I am continually surprised at how much this simple illustration can help us understand change and growth within organizations. It seems that so many of the groups I’m currently working with are challenged with jumping and catching the next curve.
Here’s how it works. We begin at the bottom of the S Curve to vision, create and grow a program or organization – note the blue line. The organization experiences success and growth as they travel up the curve. The challenge is that the things that made you successful in the beginning of a venture may not be the same behaviors, tools or strategies that you will need as you continue to grow. Sooner or later the company has to think and create differently. The old adage that the “things that get you here won’t get you there” is true.
For example, you have a visionary entrepreneur who leads a successful start up organization. Everyone they hire is a go-getter ready to take on any project. They work best when there are great challenges and little structure. Everyone is involved in decisions and forming the business.
Then the business grows to 100 people or more. All of a sudden you need more specialized skill-sets, standard operating procedures, common structures and procedures to continue to grow the business. It is time to begin a new growth curve.
This is where things get interesting. For organizational survival and growth it is imperative that you begin the new curve (idea, product, way of doing business,) before the one you are on crashes.
It is the space in the middle that is the most challenging. How do you manage through change and uncertainty? How do you get your people to change things that in the past have made them successful? How do you keep up with the every day challenges of your business and at the same time keep a visionary eye out for the best next wave?
Remember, that although jumping the curve can mean challenging times for your organization, it is also exciting. It means that you have been successfully growing your business. Don’t hold onto the past too tightly and enjoy the ride!