7 Stages of Growth and Hidden Agents (Pt 2 of 3, Organization Rewilding)

Do you ever feel like there are times in your business that you keep bumping up against an invisible force field?  Something that holds you back regardless of how hard you try to grow or move forward?  What you may be experiencing is something James Fischer, in his book Navigating the Growth Curve, calls Hidden Agents or growth Transition Zones. Hidden Agents are obstacles to growth that were not easy for a leader to identify. Additionally, as companies move from stage-to-stage, they experience Transition Zones that complicate growth and can create business chaos.

In this blog, we will continue to reveal insights and wisdom from the book “Navigating the Growth Curve” that help leaders understand and manage the increasing complexity at every level of business growth. These materials were reviewed, discussed, learned and made actionable in the February 2020 Executive Forums Silicon Valley mastermind sessions. 

 

Hidden Agents

Sometimes on the surface, issues look unclear and may only really show symptoms or side effects which can make it difficult to identify the real cause and design and implement the correct solutions. The three hidden agents identified by Fisher are shown in the graphic below and are obstacles to growth, hidden below the surface and difficult to diagnose.

 

27 Classic Challenges

One of the hidden agents identified in James Fischer’s research are the 27 Classic Challenges that companies face at one time or the other.  Many times, several of these Classic Challenges were critical for business to address at a specific point in time – related to the company’s current stage of growth.  The successful companies took the time and energy to focus on a critical few at any one time.  They addressed the most critical challenge for their stage of growth and moved on.  Take a look at the graphic below and identify your company’s stage and assess the challenges you might want to address. The key is for the leader and team is to stay focused on the right things at the right time.

 

Builder Protector Ratio

A second hidden agent identified in James Fischer’s research is the builder protector ratio. The B/P Ratio can be explained by understanding that in every company there are Builders (risk takers) and there are Protectors (risk averse).  The Builder/Protector aspect of the Stages of Growth is a measurement within a company of confidence vs. caution.  

  • Builders (risk takers) create new ideas and take new initiatives, find ways to expand revenue and profits, challenge the way things are done, and are highly confident.
  • Protectors (risk averse) are cautious and slow-paced, seek stability, may not feel confident in company’s financial strength, and tend to be suspicious of new markets.

As navigating the growth curve materials are about growth companies, you can see in the graphic below that the ratio of Builders to Protectors is greater than one for all of the stages except for the Delegation – Stage 3. Are you hiring enough Builders to achieve the right ratio at your stage of growth?

 

Three Faces of a Leader

The third hidden agent is called the Three Faces of a Leader Blend and is reflective of the leader within an organization. Depending on a company’s stage of growth, the leader must deliver a different blend (mix) of leadership attributes to make the company successful and keep the company growing. The three leadership attributes that must be blended in each stage are being a Visionary, a Manager and a Specialist.

  • Visionary Leader - makes sure the company knows where it wants to go.  
  • Manager Leader – grows company through managing the work and the people.
  • Specialist Leader - delivers work to make sure the product meets clients’ needs.

As seen in the graphic below, the Visionary Leader is extremely important in a company’s early and late stages while the Manager Leader is dominated in a company’s middle stages. Note that the Specialist Leader decreases continually as a company grows.

 

 

Transition Zones

Finally, let’s look at what happens as a company transitions from one stage to another. A Transition Zone is a phase of chaos that the organization goes through to prepare for the next Stage of Growth. Rarely does it go smoothly, however, it does always go predictably. You can expect confusion and some chaos with your staff as you work through these zones, but if you aren’t prepared for them, they can take a toll on you and your leadership team.

Transitions between stages occur as either predictably as Flood Zones or Wind Tunnel. A Transition Zone is a phase of chaos that the organization goes through to prepare for the next Stage of Growth. Without this chaos, the organization would not be able to sustain itself or be able to compete in the next Stage of Growth.  These zones can sometimes be identified by the mumbled complaints at leadership for putting the company in this ‘mess’. In truth most often the chaos couldn’t have been avoided and was a natural result of the company preparing for its next Stage of Growth.

 

  • Flood Transition Zone - a transition where the organization experiences a FLOOD of activity. It is being overwhelmed. The feeling inside a company is that you don’t have enough people to handle all the work. You feel like you can barely keep your head above water.

