Why can't all the stores in the city be as popular among customers as the ones in the city center? why can't all the research units in the University top the league tables like at your favorite football team play as well as the one from the neighboring City? If those questions ever cross your mind you're probably interested in finding out how you can replicate something excellent in another place and with other people. Because we all know more of the good stuff, right?
I recently read a book by co-authors Stutton and Rao titled “Scaling Up Excellence” which helped me answer these questions by helping me to understand the challenges involved in spreading outstanding practices and behavior. This book is not only packed with the latest research but provides practical advice.
Scaling is essential to the success of organizations
Scaling is essential to the success of an organization. Scaling is one of the major challenges that every leader or executive in a successful organization faces. The term scaling refers to the practice of spreading the excellent performance that always exists somewhere in the organization to more people and more places. That's why scaling is also called the “problem of more”. But creating more commendable behavior looks very different in each different organization.
For instance, scaling to mean growing a technology startup from 20 to 40 employees, opening a new burger store in another country, or reducing treatment errors in hospitals. Moreover scaling not only requires replicating best practices but improving performance along the way. In other words, the “problem of more” is also a “problem of better”.
Scaling requires the drive to keep innovating, change organizational behaviors and structures, and find better strategies for delivering your product or service. The book gives an example of the Bridgewater International academies, a chain of elementary schools in developing countries. It scaled up from one school in 2009 to 210 today.
During a scaling process, the leadership team not only focused on growing the organization but also improving its practices. For instance, they’re currently working on a new initiative that equips teachers with customized content to work better with students who have different abilities.
Scaling is an important organizational challenge and while there's no easy recipe for effective scaling if we look at successful examples, we can glean some fundamental principles and strategies for success.
Building persistence is more essential than quick wins
So you want to spread excellent behavior in your firm? Before you start any kind of scaling effort, put your running shoes on--and you're not just going for a sprint! Scaling is like running a marathon so be prepared for a long, strenuous journey before feeling the satisfaction of finishing the race.
When setting out to improve your organization's performance, you need the endurance to overcome unforeseen setbacks and nasty roadblocks. You can imagine scaling as waging a ground war instead of an air war. While an air war is a fairly quick and safe way to attack an enemy it is rarely enough to defeat them. In terms of scaling the analogy implied that you need to invest time, manpower, and resources to “conquer” each opponent.
For instance, during Facebook's first Years Mark Zuckerberg worked with every employee to make sure they were fully committed to the company's vision and values. Even now, new hires go through an intensive, six-week program where they need to prove themselves in different teams, understand the company's culture, and work with a mentor.
Facebook fights the ground war and knows that investing in hard work and a considerable amount of time into training new hires will grow their commitment and improve their contributions to the company. Having perseverance means starting from and with the people. Be persistent! so don't think about scaling as pushing one person a thousand feet forward, but rather, as pushing a thousand people one foot forward.
A twofold approach: changing beliefs versus changing behaviors
Imagine you’re at the beginning of your scaling endeavor. Where exactly will you start? Your first step is communicating to scaling effort in a way that motivates your organization to want to scale. There are two ways to go about this message: either you target people's beliefs or their behavior.
Some may say you need to change people's beliefs first because beliefs guide people's actions. Imagine you want to increase the number of students who wear a helmet when they ride a bike to campus. You could work the belief angle by asking a student who had an accident without wearing a helmet to share a story. This will most likely create a strong emotional connection to the issue and might cause students to change their beliefs about wearing helmets.
Stanford University took this approach and it worked, however, some studies show that it's best to target people's behavior first because it can change their beliefs. Applying the behavior approach to the same example you could, for example, encourage students to wear a personally designed helmet so wearing a helmet feels fashionable.
The study suggests that over time their beliefs and they prefer to wear a helmet. Both approaches work in practice. So whichever approach you choose just try to remember one thing it doesn't matter where you start to get people on board your scaling effort all that matters is that you start where it works best for you.
Focus on reducing complexity, this helps in building excellence
So you've taken the first few steps in your scaling Journey. now what? As your scaling efforts grow, you need to bring in more people, more organizational layers, and more resources to keep it growing. However, one of the main pitfalls of scaling up is adding too much complexity before 's necessary.
If you add too many people, standards, and rules too fast, you'll get what experts called the disease of a "big dumb company." Let's say you are working as a sales manager in a shop and a customer requests a refund on a damaged product. Could you imagine if you had to obtain the approval of nine people at your company before deciding that small matter, rather than just relying on your own competence?
