How Fast Is Too Fast? 10 Signs Your Organization’s Growth Is on Shaky Ground

How Fast Is Too Fast? 10 Signs Your Organization’s Growth Is on Shaky Ground

The last decade has seen unprecedented economic growth, and it’s lulled quite a few people into believing that the good times will continue to roll onward uninterrupted. This is a dangerously complacent mindset that, if left unaddressed, will derail your train.

Complacency manifests in a wide variety of ways. At its core, though, it stems from the conflict between reality vs. vision—a tension that every entrepreneur understands and struggles with. This tension has led many leaders to overestimate their potential growth and set highly aggressive growth goals that can’t (and won’t) be met. The turbocharged market of the last ten years also serves to mask underlying structural problems within organizations.

Could this be happening to you? What should you be watching out for?

10 Signs of Organizational Growing Pains Caused by Complacency

  1. High employee turnover. Your overall rate of employee turnover exceeds standard benchmarks for your industry or your own internal metrics. Pay particular attention to 90-day and one-year retention rates.
  2. Unmet growth goals. Highly aggressive growth goals are unmet year after year.
  3. Abundance of opportunity. The phone rings so much that your order takers can’t respond to all of the calls or your sales team doesn’t have time to develop new prospects.
  4. Poor process. Your processes haven’t kept pace with your growth, and employees have created workarounds or “shadow” processes instead of what’s on the books. (Equally dangerous are “official” process band-aids that turn into permanent solutions.)
  5. Professional development lapses. Training and continuing education requirements fall by the wayside. Development opportunities are either ignored by employees or are allowed to lapse by the organization.
  6. Onboarding and orientation shortcuts. This warning sign assumes that your onboarding process consists of more than having employees sign forms and showing them to their workspace. Beware of the tendency to grease the wheels of your machine with new bodies without properly acculturating them.
  7. What new initiatives? New initiatives are constantly backburnered or delayed because the organization’s capacity and workloads are stretched.
  8. Sliding profits. Growth is high, yet profitability is slipping. (See also Point 10).
  9. Outdated organizational chart. Your organizational chart hasn’t been updated since the Bush presidency (I or II), and lines of reporting/responsibility are unclear.
  10. Poor accounting. Not knowing whether you’re making or losing money is a sure sign that the last ten years have masked poor accounting processes. (Technically, this might be a subset of “poor process,” but it’s too important not to list separately.)

Steps to Get Your Organization Back on Track

If anything on the above list rings a bell for you, don’t panic. There is a way out.

  1. Prioritize your issues. A suggested order of priority involves weighing the short-, medium-, and long-term impacts of each issue if left unaddressed.
  2. Thoroughly map your top three issues. Mapping means understanding what’s currently going on and how you got there. Customer, client, and employee interviews are always a good starting point.
  3. Frame each issue as a question or a series of questions. For example, if process is your problem, start by asking, “What processes don’t serve us well?” Then build on that with questions like, “Why doesn’t this process serve us well?” and “How and why was this process created?”

Keep in mind that the defining characteristics of each issue also provide you with a roadmap. You simply have to start asking the right questions.

Drop me a line if you’ve experienced any of these issues, and share how you’ve worked through them. I love a good “Here’s where we’re at” story! And, if you haven’t figured out how to write the ending of your story yet, we should talk.


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