 

To address the chaos during a flood transition zone, you must

    • Communicate to people the upcoming increase in workload
    • Avoid the temptation to add new staff (hire at last resort)
    • Focus on the WAY your company manages workload

 

  • Wind Tunnel Transition Zone - is defined by a condition where the company needs to let go of ideas and processes that no longer work and create new ones that do. Often times the leadership of a company will have a difficult time realizing that what worked in the past is not going to work any longer.

 

To address the chaos during a wind tunnel transition zone, you must

    • Communicate growth and processes must change
    • Evaluate (measure) which processes must change
    • Don’t blame people for issues that require new processes
    • Consider the use and implementation of technology

 

As you can see in the graphic below, the Flood Transition Zone occurs leaving Stages 1, 3 while the Wind Tunnel Transition Zone occurs leaving Stages 2, 4 and 6.

 

The Stages of Growth material is very rich and challenged each leader in the Executive Forums Silicon Valley community to think deeply about the current state of their business and how to shore up the foundations for future growth.  Having the knowledge to predict what is coming next and be able to align leadership and company focus to address these challenges can keep growth on track. We have discussed in pars 1 and Part 2 of this blog the following concepts.

  • Stages of Growth – the number of people drive complexity and growth stage
  • Gates of Focus – profit, process, people – where to focus and when
  • Four Key Messages – if you are not growing, you are dying
  • Hidden Agents – Classic Challenges, Builder Protector, 3 Faces of a Leader
  • Transition Zones – how to address the Flood or Wind Tunnel transitions

 

Part 3 of this blog, we will discuss the “Building Blocks of infrastructure, Culture and Leadership” and how to “Rewild” your business to get it back onto a high growth trajectory.

Here is the link to Part 1 of this Blog - 7 Stages of Growth and the 3 Gates of Focus.

 

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At EFSV, selected business owners and leaders work together to gain clarity, insight and accountability to ignite their leadership engines, grow their businesses and improve their lives. If you are interested in learning more about the Stages of Growth or becoming a member at Executive Forum Silicon Valley, please contact gperkins@executiveforums.com or call 408-901-0321. For more information visit https://execforumssv.com/ 

7 Stages of Growth and 3 Gates of Focus (Pt 1 of 3, organization rewilding)

In February 2020, Executive Forum Silicon Valley (“EFSV”) members feasted on the insights and wisdom from the book “Navigating the Growth Curve” that helps understand and manage the increasing complexity at every level of growth. They each take back to their own organization the tools acquired at the Forum for engaging the people in their own company to deal with challenges at their particular stage of growth.

EFSV is a platform where business owners, CEOs and executives act as their fellow collaborators, co-inventors, partners and even “co-conspirators”, in getting clear picture of where they want to go, what stands in the way, and how to achieve their respective business growth goals. Forum members share resources, conduct self-assessment and identify opportunities. Upon getting clarity and insights, they hold each other accountable with support and encouragement.

Based on the research of over 650 successful companies with up to 500 employees, “Navigating the Growth Curve”, by James Fischer, describes a model for successful growth and identifies insights, behaviors, and focus areas that the leader needs to manage and balance. 

People, Profit, Process “3 Ps” for Successful Growth Companies

Fischer found in his research that successful growth companies are light, agile and intelligent, and throw out the old model of “business as a machine”. These companies flourish by using the lens of the following “Three Gates of Focus” in addressing challenges as they arise:

  • Growing people
  • Growing profit and revenue
  • Growing processes

Conversely, unsuccessful Companies often share these three traits:

  • work environment without staff satisfaction
  • lack of a sustainable profit model
  • cannot understand, predict, and manage their growth

Understanding Where You and Your Company Are Today: The 7 Stages of Growth

You can identify your appropriate Stage of Growth from the graphic below. As shown a company’s Stage of Growth is directly proportional to the numbers of employees as that drives complexity into every phase of the business. As a company grows throughout the 7 stages, the complexity level of that company increases based on the most challenging aspect of managing any organization – people. Not profits, not processes – but people.  The higher the number of people in a company, the more complexity.

A description of the what the company needs from the CEO, the typical priority challenges and the personnel balance needed, and the lenses of focus to keep a company growing in each Stage of Growth are as follows.

