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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part IV

 

In the previous post “Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part III” we discussed strategy aspects of a scaling project. The next topic on the scaling preparation “to do” list is measuring success and failure.

Scaling and growth both depend a great deal on experimentation: be it at tactical level deciding who will do what to strategic level defining success or failure. That being said that kind of decision making naturally requires a great deal of analysis; qualitative or quantitative.

Quantitative

Data driven quantitative analysis is or should be the basis of virtually all business decisions. Though an established field, the quantity of data that has been previously inaccessible or impractical for usage has changed the field. The same quantity of the data sets that are now available have also created several other side effects for small and mid-size organizations; ranging from increased cost for proper analysis to “analysis paralysis”. Hence, the usage has to be defined in terms of practicality: both the collection and analysis of data have to be defined within the context of cost and impact.

Qualitative

In a previous discussion about decision making we discussed the usage of qualitative decision making. Those parameters previously discussed i.e. strong pattern recognition as part of the qualitative decision making are particularly applicable when it comes to growth and scaling. In practical terms it translates to a combination of using practical experiences both industry related as well as general business experiences to decide on both tactical and strategic level: the industry know-how combined with generic business experience will provide the sort of “umbrella” coverage that will leave little room for “guessing”.

On the front line

Interestingly enough there are some unique aspects to data usage when it comes to scale and growth: though the basic methodology of collection and analysis is the same, the decision making direction should entail a more dynamic version of “bottom to top” or “top to bottom”: Micro decisions vs. Macro decisions: 

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part III

 

In the previous post “Growth and scaling downfalls-Part 2” we discussed human capital aspects of a scaling project. The next topic on the scaling preparation “to do” list is strategy.

Though strategy is understood to be a vital part of any business project, when it comes to scaling and growth, it takes an entirely more fluid role: both macro and micro strategy have to be substantially more adaptive and flexible.

Macro strategy

Though the term is more widely used in financial industry, it similarly applies to the concept of business strategy at large. For this discussion “Macro Strategy” is to be understood as the “general strategy” that defines the overall approach based on organizational philosophy, culture, goals and methodology. In context of growth and scaling, “Macro Strategy” similarly refers to general organizational approach both in theory and practices as how to approach any given project.

So, why does it matter?

Essentially, the macro strategy will dictate the overall approach through the lens of organizational mindset; which includes factors such as cultural, social, structure and flexibility. It can also be shaped by outside factor such as target market, brand perception as well as industry specific norms and standards.                                                                        

For instance, an organization that is dead set on market domination is less likely to be deterred by its competitor’s abilities, approach or resources. Hence, the Macro strategy may have an oversized impact on the initial planning of growth and scaling.

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part II

 

In the previous post “Growth and scaling downfalls” we discussed human capital aspects of a growth project. The next topic on the scaling preparation “to do” list is financial resources.

It goes without saying that pre-planning for financial resources needed to meet scaling goals is not only essential for obvious reasons, but it also important in contributing to both tactical as well strategic decision making.

Who?

So, who should be involved? Granted that there many different methods, it stands to reason that such determination should be a “top down” approach, as in starting with the project manager. Additional team members should include project sponsor, member of operations management as well as finance. Of course, it is understood that the CFO (used here generically to refer to the leadership of the financial division) had to be involved in the initial SOP creation for such projects.

How?

The mechanics of a budget creation are certainly widely known and not a subject of this discussion, however there are couple of points worth mentioning:

• Realistic budgeting: one of the rather common issues in budgeting for growth is the ability to understand the nature of such project. It is extremely vital to understand that unlike other projects, the uncertainties in growth and scaling dictate building a larger margin of errors into the budget.

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Why CIOs Need to Prioritize Their Resources for the Business

 

Priority alignment: this should be a focus of any CIO looking to grow a business. Indeed, the adaptive CIO must set clearly-defined roles for each branch of the department, especially important as it pertains to the role of CIO vs. IT manager. In essence, CIOs need to be focused on helping the CEO with the company's strategy and let their IT managers handle the back-office work.   As CIO puts it, the IT department has to help the business make more money; as CIO, you must remained focused on the business rather than concerning yourself with providing the computer, the network or the server. This is what the IT Manager's role is, and you're paying him/her handsomely to do that. By clearly defining those roles and sticking to them: this is the only effective way to grow a business. Otherwise, resources are wasted, not to mention time and money.

