Everyone thinks that growth is a positive, but unbridled or excessive growth can be a net negative if it limits your ability to innovate. It’s almost a cliché that as an organization grows it risks retreating into the tried and true and what worked before. Just because things slow down a bit it doesn’t mean that you and your team lost your creative edge or that you will never again be able to be agile and seize on opportunities. It means that you are losing some positive momentum. To determine if your organization has entered sluggish territory, consider the following:
1. Have you lost interest in networking? When you are getting the business or your idea off the ground, networking is essential. You need to meet other entrepreneurs, folks who may be able to help you seek funding, and people in organizations who might be interested in purchasing your product or service. As things move forward and the work becomes more routinized, it is easy to sit back and not get out there to make those necessary connections. If you stay in your cocoon, you won’t be making those first steps you need to collaborate to move your organization forward.
2. Have you overlooked goal alignment? Your team is great. Your software developers are the best, and so are your designers, managers, and salespeople. But are their goals aligned? If everyone has a different goal, chaos can ensue. Goal alignment is imperative for everyone to move forward together.
3. Is the overall strategy consistent? When a firm grows, either organically or inorganically, there is a danger of having competing, inconsistent, or incoherent strategy. Entrepreneurs need to keep an eye on strategy, and ensure that both the top-down vision and the individual unit objectives work in concert. If the strategy or direction is confused, everyone can get frustrated, and no one is moving ahead.
4. Do you bend over backwards for customers? Your customers know what they want, and if you give them exactly what they want, you could unwittingly decrease your ability to innovate. If your customers are a little wary of innovation, don’t make their reluctance cool your organization’s ardor to push in new directions. Don’t let catering to customer demands interfere with your ability to innovate.
5. Do you rely on routine processes? As organizations grow, it is a certainty that some jobs will become routinized, and truthfully, boring. If employees are expected to perform the same monotonous task every day, it should come as no surprise that their creativity may be dulled. Process is important, but let employees have a say in process improvement.
6. Are you selling products? Or are you selling solutions? If you are selling off-the-shelf products that provide a one-time fix, you are not expanding the deep sales experience. If you are over reliant on old-fashioned sales, new, innovative ideas may never crop up. Sales metrics are fine, but it is better to reward your team for coming with interesting and innovating solutions.
Organizational sluggishness doesn’t have to be a permanent state. As an entrepreneur, you can reinvigorate yourself and your team by revisiting and rethinking some of the basics that might have been routinized or overlooked during your period of growth.