The Silent Killer of Growth Programs


So, you’ve just completed planning for the next 3-5 years and feel really good about your baked in growth.  You are launching products, have some good organic growth for services already in the market and are investing in some game-changing R&D.  Each of these areas has been well vetted and you’re confident that you can make the plan.

There is a hidden resource shortfall in nearly every firm I work with that constrains growth, and without help, you’ll miss it because it’s hard to see.  If you don’t address it you will leave time, money and customer goodwill on the table that you are counting on for your P&L.

First some background: once a firm has achieved some scale (typically north of 150 employees and more than one product line), there is a specialization of function that has been established.  In most firms, there are a minimum of three functions or people groups:

  • The first is the operations team that owns the planning, sourcing and means of creating the product or service.  
  • This team usually works closely with the second group who is the go-to market or demand generation team to deliver the product or service to the market demand.
  • The third and last team is the product or services design and creation function that is charged with interpreting the market needs and specifying how to meet them with products (for mfg firms) or services (for professional teams).

The challenging part of this is, of course, the growth you expect from your R&D investment.  When I’m called to work with firms they are usually good at estimating the investment to get to a validated proof of concept, but typically way underestimate the work and expertise required to get that same product built into operations and up to scale.

There are two reasons for this:

  • First, the firm is way more complex than most people appreciate, and actually doing the work of gaining access to the valuable assets in operations and go-to market requires a delicate and careful approach.  
  • Secondly, the skills required to do this work are in very short supply.

Let’s look at these one at a time.  

First, the complexity of working on the scale up of a “new to the firm” project comes from the simple fact that, by definition, it’s not like anything else you do.  It will require different skills to sell it, document it, manufacture it, assure consistent delivery and the list goes on.  People who can capture all this and form the horizontally-connected teamwork in your firm to complete all this are what I term Growth Leaders.  By the time a firm has reached this size, there is a need to communicate with a large number of people, and each one has different motivation and communication needs.  Forming these “influence maps” and activating them is key to a program’s success.  Keeping the “voice of the customer” alive and vibrant to all affected team members is key.

Secondly, people who do this work usually develop these skills experientially.  A typical path for this position is that someone that has a platform of competence in either technical or operational discipline is “nominated” to take the leadership role.  They then gain skills by trial and error of gaining the buy in from team members, negotiating with peers, gaining access to beta clients and making all manner of  hard decisions.  Because these programs tend to be episodic, lessons learned are typically not documented and passed along.

This trial and error approach to gaining skills results in spotty results even with the best people, because it’s very hard to get this work done well on the first try.  I have found in my work that there are four essential competencies that need to be present for your Growth Leaders to have success.

After observing these patterns over my three decades of first doing these tasks and now helping to equip these leaders, I have assembled a set of assessment and coaching services that will enable your talented leaders to accelerate their development and become the growth leaders your firm needs to be able to consistently deliver on your breakout products and services your firm requires.  

For more this solution, please send me an email at or give me a call at 847-651-1014.

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