In a webinar I recently gave I was talking about the importance of cultural resiliency for growth-stage companies. “ ‘Cultural resiliency’ sounds like consultant-speak,” one of the attendees posted in the chat box, “What do you mean by that?”
I welcomed the question. As a startup, everyone on the initial tight-knit team has a clear idea of its culture – the values and behaviors that the team lives by. They may not be explicitly stated but with a small team, the values and behaviors that tie everyone together are the implicit norm. Anyone who steps outside of the norm can be assured of pretty quick feedback.
But as the company grows, adding dozens of people quickly – almost all of whom by definition weren’t there at the beginning – and the stresses of growth multiply, that culture gets tested. ‘Resiliency’ in this context is the ability to withstand the inevitable tests, and find a way back to the values and behaviors that are critical for a company to succeed. As the saying goes, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Culture is behavior, and behavior is shaped by a host of elements: what gets recognized, how things get decided, what gets resourced, where lines are drawn in the sand, what gets frowned upon and what gets rewarded. For a healthy organization in growth mode, the goal is to link your strategic cultural characteristics to the things that drive supporting behaviors.
What constitutes supporting behaviors? Here are some examples:
Want to encourage risk taking? Supporting behavior: How do managers respond when things fail? Do they get angry? Are they encouraging?
Tips for building cultural resiliency
The attendee posting in the chat box is not alone is dismissing organizational culture as a ‘soft skill’ or just a ‘poster slogan.’ A strong company culture has been found to attract the best talent - it’s simply a better place to work. A happy employee is 12% more productive than the average worker, and is much more likely to be a brand ambassador for the company. A company that makes the effort to build in cultural resiliency is far more likely to make a successful Growth Leap.
,If you, your client or colleague are in a Growth Leap phase, let's talk about it; email me at AGreen@BroadReachGrowth.com or schedule a conversation with me..
“Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.” ― Pete Seeger
Growth doesn’t always mean “adding more.” Sometimes simplifying the business and doing it really, really well is the way to go. CNN Business writer Paul R. La Monica gives a great example of how this can happen, and how one company turned it around - with better wine and fewer breadsticks..
Five years ago, assessments of Olive Garden – the primary contributor to the overall Darden Restaurant portfolio - were brutal. “Too many breadsticks. An abundance of items on the menu that weren't Italian dishes -- like tapas and hamburgers. Gloopy sauce. And perhaps the worst culinary sin of all -- failure to salt the boiling water for the pasta."
Companies accelerating up the growth curve are achieving increased market traction…more customers, higher sales. That’s great news! But many companies discover that their scaling journey is accompanied by operational breakdowns that cause rework, errors and, if the breakdowns involve core product delivery, customer complaints and attrition. When that happens, finger-pointing and frustration inside the company isn’t far behind.
What has happened here?
Well, back in the startup days, the founders were a small team who shared knowledge on all aspects of the business. They not only had an implicit understanding of the operational processes - they helped create them!
A lot has been written on the key qualities of a successful entrepreneur. Quick, name three or four of your own....
Andrew Griffiths at Inc.com compiled a list of 12 characteristics that I like…here are the top 6:
Now that you’re past the startup phase and you’re a growth-stage company rocketing up the growth curve, are these the key qualities that will enable your continued success?
I recently co-hosted a webinar with Michael Eckhardt, Managing Director of Chasm Institute, a firm that helps companies implement best practices in strategic market development. The topic was the twin challenges of growth.
Michael explained that companies face the first challenge of “Crossing the Chasm,” i.e., finding market traction beyond visionaries and early adopters. Those who are successful with this will then encounter the second challenge.
This second challenge is the irony of growth: The very success that companies achieve in gaining market traction also plants the seeds of their own potential failure. The infrastructure – operating systems, organizational foundation – and leadership behavior that worked as a start-up isn’t up to keeping pace with a rapidly growing top line and the ever-growing number of employees in the company.
One of my favorite business quotes is from an old B-school professor of mine: “Strategy is the art of foreseeing the inevitable and hastening its occurrence.” It’s a paraphrase of a quote on the art of statesmanship by the legendary French diplomat Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand.
Strategy is sexy stuff. Deep thinking, insightful analytics and creativity required.
When I interviewed MBAs looking to join my former consulting firm, the majority said that what they really wanted to do was strategy consulting. What they meant was, they wanted to the front end of strategy: the competitive and market analysis, the customer segmentation, the C-suite and Board discussion of options and the finalization of a bold recommendation.