making things work with code, and that lasted for about 5 years until I was “promoted” to become a project manager and consultant, making things work between people and teams… and I suppose that sums up the rest of my career – making things work between people.

The Millennial Board creates some interesting opportunities, it serves to connect executives with young professionals to bring new insights and awareness. In their own words, it is “a global community of insightful young professionals. We help executives ask better questions and build a brighter future for their companies – and for all of us.”.

Simon Sinek

So, my “why”? Revised version: Making things work for people and between people!