The Path to Alignment

Sure, digital transformation has begun placing more and more demands on the CIO position -- a role that has undergone am impactful shift over the years from maintaining a stable portfolio of back-office technology to crafting ways that technology can bring in more money for the company's bottom line. But progress has been slow.   For many years, CIOs worked toward a goal of closely coordinating IT projects and overall strategy with business processes, with a recent Public CIO survey saying that executives still report IT-business alignment as their #1 IT management concern.   A shift is afoot. Another survey -- Deloitte's 2019 Global CIO Survey -- revealed that the two top expectations for CIOs are, in this order, to:

  • Align with the business
  • Transform business processes
  • Achieve IT operational excellence

Based on these findings, experts say the two kinds of CIOs needed in the future include a “business co-creator” CIO who devotes a majority of his or her time to driving business strategy or encouraging change, and a "change instigator" who acts as a leader in technology-enabled business transformation.

Still, the CIO is always at a perpetual inflection point, spinning plates in the air, as they face opposing functional and strategic priorities. On one hand, CIOs are called upon to be more active in all business decisions, as competition demands more transformative, innovative solutions for clients and customers. On the other hand, IT is responsible for maintaining most of the functional yet essential aspects of tech strategy, such as security and data management. Just one wrong step, like a data breach, and it's game over.

The plates the CIOs are spinning are getting greater in number yet faster and smaller in size. How can CIOs and IT manager stay in their respective lanes in order to properly grow the business?

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part I

Many of us have either been part of a “growth and scaling” project or have led such efforts. We all have some battle stories of what worked and what didn’t; yet we hardly ever hear about the preparation that goes into a successful “growth and scaling” project. In this series, I will address several of more important considerations and factors.

The Beginning

Scaling and growth both as principal as well as in practice are simply a function of evolution: a given organization reaches some specific benchmark that leads to a need to grow the business. Those benchmark can be as objective as following a road-map that specifies steps or as subjective as the executive team deciding it is time. Without exploring the details of the decision making, let’s look at one of the most fundamental factors: The Team.

The Evolution

Even without extensive business experience, logic simply dictates that growing or scaling a business can only be successful when the said business has the resources, i.e. human capital and financial means. To keep the discussion on point, I will forgo discussing the bootstrap version of this topic. 

Human capital or the team that is going to be in the front line of those growth/scaling efforts needs to be able to execute the directives that are designed to stimulate and augment the overall growth path. In order to do so some basics, have to be in place:

• Quantity: the team size has to be realistically feasible in relations to the workload

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Best Decision Making - Experience Versus Data-based?

 

The daily life of any executive entails an endless amount of decisions: those decisions are made based on factors such as experience, data, organizational needs and goals. Those decisions are likely to be additionally impacted by the ever increasing demand for speed. Hence creating a tempting environment to excessively rely on decision making based on experience. This begs the question: does relying on experience as sole point of reference for decision making viable? And if it is, how do we maximize the odds of better outcome for those decisions?

Variety of experience

It is a fair to stay that we all perceive reality differently: people can be in the same situation or conversation yet have an entirely different take away. The same applies to “experience”; one single instance of “experience” can be sufficient to deter or encourage a particular action based on the perceived “lesson learned”; it is even entirely possible to classify the same instance of “experience” as good or bad solely based on the perception of the experience and/or its outcome. This leads us to the question: if the said experience is the basis of one or more decisions, how can potential errors or bias be minimized?

Single or multiple experiences

It goes without saying that a single instance of an experience is rather a debatable proposition when it comes to decision making. It should be rather obvious that a single instance of “data point” be it qualitative or quantitative can’t possibly be considered as reliable basis for fundamental decisions. That being said when can experience be reasonably viable? Is it a functional of quantity? Quality? The answer is not that one dimensional. 

A single instance of virtually anything can signal flawed results and conclusions because there are many variables that can change the actual and or perceived outcome. Some of those factors include stakeholder’s behavior and actions, circumstantial organizational resource limitations and or allocation as well as interpretation biased by multiple level of internal and external actors. Hence, logic dictates that one, two or any quantity of an experience is susceptible to flawed conclusion analysis.

Patterns

So, if even multiple instances of a given experience can’t be relied upon, what is the solution? One possible solution is reliance of patterns; this method would strip away a lot of the shortcoming of utilizing the experience or experiences as a data point by looking at common denominator’s as opposed to evaluating the experience in its entirety. Additionally, it would allow for larger set of qualitative data points because it eliminates the necessity of using only personal experience as opposed to being able to include external and/or third party input even unrelated to specific projects and/or industries.

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How The Executive Team Can Help Transform Company Culture

 

Company culture: you hear this term a lot these days. But what does it mean exactly? Is it fluffy and abstract or quantifiable and measurable? Turns out, a little bit of both. Company culture forms the core of any business, large or small. It's what everything else is built around, forming the foundation of success. But while integral to each company's staying power, culture can't result from a top-down mandate that demands compliance; rather it has to be cultivated organically and reside in the collective hearts and habits of the people who work for you, points out Harvard Business Review. This shared perception of "it's just the way we do things here" has to be instilled from day one. You just can't teach optimism, conviction, creativity and trust. However, you can foster, grow, cultivate and encourage change.