That's exactly what happens to companies today where red tape has gotten out of control, and employees often need months to solve minor issues. but however careful you are, you can't always prevent unnecessary burdens from building up because things change over time; what might have worked well for years could become unwieldy down the road. the solution is for you to always be on the lookout for redundant rules and practices.
Pretend we have a company that performs formal annual performance reviews. To get rid of the redundant rules and practices they decide to install more frequent, personalized check-ins, regular conversations about performance and career progression, between line managers and their employees. By switching to informal check-ins they cut out unnecessary formal documentation duties of leaders while simultaneously creating space for managers to have more effective talks with their employees in support of their personal development.
The power of connections: building relationships between people spreads excellence
Involving the right people in your scaling efforts is crucial to its success. but you don't only need excellent people with the right skills and training, you also need people who are accountable and act in the company's interest at all times. The difficulty is to find people with both excellent skills and accountability.
what's even better than having excellent and accountable people who spread Exemplar Behavior throughout your organization? Deep connections between as many of them as possible: the power of spreading good behavior lies, not only in people but in numbers. In other words, diversity will help spread good behavior more reliably than anything else.
Diversity helps to anchor your efforts in many different departments, locations, and functions in your organization. it also helps to show that scaling benefits different stakeholders across the organization, not just one group. When Airline JetBlue tries to solve a fundamental operation problem a manager invites a wide range of employees with varying backgrounds to discuss the situation: baggage handlers, gate control agents, mechanics, pilots, flight supervisors, and managers, of different ethnic origins and ages.
The rule of thumb for making the most of your company's diversity is to Target your employees by using many different tools in many different ways. Imagine you want to spread best practices for reducing energy use in your company. you may want to combine two strategies to publicize your initiative.
On the one hand, the CEO of your company could openly embrace the campaign by issuing a message that calls on people to reduce their energy use. on the other, you could also hold a bizarre-style event where employees share their stories about how they minimize energy use, thereby allowing them to connect on a more personal level. By employing these two different strategies you'll be more successful and catering to the diverse needs, preferences, and motivations of the people within your organization.
Beware of the bad: clear out negative practices before spreading good ones
One of the biggest threats to your scaling effort is bad behavior: it is extremely contagious and can cancel out the benefits or even destroy excellent Behavior. Many of us have lived through it before: we've worked in a team where one member undermined the entire group's performance by lying or taking credit for others’ performance.
Research on group Effectiveness has also shown that group performance decreases by 30 to 40% if just one person with a destructive mindset joins the group! That's because negative emotions are likely to infect the whole group. Plus, team members need much more time and energy to figure out how to deal with the grumbler.
Experts in Social research summarize this using the "broken windows theory". In a neighborhood where there are broken windows, criminals will start breaking more windows, and the other is my joint in by breaking into houses. The problem is that destructive behavior proliferates and escalates quickly. Even small acts can be extremely damaging to the performance of your organization.
Since destructive behavior is so infectious, leaders need to address it with vigilance and perseverance before trying to spread excellent practices. Having no tolerance for bad behavior is a good mindset to start with. From there, many tools and practices can help.
While firing might be an option, there are other ways to deal with people that undermined the performance in your organization.
There's just one last piece of the puzzle necessary for completing a successful scaling approach. Namely, positioning yourself in the future and imagining that you're scaling initiative has already been completed. Experts call this technique performing a project premortem. To practice this technique, split your team into two groups.
Tell one group to imagine that the scaling after it has been a spectacular success and the other that it has been a huge disaster. Then, both groups share their story as if it had happened already. identifying as many causes of the respective success or failure as possible.
For instance, someone in the first group may say, "the scaling effort was a big success because we devoted our attention to keeping our care-patients centered" You'll quickly see the advantages of this technique. It helps address possible Roblox more openly and keeps overly-optimistic tendencies in check. Management research shows that this technique increases people's ability to accurately identify the causes, barriers, and enablers for future results by 30%.
When you reason from a place in the future, you can ask many more questions. Was the scaling effort actually feasible? Was spreading excellent Behavior worth the time and money spent? Imagine you're trying to grow the startup you recently found it. Position yourself in the future and ask: am I content with the company I've created?
Spreading excellence is one of the trickiest challenges facing organizations. To successfully spread outstanding performance to more places and people, leaders need to engage as many different people with determination and persistence, cut unnecessary complexity, and ruthlessly eradicate destructive behavior.