Organisations can grow in many ways, organically or through joint ventures or acquisitions. This can be a messy process as growth brings new challenges, as well as realizing the revenue and administrative cost savings that are rightly the focus of the growth.
One big challenge ensuring alignment to objectives across the organisation was covered in a recent post. Another critical challenge is the balance between structured ways of working and an innovative and agile culture. There is an inflection point at which a business realizes it needs hierarchy and structure as a solid backbone for future success, otherwise processes are reinvented anew every time a product is launched or a new resource is hired. With limited resources in a growing company this cannot continue.
Balance is critical
Getting this right for your employees as well as the business is also critical. The more you can give employees a sense of what will not change, a backbone or infrastructure that they can rely on, the more flexible and creative you will enable them to be in the areas you need them to be innovative.
This is discussed in more detail in the McKinsey article “Agility: It rhymes with stability” by Wouter Aghina, Aaron De Smet, and Kirsten Weerda where they use the analogy of a phone with a stable hardware and operating system with aps that can be built to create agility. Holding this tension in the organization allows you to get the best of both worlds.
Three ways of getting structure and agility
How much process is too much? It depends on the specific organization and the environment it works in. Here are three tips for getting that balance right:
Be explicit about values and behaviours
As a leadership team discuss, agree and write down the values you want to see continue in your growing organization and how you will model the behaviours that exemplify your values. There is a connection between ways of working and the processes you adopt but you can design in behaviours by defining and reinforcing those that are important to continued success. For example, one company I worked with described their performance culture that had served them well in their growth phase and used that as an anchor to describe to people in an acquired organization the way that they worked. This reinforced what they saw as important no matter the size of the company and provided a solid foundation as the merger process unfolded.
Design efficient processes
Design your processes to be minimalist – don’t adopt them directly from larger organizations without looking to reduce or abandon steps that are not adding value. First ask the question “What is the purpose of this process?” And only have steps in your process that directly fulfil this purpose. Many growing organizations look to larger organizations for the expertise that they have undoubtedly acquired over many years but unfortunately history has a way of building in redundancies which are not adding value in the current environment.
Review your processes regularly
Be conscious about the processes you have and review them actively (and regularly) for their fitness. Make it part of leaders’ jobs to look for ways to abandon activities. For example, a 500-people organization had grown a planning process that involved many steps such that planning took more time than implementing! They reviewed from each stakeholder perspective and designed an improved process based on principles that they agreed were important. As a result, they improved the effectiveness of the process by up to 60%.
Get in touch
If you are an organisation that is hitting its inflection point, get in touch now to discuss how you can strike the right balance https://www.kathrynsimpson.com/contact/
Thanks to Priya Mande for her personal reflections whilst being a significant part of leading her organisation through their inflection.