Guest Post from Alison Eyring – One Secret for Growth: It Takes More Than Vision
Today’s post is courtesy of Alison Eyring, author of the new book “Pacing For Growth”. Alison, Founder and CEO of Organisation Solutions, is a global thought leader with a focus on organizational growth. We welcome and thank Alison for her contribution today.
One Secret for Growth: It Takes More Than Vision
Loads of case studies have been written about companies that had great ideas and amazing visions but failed in the execution. Kodak’s vision was a world in which cameras could be carried in a shirt pocket. Motorola envisioned a day when the world would be connected without wires. Nortel’s vision was that everyone and every device could access voice, data, and images. They all had a great vision, happy customers, great brand names, and strong balance sheets. These visions weren’t wrong; they just didn’t matter because they weren’t executed before time ran out. The companies couldn’t build growth capacity fast enough to endure.
In the research my company conducted to understand the difference between leaders in high-growth businesses compared to slow- or no-growth businesses, we saw some remarkable differences in how the Growth Leaders focused their time and attention compared to the other leaders in the study.
Whereas every company in the study had a clear statement of vision and most leaders had either translated this for their business or had articulated their own growth vision or goals, the Growth Leaders invested far more of their time and energy creating focus and aligning resources to deliver growth. They helped others say no to non-priority projects or work, and they made tough choices about when and where to allocate resources. The other leaders seldom spoke about focus. Unlike the Growth Leaders, they invested their energy communicating the company’s vision and motivating employees to align themselves with it. Moreover, they always seemed to want to do more when, in my opinion, they might have achieved more by doing less.
Like my early vision to run a marathon, companies have vague visions of growth. Often these are found in investor reports and printed on posters hanging around office reception areas. “Double the business in 5 years,” “grow faster than the industry average,” and “profitably grow our business” are what they often sound like. Over the past 25 years, nearly every leader I’ve worked with has had goals about growth. Investors expect them. Bonuses are tied to them. Employees are motivated to deliver on them, especially when they, too, get to share in the benefits.
While some visions are motivating and many are translated into specific goals, too many become empty exhortations. Broad statements of hope—whether they are called a vision, growth goals, or aspirations—often mean little to employees and fail to drive growth.
We know from decades of academic research that too many growth efforts fail. Less than half of all acquisitions actually improve shareholder value. As many as 95 percent of new products introduced each year fail, according to Cincinnati research agency AcuPOLL. Nine out of 10 start-ups fail. Too often, we create a great vision for growth and then allow ourselves and others to get distracted. We fail to build the capabilities needed to achieve the vision because we don’t know where to focus or don’t have the discipline to follow through on the focus.
Excerpted from Ch. 5 of Pacing for Growth: Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-term Success, by Alison Eyring (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2017)
Alison Eyring is a global thought leader on building organizational capacity for growth. Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Organisation Solutions, Alison has 25 years of experience in large-scale organization design and change and executive development. She works closely with global leaders and their organizations, including Royal/Dutch Shell, BHP Billiton, Chubb Group of Companies, NEC, and Thomson Reuters. She also serves as an adjunct Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore. Her book, Pacing for Growth, is launching this week.