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High Growth Anatomy – have you got the success genes?

April 20, 2012

Remember the conversation that Alice had with the Cheshire cat?  Alice didn’t have a clear idea of where she wanted to go, or where she wanted to be, and asked the Cheshire cat Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here? The Cheshire cat responded You’re sure to get somewhere if you walk long enough.

So far this year, one of the most repeated conversations I’ve had with my clients is around the dna model of High Growth Anatomy – a blueprint for a business strategy and plan to give clarity to your direction and accelerate your business growth. Based on research, intuition and my own experience, it’s a methodology that makes a business model innovative and scalable, yet also simple and as transparent as possible. And in reality, its about adopting the mindset of your customers looking from outside in, because building a ‘great business’ is of little use unless customers notice and respond to that.

The primary focal point is to constantly emphasise the need to be famous for something – why would customers buy from you? – so that a resolute mindset is embedded throughout the organisation with discipline, clarity and focus on being different, if not unique.

When considering the High Growth Anatomy for your organisation, there is a wealth of research about the great and the not-so-great to draw upon. Harvard Research highlights that companies typically only realise about 60% of their strategies’ potential value because of defects and breakdowns in execution. It’s a fault in their dna, vision without execution is hallucination!

The clear benefits of healthy organisational dna and negative consequences of unhealthy dna are evident in many dimensions of organisation performance. Fortunately, unlike biological dna, organisational dna can be reengineered by the purposeful rewiring of the genes making up the core of the business, and reorienting yourself to be future focused and responsive to change and opportunity.

The rewiring of an organisation’s dna requires clear thinking, and the approach we have used successfully in numerous companies involves driving three characteristics that inform the very being of an organisation.

  • The first is to discoverwe hold a series of critical conversations to identify what does success look like? The fundamental secret of success is absolute clarity of your purpose looking ahead, so live out your imagination, not your history.
  • A second vital constituent needed is the ability to nurture. Some people watch things happen, some wonder what happened, some don’t notice what’s happened. The key, of course, is to make things happen and nurture the organisation to build and achieve.
  • The third element is accelerate. Everyone who has taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out, dries off and does something about it that makes a difference, and then goes again and again, building velocity and momentum.

Folks need to realise the importance of getting out of the habit of thinking about the past, and realise that what got you here won’t get you to where you want to be. They need to stimulate themselves to look at their issues from a fresh perspective, and not simply asking themselves the same questions. Take Unilever for example, they organise Raging Curiosity afternoons each Wednesday for their marketing and R&D staff. Staff are encouraged to get out and visit consumers, other businesses – anything that could offer a fresh perspective on their food business – and bring some disruptive thinking to bear.

Innovators do not operate in the world of meetings and reports, they bring their ideas to life early in order to create understanding and excitement in their customers – 20% thinking, 80% doing is their motto. Asda reinforces their customer focus by having a large development kitchen in the centre of their marketing department to remind employees that their core business is food. It also allows them to get their hands dirty and try and test new ideas out quickly.

Innovation needs focus and a sense of momentum to create real energy. At the What If? company they hothouse projects, taking clients off to a cottage somewhere and working day and night on a project. The results shows that they do in three days what it would otherwise take at least one month to do, it’s all about getting velocity – you’ve got to be out there on the lunatic fringe to get ahead of the rest.

So what are the key genetic traits we see in the High Growth Anatomy of thriving and growing organisations? Just as nature’s dna spells out the genome map and linkages to create a unique organism, organisational genes determine the make-up of a business, and how it will develop and grow in its markets. Here’s a list of statements to evaluate your own High Growth Anatomy and potential to be a High Growth business, and ask yourself, how remarkable are you as a business:

Foresight or Hallucination?

  • We have a set of clear and articulated goals of where we want to be in the next 6, 12, 18 and 24 months;
  • We have some thoughts on where we are aiming to be, but it’s more of a wish list than a ‘lets make it happen’ agenda;

Frontfoot or Backfoot?

  • As a business we are moving forward with purpose most of the time;
  • As a business we are fire fighting most of the time;

Clued-up or Clueless?

  • We are very clear about how to make a difference in our market;
  • We have very little knowledge about how to get ahead in our market;

Dextrous or Clumsy?

  • We are agile in our business, we can ‘sieze’ the moment and make opportunities arise;
  • The organisation often stumbles and isn’t able to move quickly;

Leaning Forward or Leaning Back?

  • We are restless thinkers about the future, eager to grow;
  • We are thinking about our future, but focused on today really;

Web Enabled or Webbed Feet?

  • We have a clearly articulated digital marketing strategy;
  • We use the internet and social media, but have no web identity;

Harmonious or Mutinous?

  • We are not plagued by internal politics, we are all on the same side pulling together in the same direction;
  • We’re a collection of tribes and different cliques and opinions;

Curious or Cautious?

  • We develop lots of new things, some of them work, some don’t, but we’re always ready to have a go;
  • We generally do not deviate far from the things which our experience has proven work well;

Heads-up or Head-down?

  • When faced with a threat we respond rapidly and decisively;
  • When faced with a threat, we often step back and respond weakly;

Fresh Thinkers or Copy Cats?

  • We are creative and restless, always on the look out to do new things;
  • We are good at spotting other people’s initiatives and copying them;

Stickability or Bendability?

  • When something is not going to plan, we reflect, adjust and kick on with renewed enthusiasm;
  • When initiatives do not work, we tend to give up and go back to what we know;

Kinship or Coldfish?

  • We actively pay attention to building our culture;
  • We do not pay attention to our internal culture – it just ‘happens’;

Connectivity or Disconnected?

  • Our internal communications mean we’re all linked-in and linked-up
  • Our organisation is not well co-ordinated – we’re pretty disconnected in fact;

Insights or Blindspots?

  • We have a very good knowledge of our customers, their customers and our competitors;
  • We have a very poor knowledge of our customers, their customers and our competitors;

So how did you score, how do you feel about that? Surprised, or not? So what are you going to do about it?

High Growth Anatomy is all about mindsets that permeate an organisation and are observable in actions and decisions. Companies have to create their futures, things don’t just happen, and equally it’s the quality of execution that differentiates winners from losers.

Strategic agility determines whether companies successfully ‘cross the chasm’ from one set of challenges to the next, or create new space in their market. High Growth businesses are better at this than other companies, and as can be seen by the list of statements above, they focus more holistically on the strategic drivers of growth across all aspects of an organisation, be they internal or external factors.

But take another look at the list above, and check how many relate to customers – either winning more, doing great stuff for them, standing out from the crowd so they spot you, or simply shocking them in the nicest possible way. The only way to grow is to be remarkable, but remarkable isn’t up to you. Remarkable is in the eye of the customer. If your customer decides something you do is worth remarking on, then by definition it’s remarkable. So, in a field of black and white cows, make yourself a purple cow. And be a Big Moo. Be Remarkable.






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