Is Your Growth Strategy Missing one of These?


I’ve been in deep document review for a client for an upcoming diagnostic session, with the topic being growth and transformation.  Like many firms, they have a complex and comprehensive ongoing plan of investment around a longer-range vision.  Also, like many firms, they have opportunities to improve the clarity, focus, organization and leadership associated with the work they have mapped out.

I’m always excited to support a team in this way, because there are frequently immediate payoffs in time, resources and budget that accelerate the impacts they are looking for.  To find these opportunities, you need to step back and get things in context, like a jeweler putting a  diamond on a black cloth to turn down the distractions and create good contrast.

In addition to finding ways to save by stopping some areas, there are always gaps, as well.  For today’s post, I wanted to share with you what I’m looking for when I take a peek under the hood.

Is There a There There?

Why it’s important:  It’s quite common to find work in a firm that is directed toward a general goal, but if you step back, it’s not really what you wanted to achieve.  When you become skilled in solving problems, it is very easy to “turn on the machine” and crank out a plan that is logical and well ordered. However, upon critical examination, it becomes apparent that it doesn’t take you to your goal.  

How can I tell if it’s missing?:  Read your strategic documents deeply.  Grant yourself success.  Ask your team to thoughtfully consider the following: if we are 100% successful in this work, where does it take us?  Do you like the result?

How do I fix it?:  This breaks into two big questions –

  1. Is the end of the bridge foggy?  Have you created a future state that is clear, compelling and crisp enough for all the stakeholders to grasp?
  2. Does your statement of strategy contain a hypothesis about an insight that if true, gets you to that destination?

Here are a few examples:

Weak: We will grow faster than the market in all regions.

Better : By leveraging our investment in best-in-class virtual partner support, we will gain a commanding share of millennial clients in the US market.

Stronger goals get better results.

Is the Playing Field Laser Focused?

Why it’s important: We live in a hugely distracted age where we are constantly being offered well-crafted new things to start and do – both personally and professionally.  This huge clutter has created an interesting effect, where order and clarity have become very attractive.  By clearing the playing field, you open your firm to great accomplishments.

How can I tell if it’s missing:  Inside larger firms, I am looking for evidence that there are 3-5 deeply aligned areas of client value focus that everyone in the firm is aware of and contributing to.  One way I look for this, is to ask for a project priority list to see how many domains or areas of focus they currently have work in.  A good secondary check is to take a walk and ask people in the cafeteria, the loading dock and back office what they are working on.  If it’s a scattered team, you’ll quickly discover it.

How do I fix it?: Clarity doesn’t happen by accident; it takes the hard work of prioritization to get to this level.  This work is done best in a short series of focused discussions that include viewpoints from inside and outside the firm.  These need to be set up to allow new information, dialogue and critical thinking in a facilitated group of divergent and convergent discussions with time between them for integration.

To get there, I work with firms to establish a strategy setting process that breaks the work into three cycles, allowing priority to be developed along the cycle.  The outcome of this work is that not only are there 3-5 focus areas when you complete it, but the senior team has done the deep work, is aligned and is ready to go (link here).  Once complete, it takes coherence, clarity and communication on the part of the senior team in all venues. This includes review sessions, all-hands meetings and written correspondence.

Are Cross Teams Built to Experience Transformation?

Why it’s important: All the strategy in the world does no good unless it’s effectively put into action.  It stands to reason that since value is delivered to clients and customers by groups of functional individuals working together, for strategic change efforts, cross-functional teams are the vehicle of choice.  It is important to construct them with the right membership and charter, and have a clear path and process.  It’s equally important to set them up to have the authority, power and influence to create real change.

How can I tell if it’s missing:  Most firms set their sights too low and allow teams to spin their wheels without a clear charter, the right staff or the air cover to complete their charter.  The diagnosis is to sit with the mid-senior leaders and ask how often they are able to start and create results that surpassed expectation.  Far too often I hear that before one objective was completed, another “task” is assigned and focus is lost.

How do I fix it?: The process I use to help teams take this transformational journey is something I call STRIDE.  It is based on the hero’s journey work of Campbell, and provides a structure for any team to form and develop a path for transformation without breaking the program timeline or budget.

Value addition on the scale that most firms are looking for call for highly-impactful teams that create transformational impact.  My short definition for transformation is that the impact is positive and not reversible, nor would you want it to be.  The team that starts this kind of program is not the same as when it completes it –  both in terms of the personal growth of the team members and the impact to the firm.

Are Leaders Available that can Carry Lightening in a Jar?

Why it’s important: It is very important to remember that at the end of the day, no strategic effort will rise higher than its leadership and subject matter expert team members.  Growth leadership is equal parts exhilarating and demanding, as it uses the leader fully in functional capacity and across the firm.  The average day in the life of a growth leader can be spent in any of the functions or in the field with sales and a client.  In all cases, they are making sure that the whole team is working to one clear avatar – with a very specific set of outcomes.

How can I tell if it’s missing: When Growth Leaders are present, there is a constant organic flow of high value projects from the middle of the firm up.  If you have to find, form and stimulate growth from the top down, you are deficient in this area.  Another key tell is how well things are working cross functionally in your firm.  If you have “warring tribes” (eg, sales and engineering), there’s a good chance you need to increase the number of Growth Leaders.

How to fix it: Growth Leaders are developed through experiences, and continue to develop in these leadership roles.  Having strategic capacity is directly related to having a good set of tools to find, develop and deploy these leaders.

Wrapping Up

It’s common to find that any firm has gaps in their value creation and transformation delivery system.  Building consistent, high-functioning businesses is hard work and forces us all to dig deep.  As you can tell, we’ve barely scratched the surface on how to improve strategic value retention in these transactions.  

If you’d like to have a confidential discussion of our process to complete a diagnostic of your situation, please give me a call at 847-651-1014 or use this link to set up a 20-minute consult.

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