Stage 1 – Startup (1 – 10 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – Profit, People, Process
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 40 % Visionary, 10% Manager, 50 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Chaos, Inadequate Sales, Limited Capital to Grow
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 4 Builders to 1 Protector

Stage 2 – Ramp Up (11 – 19 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – Profit, Process, People
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 40 % Visionary, 20 % Manager, 40 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Hiring Quality People, Inadequate Sales, Leadership – Staff Gaps
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 3 Builders to 1 Protector

Stage 3 – Delegation (20 – 34 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – People, Profit, Process
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 10 % Visionary, 60 % Manager, 30 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Core Values Unclear, Culture Change Resistant, Lack of Staff Buy In
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 1 Builders to 1 Protector

Stage 4 – Professional (35 – 57 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – Process, Profit, People
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 10 % Visionary, 70 % Manager, 20 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Diagnosing Problems, Employee Turnover, Lack of Systems
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 3 Builders to 2 Protectors

Stage 5 – Integration (58 – 95 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – Profit, People, Process
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 30 % Visionary, 60 % Manager, 10 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Cost of Lost Expertise, Difficulty Diagnosing Problems, Inadequate Sales
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 2 Builders to 1 Protector

Stage 6 – Strategic (96 – 160 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – People, Profit, Process
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 45 % Visionary, 50 % Manager, 5 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Hiring Quality People, New Staff Onboarding, Lack of Staff Buy-In
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 3 Builders to 1 Protector

Stage 7 – Visionary (161 – 500 employees)

  • 3 Gates of Focus Priorities – People, Process, Profit
  • 3 Faces of the Leader – 75 % Visionary, 20 % Manager, 5 % Specialist
  • Classic Challenges – Inadequate Profits, Changing Marketplace, Differentiating Products
  • Personnel Type Ratio – 2 Builders to 1 Protector

There are four key messages associated with growth principles that a leader needs to understand as your company progresses from one stage to another:

Message 1 – Movement from stage to stage is not clear-cut.  In business, there is no black and white, there is only gray. You don’t simply BECOME a Stage 2 company overnight. You begin to be a Stage 2 company as soon as you enter Stage 1. Preparation for the next stage begins as you enter the current stage.

Message 2 – What’s left undone from prior stages must be dealt-with. What you don’t get done in a specific stage of growth DOES NOT GO AWAY.  -Not solving People, Process and Profits challenges during your current stage will simply put harder demands on you as a leader in the next stage of growth.

Message 3 – Length of time a business has been around can make a difference. Slower growth is usually easier to manage. Many companies choose to stay at a certain size (usually for the lower stages). They prefer to grow in other dimensions, not in employees. Simply assuming that you have “taken care of business” because you have been doing business as usual for some time isn’t the same thing as addressing your current stage challenges.

Messages 4 – If you are not growing, you’re dying. Stagnation will not allow you to be successful in an ever-changing competitive world. Something has to continue to grow and change for your organization to thrive. However, humans tend to gravitate toward a state of equilibrium because it is safe and understandable. But if we stay in that state too long it leads to slow decay and death, just like in nature.

More on the Three Gates of Focus: People, Profits, Process

Every issue found within a growing enterprise can be understood through one or more of these Three Gates. When looking for clarification with an issue, ask yourself:  is it a Profit problem? People problem? or Process problem?

Then you can FOCUS on the right thing at the right time. To that end, the Three Gates of Focus shift priorities based on your stage of growth. 

At the Executive Forum Silicon Valley, members first determine which of the Three Gates of Focus they most focus on today, by list and assessing priorities. Next, they compare with the following chart, “Three Gates of Focus and Stages”, to find the IDEAL Gates of Focus priorities to line up with each of their companies’ stage of growth. The members discussed how to get their focus back in alignment with their particular stage’s priority and identified a set of initiatives focused on each member’s key areas of concern. 

The above Gates of Focus are always stacked in order of the most important focus for that particular stage of growth. For example, Stage 1, the Profit Gate is the primary focus, with the next focus being the People Gate and the last is the Process Gate. 

Different stages of growth require different types of focus. Once you’ve identified your own stage of growth, the model below helps you do the right things at the right time by shifting among these three key focuses: people, profits and process

In Part 2 and Part 3 of this blog, we will discuss the Hidden Agents that can hinder and hold back your growth. Three Faces of a Leader, the Builder Protector Ratio, the Classic Challenges will be discussed as well as how to “Rewild” your business to get it back onto a high growth trajectory.

