It’s 6:30 AM and I’m enjoying a family vacation.
In between sips of coffee and reading a fantastic biography of Frank Sinatra, I’m reflecting on a discussion I had with a CEO of a sizeable 350M+ company last week. He founded the firm and was getting ready to celebrate his 75th birthday.
He said something that resonated with me.
He told me that he started this company over 40 years ago and wasn’t sure exactly where he was going, but he pointed the ship in the right direction and always made sure he had the proper support along the way.
As he closed in on this milestone, he still wasn’t sure what the future held, but he was having fun and remained wildly successful even while continuing to look at areas that he could be improving. It’s a fantastic recipe for success.
He perfectly encapsulated an approach that I’ve been working on and implementing with my clients over the past few years.
I call it Structured Growth, and it’s all about understanding the simple, basic, fundamental foundations any business needs in place to continue to grow and thrive.
When Columbus set sail, he didn’t know exactly where he was going either, but he had all the right pieces in place. He had experienced people on his ship who understood their roles and processes. He had the right tools including astrolabe, quadrant, and sandglass to measure time.
He wasn’t exactly sure where he would end up, but he had a vision.
Ever explorer in history has had great structure and support in place even though they weren't sure where they were going. As Dwight Eisenhower noted: Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
Tesla is an excellent example of a company following an Unstructured Growth model. They don’t seem to know where they’re going, but they’re also not acting in a structured, strategic manner.
Just a quick browse of the headlines will show you how much trouble they’re in.
Microsoft is an excellent example of a company following a model of Structured Growth.
The three fundamental truths of Structured Growth are:
1. Never have an end in mind because it limits you. But understand that what you need are crystal-clear processes, procedures, and structure.
2. You need clear accountability, expectations of activity, and metrics of success.
3. An organic approach to strategy. Your strategy should be revised every 6-12 months — not every 3-5 years. For many of my best clients, this is exactly what we do and it’s powerful.
We don’t know always know what’s around the block. We’re all ever increasingly facing disruption, vitality and more.
But we still need to go around the block, and I can help you get there in the best possible way.
Companies that aren’t using the Structured Growth model often face one or more of these conditions:
• Quarterly or annual goals that have no bearing on reality, or are only hoping to take advantage of a rising market (“We need a 10% increase over last quarter – go!”)
• Lack of clarity between the expectations of the executive team and the day to day activities of staff
• Inability to identify the causes of, or articulate the reasons for the success (or failure) of individual members of any department
• Adherence to strategic plans that were formulated years ago, which technology and the market have rendered obsolete
• A corporate Mission statement which is interchangeable with any competitor
Even if Columbus knew North America was there, without having everything else mentioned above he would never have hit it.
In today’s day and age, it's more important to have the right structure than it is to have the right destination. With the proper structure, you can adjust based on what you see in front of you.
My clients find this freeing. Especially those who have been told they need a three year or even 5-year strategy.
Instead, look forward a year, and give yourself some flexibility. Ensure that you have the right pieces in place and then adjust as needed.
You’ll never know what you might discover. It could be the breakthrough you didn’t even know you were looking for.
Your Weekly Challenge:
Look at the two lists in this Tidbit (Structured Growth Characteristics, and the characteristics of companies not following it).
Score your company on how well you are following these principles, and avoiding the “negative” ones in the second list.
Next, get the rest of your executive team to do the same. If nobody feels you’re following the structured growth approach, or if there is disagreement, then see if you can identify the areas where you’re behind.
And if you aren’t following a Structured Growth plan, take advantage of my offer to talk to all of my Tidbit readers, and set up a call with me to discuss how you can implement it in your company.