To Scale or Not to Scale: Is This the Question?

Growth! I’m not sure if anyone else thinks of growth as much as I do but we all act on our perceptions of growth in different ways. If only growth was as systematic as the sapling is destined to be a mighty tree. If you think about it the same risks that pose threat to the sapling endanger the way we grow. Whether as a society, organization, family or economy.

The growth that keeps me up most nights is the thought of career growth. I wish it was only as simple as me having an interpersonal conversation with myself that asks me how I want to grow and what I want to grow into. The more complex question I’ve found myself asking is WHY. Why do I want to move up the food chain? To make more money? Growth is something that always has and will be apart of me and the human race as a whole. This line of questioning has made me ponder why do organizations always push to be better and to grow more and to make more than the year before? Is growth necessary for survival?

The psychological impact of exponential growth is seldom appreciated. Suppose that some ultimate physical limit stands in the way of a quantity that is growing exponentially. In all previous time before the limit is approached, the quantity is much smaller than the limit. The very existence of the limit may be unrealized. No clash between the growing quantity and the limit forces attention to the eventual pressures that must arise. Then suddenly, within one doubling interval, the quantity grows from half the limit to the limit. The stresses from over expansion become highly visible; they can no longer be ignored. If the pressures created by approach to be limit are not great enough to suppress growth, then growth continues until the limit has been overstepped far enough to generate forces sufficient to inhibit growth. – Larry E. Greiner

Organizational growth seems to materialize in the minds of the executive hierarchy at the top of the corporate food chain. But why scaling versus maintaining competitive advantage?  To scale isn’t the right question to ask. An honest assessment of the repercussions of scaling an organization must be determined. Many times executive leadership has a warped gauge of the impact that scaling has on their employees in real time. Although growing pains are a natural part of growth they can cripple and cause severe pain and discomfort. If it benefits the organization in the end then is it worth undertaking the endeavor? On the other hand should their be more awareness  and care about the emotional impact that the instability of scaling can cause?

Thus far, my corporate journey has revealed the same scaling model.

  1. Crunch the Budget – Keep costs and staff to bare minimum to allocate funding for scaling projects.
  2. Double Workloads for Salaried Employees and Managers
  3. Make Organizational Scaling Priority One Above All Other Projects –  This prevents projects that involve developing organizational infrastructure.  

My bullet points could go on and on. In essence, the commitment to organizational infrastructure is lacking. What needs to change?

  1. Infrastructure has become a luxury when in fact it is a necessity.
  2. Decision makers and key organizational drivers should consist of individuals with multiple backgrounds that differ.
  3. Decision makers and key organizational drivers must spend more time in the trenches in order to gain a real time perspective on the physiology of their organization.
  4. Potential answers to issues must be piloted and analyzed before adopted into policy.

Scaling is about transmitting the qualities of your own particular excellence. This was the upbeat, undeniable theme that infused nearly every conversation we had with people about their scaling projects: an unmistakable, irrepressible, and contagious sense of pride. I don’t mean conceit or arrogance. Rather, I mean an authentic pride. Scaling is about continuing to move ahead: If we continue to invest the effort, and stick together, then good things will keep happening. – Hayagreeva Rao

One Reply to “To Scale or Not to Scale: Is This the Question?”

  1. I appreciate your reflection on scaling up and growth both professionally and organizationally. I do believe that our society rewards people and entities that scale and are able to make things happen on a BIG level! Now on the other hand, what about people and organizations that have found their niche and are thriving exactly where they are? Are we recognizing that? Do we appreciate the fact that not everyone desires to grow, scale, and develop at the same rate as you? Who determines when growth is needed, development is desired and organizations expand. I believe these are questions we have yet to really find an answer to. I do think that once someone or organization discovered a theory or practice works and works well, it is believed that it will work everywhere, the same way. And this is not always true!

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