This blog follows the first in our Bermuda Triangle series, “Is Your Company Stuck in the Bermuda Triangle of Growth?” My task was to take a look at the dynamics of culture and people as they relate to the fascinating, and often quoted, Bermuda Triangle Theory.
A wise man once said that the things that make you great can also become your biggest weaknesses. Nothing is more true of the cultures of many successful growth companies. They are filled with the stories of the herculean efforts of top sales people, the genius creations of their greatest innovators, or perhaps the simple and humble ways of their founding families. These are at the very fabric of a company – what made them great, and what gives them confidence that they will endure into the future.
The challenge with culture is that it needs to mature. When the people who used to “do the work” are put into positions where they need to “manage others to do the work,” a subtle but fundamental shift occurs. For the company to grow, activities can no longer be single-threaded through the heroes of old. Accountability, authority, and responsibility need to be delegated. And those in charge need to be sure that the decisions being made when they “are not in the room” are just as good as those that were being made when they were.
This is a very difficult shift to achieve, but it is necessary for growth. Companies get caught in the Bermuda Triangle when they are unable to put the processes and systems in place to scale beyond the established networks of individuals – individuals in some cases that may have been great a their “old job,” but struggle making the transition into global strategic leadership and execution.
If you are going to grow as a global company, the answer lies in strong leadership with a clear mission and vision, and respecting the organization’s unique history – but with the courage to mature the culture by introducing process as a discipline. Process discipline that allows work to be delegated with confidence, that allows good decisions to be made quickly, that minimizes layers of bureaucracy, that has clear accountability, and most importantly, that “optimizes the whole,” not one division or business unit.
The first step any organization must take on their journey to navigate the “Bermuda Triangle of Growth” is to focus on its people, with some real leadership training and organizational change management. Then, once they are able to see how their behavior is inhibiting their ability to grow, they can begin to work on the organizational structure and process discipline necessary to fix it.