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At EFSV, selected business owners and leaders work together to gain clarity, insight and accountability to ignite their leadership engines, grow their businesses and improve their lives. If you are interested in learning more about the Stages of Growth or becoming a member at Executive Forum Silicon Valley, please contact gperkins@executiveforums.com or call 408-901-0321. For more information visit https://execforumssv.com/ 

Ray Dalio’s Four Guiding Principles for Business and Life (Part 2 of 2)

In Part 1 last week, we shared about Ray Dalio’s first two principles: 1) Embrace reality and deal with it, 2) Practice radical open-mindedness. Today in Part 2, we are continuing with Dalio’s 3rd and 4th principles, all of which have provided clarity and insight to members of the Executive Forum Silicon Valley (EFSV.)   

Principle #3: Use the 5-step process to evolve

Dalio´s third Principle is a 5-step process that he uses to evolve both personally and in his company. Some of these may seem obvious to you but according to Dalio, what inhibits most people´s growth and evolution is the flawed execution of one or more of these steps.

Let’s look at each in greater detail:

1. Have clear goals

  • Prioritize
  • Be audacious
  • Great expectations create great capabilities

2. Identify and don’t tolerate problems

Identify the biggest problems first
Don’t avoid them because they are rooted in the harsh realities of your business. Once we identify a problem, don’t tolerate it

3. Diagnose problems to get at their root causes

  • Focus on “what is” before deciding “what to do about it”
  • Distinguish symptoms from the true root cause
  • Root causes can be found with honest effort

4. Design plans to get around them

  • There are typically many paths to achieve a goal
  • See the plan as a movie script and be creative
  • It may not take a lot of time to design a good plan

5. Do what’s necessary to push through results – Push through to completion

  • Great planners who can’t execute go nowhere
  • Good work habits are vastly underrated
  • Establish clear metrics to follow your progress

The 5 steps must be completed in order. To evolve, we need to do them fast and continuously. Weaknesses don’t matter if we find solutions by either getting better at it yourself, or finding others to cover your weakness.

Principle #4: Understand how people are wired

Both genetics and environment make people think and act in very different ways. Everyone is unique and people often are not aware of which type of person they truly are. People end up not understanding each other and ignoring others’ points of views and values. Our brains are unique in the way they work. Some of the different ways people are wired are:

Big picture vs Detail-oriented

• Big picture thinkers think detail-oriented people have no imagination

• Detail-oriented people think big-picture people are dreamers

Extroverts vs Introverts

• Extroverts love talking out ideas

• Introverts prefer thinking privately and sharing after they’ve grappled with a problem

Planners vs Doers

• Planners stick with a plan and are rigid to adapt

• Doers change direction often based on new information

Left brained vs. Right brained

• Left-brained people reason sequentially, analyze details and excel in linear analysis

• Right-brained or lateral thinkers think across categories, recognize themes and synthesize

The power of knowing how you and others are wired.  Be curious to understand how people who see things differently came to see them that way, try to understand where they came from. Then, seek to understand our and others’ strengths and weaknesses to get the best results out of everyone. One of the ways is using behavior and personality assessments to get a clearer and more objective reading of people and yourself.

The Power of Habit. Habit is inertia, the strong tendency to keep doing what you have been doing. It can take time to change a habit, yet habit is the easiest way to change our behavior. In nurturing new habits, be patient with yourself and others, provide incentives that are tailored to the individual, and celebrate small wins to create positive momentum.

Putting it all together: “Evolution is life’s greatest accomplishment and reward.”

EFSV members’ insights

Members at the EFSV found the above four guiding principles for business and life tremendously inspiring and helpful. They shared with each other their own new insights and discussed the value of establishing, recognizing and evolving key principles as leaders of organizations. 

Some principles of leaders of the Executive Forums Silicon Valley Forum that have contributed to their business and personal success include: 

  • “Do Right by Others”, 
  • “Be Open to Perspectives that Questions Your Assumptions”, “
  • “Care About People”, 
  • “We Don’t Win Alone”, 
  • “Be Comfortable Holding Multiple Conflicting Points of View”, 
  • “Be Grounded in Reality and Discover Others Points of View”, and 
  • “Never Be Outworked by Others.”

Through learning to specifically identify and declare our principles, we as leaders can respond to the challenges of the day in a consistent and principled manner to help our companies thrive. 

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If you are interested in participating or learning more about becoming a member at Executive Forum Silicon Valley, please contact @GlennPerkins at gperkins@executiveforums.com or call 408-901-0321. For more information visit https://execforumssv.com/