UK: Aligning Your Organisation For Growth

Last Updated: 20 March 2012

Growth is a priority for most organisations. In times of market stagnation or even decline, delivering business growth can become even more important to deliver earnings expectations once the initial rounds of restructuring have delivered cost reductions.

Organisations need to understand concepts of growth initiatives and align their expectations, processes and people around growth idea generation and implementation, to ensure that profitable growth happens in the short, medium and long term.

To gauge your organisation's prospects for growth, you need to ask twelve questions under four headings:

  • Is the company aligned and ready for growth?
  • Does your company understand its historical growth?
  • Where will future growth come from?
  • Can the organisation deliver growth?

Is the company aligned and ready for growth?

The need for business growth beyond the historical trend needs to be established among key stakeholders to ensure that the organisation focuses its resources on successful delivery of growth. Alignment is also required around the expected impact and timing of growth initiatives on the bottom line of the business.

  1. Are stakeholders aligned for growth?

    Investors and shareholders need to unite in a vision for growth. Similarly, the management team needs to share and buy into a vision for the growth potential of the organisation. The priority for growth also needs to be established among these key stakeholders.
  2. Can key corporate targets for growth be agreed?

    To signal intention for growth and underline stakeholder agreement, headline corporate targets for growth need to be established. These targets need to be both stretching and achievable. They also need to be simple enough to be easily and broadly communicated.
  3. Have organisational barriers to growth been removed?

    Issues are often raised during initial growth initiative discussions about existing incentives, applicability of the current planning processes and existing business policies. These issues need to be recognised and, where possible, immediately addressed. Resolution of these issues also needs to be included in any organisational changes that are required to ensure that growth is delivered.

Does your company understand its historical growth?

The first step in developing new growth for a business is to recognise the sources of its historical growth and success. The unique combination of capabilities that have developed in the past to form the competencies that have delivered competitive advantage need to be clearly identified, as these will provide the building blocks for future growth. Further, the lifecycle of an idea, through growth initiative to successful business line, needs to be recognised and developed into business planning.

  1. Does the organisation understand the sources of growth?

    Often the products or markets that have driven historical success of the business are understood and celebrated in the organisation. However, the underlying competencies are not. These unique combinations of capabilities need to be clearly identified as they give the organisation the answer to the question: "Why should we succeed ahead of competitors?"
  2. Are growth initiative lifecycles and portfolios understood?

    The concept of the lifecycle of an idea – through development as a growth initiative through to successful business – needs to be understood, along with the likely probabilities of success at any stage. Also, the concept of a portfolio of such growth ideas and initiatives that form an actively managed, funnelled pipeline of growth initiatives needs to be developed within the organisation.
  3. Can initiatives with different delivery timescales be managed?

    There are different types of growth initiative with different timescales to successful implementation. Initiatives closer to existing business can often be delivered in the short term. Initiatives that are further away from existing business often deliver in the medium term, whereas blue-sky ideas often deliver in the long term. The portfolio needs to be balanced across these different timescales to ensure long-term growth.

Where will future growth come from?

Organisations often believe that they have exhausted all sources of growth. Indeed, many obvious sources of growth have been exploited and have contributed to historical success. Thinking beyond the current business horizons needs to be encouraged among the right groups of individuals within the organisation to generate new growth ideas.

  1. Can the right people be brought together?

    It is often difficult to ensure that the right combination of individuals are brought together in a way that allows them to put to one side the pressures of daily work. These individuals are not necessarily the current senior management team, so selection of the correct groups requires careful consideration.
  2. How should the idea generation groups be stimulated?

    Throwing together groups of individuals and expecting them to generate high quality growth ideas requires active facilitation. Thought-provoking frameworks and models are often required to encourage thinking beyond the current norm and to generate and collate ground-breaking ideas that go beyond the current business horizons.
  3. Can selection criteria be agreed and objectively applied?

    The growth ideas generated require prioritising. Often, the selection of prioritisation criteria is a non-trivial activity involving debate in the organisation, about:
  • why a growth idea should be able to deliver
  • how it should be measured
  • why the idea should succeed.

Can the organisation deliver growth?

The style of management required to nurture and deliver a growth initiative changes during the stages of the initiative lifecycle. The organisation needs to be able to align the style of management, its resources and its business processes to the different stages of the lifecycle.

  1. Can the portfolio, funnelled pipeline and lifecycle concepts become embedded?

    Embedding the concepts ensures that the organisation can talk the same growth language. Broad understanding of the concepts also ensures that, throughout the organisation, the different approaches required at different stages to achieve growth are accepted and timing expectations for growth delivery are aligned.
  2. Are the organisational structure and processes sufficiently flexible?

    Nurturing growth ideas is often most successful when separated from the current business organisation, as this allows them to be managed in different ways. Also, processes and success criteria that are appropriate to initiative development can be more easily applied outside of the current structures. The organisation needs to be able to flex to support the development of growth initiatives.
  3. Can the organisation align expectations and resources to growth initiatives?

    Different individuals are required to nurture new growth ideas than to deliver the existing business. Performance measures are different at different stages of the initiative pipeline, as are the planning metrics. Successful growth organisations align the correct resources to the growth initiatives, and they plan and measure growth initiatives differently during the lifecycle.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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