At a recent strategic planning session with one of my favorite clients, we reached an impasse on one of the key imperatives for next year. In one camp there was the belief that we were being too ambitious on the growth plans, and, in the other, the belief we were being too timid.

Then suddenly someone from the former group uttered these words that will forever stick with me "We need to get some fundamentals right first because even if you scale garbage, it's still garbage!"

That got me thinking that too often on our path to achieve scalability we look to add systems and process, meetings and protocols, people and plans without first laying the foundation that will make the transition that much easier.

Here are three things you should consider doing before venturing down the path to scalability.

Craft a midpoint vision.

Most leaders understand the difference (at least at a fundamental level) between an unscalable organization and a scalable one. Between the 'say yes and make it happen' heroic nature of a fast growing business and the more controlled, more structured, more predictable, well-oiled machine of a scalable one.

But few leaders understand what happens in the no-man's land in between. In the retooling of the very nature of the business. And even fewer know how to communicate that to their team. If you're going to break through to scalability, however, it's not enough to present the vision of the final destination. In order to deal with the turmoil that takes place during the transition, your people need to know and understand what it is that they're going through and how it's a stepping stone to greater things. So create a mid-point vision of your journey and start to communicate it out on a regular basis.

Get a verbal agreement from your leadership team.

Transitioning to scalability can be a stressful period, particularly for long-serving members of your leadership team. They're the ones who most likely will have great memories of the bygone days of derring-do and improvising your way to success. Now you're asking them to adopt more discipline and rigor in how they make decisions and lead your organization.

Before embarking on the journey, it's important that they know what's ahead of them and that they have the opportunity to opt-in or out. Much like a passenger sitting in the exit row of a plane make sure they're aware of the consequences of sitting in that seat and have them give you a verbal confirmation that they're willing to do what they need to throughout the duration of the journey.

Understand the changes that need to take place in your personal leadership.

Do you want to make the personal changes you need to make in order to achieve scalability? It likely means losing a degree of freedom and autonomy, becoming more data-driven in your approach, balancing perspectives and slowing down your decision-making process. That can be a tricky proposition for most entrepreneurial business leaders. 

Before you commit to the journey to scalability which is just as painful to stop as it is to push through to completion, make sure you're fully aware of the changes that you need to make in how you lead the business and that you're dedicated to leading by example when you hit the rocky patch of no man's land.

Taken together, these three steps will ensure that you, your leadership team and your organization as a whole, are well enough equipped that when you scale, you don't scale garbage.

Published on: Nov 29, 2018
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