It's up to the executive team to carry this through. It's the team's job to plant the company with culture, water it and watch it grow.

Turning the Ship Around

So, what happens when the company culture has gotten a bit off track and needs to be steered anew? Transformation is in order, and the executive team is the one to lead the charge. As someone who holds the valuable position of leadership, it’s your job to effectively facilitate a workplace culture that encourages each employee to flourish, says Business.com. Be prepared, any change you propose will likely be met with skepticism. After all, people as a whole tend to get into routines and become resistant and even hostile when challenged with sudden calls for change. That's why you must facilitate sustainable change that gives each employee a reason and a chance to flourish and succeed.

Changing company culture doesn't happen overnight. It's not like you can trade in your old culture for a new one like you would a car. It takes time, dedication, patience and a lot of tenaciousness. Attempting to push through a big change isn't as easy as it looks, especially when you know that cultural habits are well ingrained, for better or worse. Drawing on the positive aspects of the culture and turning the tide toward your advantage can offset many of the growing pains you'll experience along the way.

Tips for Fostering Sustainable Change

So let's get right down to the nitty gritty. Infusing change in company culture isn't a one-and-done proposition. It needs to be sustainable to effectively meet the challenges of longevity. Here are some helpful tips you as the member of your company's executive team can try to ease the burden of transition.

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Why High Performing Organizations Always Win

 

Winning. It's a place everyone wants to be, but few can actually claim. From sports to politics to school: high performing individuals make things happen. It's no different in business. You may already be an Executive of a high-performing company. Or you may be a competitor of one, always striving to hit that mark. So, what makes an organization a winner in terms of performance? From engagement of employees to leadership through all levels, there are certain qualities that define a high performance organization (HPO) from top to bottom. Let's take a further look.

Areas of Focus

Companies who hit the nail on the head in terms of top performance tend to focus on:

  • Performance goals
  • Employee engagement
  • Philosophy about why and how people work
  • Values-driven work culture
  • Teamwork approach
  • Efficient, effective processes that garner results
  • Strategic organizational vision and execution
  • Leadership throughout all levels

High performance organizations have been a subject of study for many years. In fact, the HPO Center has created an entire strategy to achieve it. They define a High Performance Organization as one that achieves financial and non-financial results that are far better than those of its peer group over five years or more through the focused discipline that truly impacts the organization. Research shows that there is a direct and positive correlation between certain factors and organizational results, despite which sector, industry or country you are in. They point out the five strands of success as being:

  • Management quality
  • Openness and action orientation
  • Long-term orientation
  • Continuous improvement and renewal
  • Employee quality

By following these factors, organizations can vastly improve anything from revenue growth and profitability to Return on Investment (ROI) and Total Shareholder Return.

The Why's of Winning

In order to understand why high performing organizations are successful, it's important to take a look at the foundation of the whole concept of the organization and how it's run. It takes a holistic approach to bring a healthy foundation of knowledge and experience to complex systems, organizational culture and performance improvement. It also becomes necessary to challenge existing beliefs as to what truly makes a winning company, working from the inside out to build and sustain powerful change capabilities. Interaction within all levels of organizations must take place, as each level shares experiences and resources to stimulate further success. Examples of foundational principles that define this approach include:

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What Do Boards Really Want From CEOs?

 

Designating the right person to lead a company in the CEO position is perhaps one of the most critical roles of a board of directors. Second most important is monitoring that leader's performance on an ongoing basis to ensure consistency. The right CEO, says Forbes, is someone who can assist the board in developing and implementing strategic and business objectives while driving performance to achieve those objectives in a sustainable way. At the heart of it all is collaboration. No board wants to hire a CEO that goes his or her own way, with little input from others as to which direction to take the company. Rather, the ideal situation is when both parties work in conjunction to stay the course.

This doesn't mean there aren't clear roles between the two. By nature, a CEO's role is to manage, while the board's role is to govern. Board members also known as directors, are elected by the corporation's shareholders. Their role is to provide guidance and strategic planning to the company’s top officers, who are often busy running the daily operations of the business. Another main role is to hire, oversee and, if necessary, fire the company’s top officers, including the CEO.

The CEO's role is to determine and communicate the organization’s strategic direction, balance resources (capital and people), foster the corporate culture consistently, make the final call on all decisions, and oversee and deliver the company's performance, points out Entrepreneur.

What's the connection between the two entities?

Built on a foundation of trust and honesty, boards expect their CEOs to achieve two things: apply skills, industry knowledge and experience to fulfill company objectives; and commit to an open yet constructive relationship with the board. These objectives are all well and good, but how can they be quantified? What happens during the scouting, recruiting and hiring process whereby a board decides on the ideal candidate?

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