A flight without direction almost always results in disaster. As one runs through the maturity journeys of great organizations, one is always struck by the one common characteristic – their ability to visualize and as preparation, scale up to their vision. Conversely, many growth journeys have been held up, in certain cases even stunted, because of an organizational inability to scale with simplicity, thoughtfulness & a lack of alignment of behavior and vision. Added to this is the perspective that we live in very uncertain times. Maturity today doesn’t just mean conventional growth in terms of size, but has broadened itself to include growth in terms of scale, demographics, complexity of offerings and many more. So, in an environment, where this kind of multi-dimensional growth continues to be the guiding principle, how does an organization be prepared for what is about to come? How do leaders equip themselves to move to the next ORBIT in a flexible, realistic and planned manner?
The O.R.B.I.T. framework presents a five-fold future readiness approach, to scale-up to the future challenges of size, complexity, depth, access and approach.
O (Organizational Design)
Organizational Design is a continuously evolving organism, a structure that enables the organization to keep pace with its growth and consolidation. But organizational design is an impetus instead of an enabler. Organizations must start evolving themselves as they start looking at a world, which is an integrated network that depends on thought, ideas and passion. In the Integrated Networked Environment which is the world of tomorrow, would structure be a limitation or an enabler? Organizations start looking at hierarchy as the primary enabler for successful strategy. However, hierarchy can’t exist as organizations cannot become unilaterally flat. Each organization needs its layers to reflect its own evolution and sanitize these layers as they mature. Hierarchy must enable the RIDE principles:
- Responsible Flexibility – With time, growth, scale and demographic complexity, flexibility, organizational structure must enable adding a layer when needed or breaking one when needed.
- Integrity – An important indicator towards the ability of an organization to show sustainable and long term growth.
- Decision Making – The right mix of analysis, precedent and intuition – relevant when the challenges of scaling in terms of the size, complexity of offerings, geography and a virtual world are taken as contexts.
- Efficiency – Cooperation and collaboration as the cornerstone.
R (Rigor of Process)
Growth has many bedfellows; one of the more negative ones, being the inability to have the time to look back, evaluate and assess if the path taken so far would continue to work in the future. In growing organizations, rigor is either marked as inflexibility or taken to extremes, which causes rigidity. As organizations evolve and talk about scaling up, rigor of process will be the layout on which the design’s true value would be visible. Solving this is just one side of the story, the other side is implementation.
Making a system or a process by listening and keeping the view point of all stakeholders in mind is the accountability of the organization but, implementation – efficiency of any system is decided by every employee, leader, manager. To ensure this, the leadership has to promise itself and to the organization that it will walk the talk (follow the rigor). It is critical to understand & appreciate that rigor of process is where true empowerment is established, as scale increases, an important component would be Distributed Decision Making Systems.
B (Bonding and Connect)
Leadership and employee connect almost invariably suffers as organizations scale and evolve. One clearly observes that every generation is more virtual than the previous one, but at the same time every generation demands more attention and is receptive to attention within its reality. We actually address this challenge at two levels-the Human Touch and the Hi-tech Touch.
- The Human Touch: The most common complaint that managers and associates have as organizations grow and evolve is that they no longer feel the human touch. The concern is that their concerns and issues don’t find the redressal and priority that existed when the organization was small. The design of evolving processes must address this concern.
- Hi-tech Touch: Group interaction, open-house like events need to be replaced with virtual video conferences, group chats and if possible, conversations in the Twitter verse. Scaling-up doesn’t just mean size or complexity; it also means scaling-up to the next generation or the new realities. Flexibility and efficiency drive the ability to both grow and mature by design. In short, the roadmap towards evolution lies in distributed growth. If organizations have to evolve, then the accountability of inspiration must be taken by, if not all, then many of its leaders. It is critical to understand and appreciate that leaders must be facilitators.
I (Institutionalize Culture)
A common casualty of growth is the inherited inability to reflect and assess. Culture, in its very definition, signifies the behaviors that an organization values and the actions that the organization would like to reinforce. More This behavior is centered on business, business value and values that enable business directly like “delivering customer value” or “maximizing growth’, etc. The challenge with such values is that they’re almost always outcomes and do not focus on the foundation that must result in these outcomes. They are only lag indicators and can be assimilated only “after” the event is done.
The secret recipe while scaling is to center around ‘What makes you successful’ and not ‘what success means to you.’ It can be stated that excellence, quality, caring for associates, customer centric approach will almost always result in an exceptional stakeholder experience. But going the other way round, without these core beliefs would almost always be ad-hoc, subjective and in certain, extreme cases, questionable. It is critical to understand & appreciate that institutionalizing culture requires values to be based on belief systems. It is the values that create business value and not vice-versa.
Finally, it is essential for all great organizations to enable its people to grow simultaneously with the evolution of the organization. The ability to attract talent and manage talent is one of the more complex issues that the organizations face in its road to maturity. A very common misnomer that one encounters is the belief that one should replicate the initial team of talent during the growth, and secondly, to then address the challenges of talent, while at an essential level, the focus should be on ‘while we growing up and not when we grow up’.
As organizations grow and scale-up, there is a need for good managers who can execute, sustain & consolidate growth, and STEP up to become future leaders (STEP – S (Subject expert), T (Topper, excellence), E (Entrepreneurial spirit), P (People champion). This way there are two sets of talents, the creators & catalyst (initial); and the sustainers & consolidators (later). It is critical to understand that organizations need to be heterogeneous in structure while driving the nature of the work (mix of creators & consolidators), and homogeneous in spirit while driving towards the goal (one passion one dream).
So, as we explore the guiding principles of ORBIT and believe it will guide us in our journey to enable successful scaling up of organizations and that the secret recipe is to remain nimble and evolve along these guiding principles.