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Growing pains

It has been a name used for over 170 years. There are several explanations about its origin, however, the designation in itself and the root causes of it are not totally clarified. Growing pains are temporary and usually disappear in less than two years, say the experts.

And in the business? Is it possible that companies may also go through growing pains at some point in time? I dare say, yes, they do.

If management team and employees let themselves get into a sense of wonder, they lose as a result the sense of urgency and stagnation takes place.

In fact, they let themselves to be surpassed by competition, by the external factors that influence the market in which they operate, by the changes in buyers´ behavior… they do not grasp all that and continue to operate as they have always done, using the same methods, processes and strategies that helped them succeed in the past which unfortunately, are no longer suited to overcome the challenges of the present.

Does a football team when promoted from the third league for the second faces the same management challenges as previously? And further, if this same team climbs up to the first league and desires to compete with the best, do the challenges remain the same? The skills and competencies of management, coach and players, the strategy, the objectives… will they be the same?

When managers and their teams in an organization stop having a sense of urgency and stop aiming for continuous improvement of their employees and their products , services or processes, when they stop paying attention to what happens in the market place and forget that strategy is evolutionary and not static and customer needs are evolving, they get their company into a stage that I designate as growing pains. The culture of an organization needs to be always in development and senior and middle management cannot let themselves and their teams “swell” into past successes and belief that the way they did business “yesterday”, whether one thinks about “internal” or “external” customers, is the best way to do business “today”. When teams invariably start looking for reasons, all external by the way, to justify poor or mediocre performance, then please be reassured the growing pains are installed.

If these conditions are not quickly addressed, then acute growing pain can very easily become a chronic disease  that will rapidly, sometimes silently, will destroy everything that was conquered before with true dedication, commitment and sacrifice. Such an organization arriving to such a stage must wake up to it before it is too late.

Leaving a company to delight itself in the shadow of past successes, even if that is for a period of time of no long duration, will have negative effects on performance and will undermine the company´s ability to compete, I dare say, for at least a period that will be two to three times longer in “hibernation”. All knowledge acquired over time should be at the service of progress and evolution. Acquired knowledge without action leads consequently to stagnation.

An organization must remain permanently IDAN – “Inquiete“, “Dynamic“, “Attentive“, “Nervous” (word of Greek origin meaning “working a lot,” that is, does not get into complacency)

  • Must maintain a continuous investment in research and development. It is necessary to maintain a “pipeline” of new products, systems and solutions, and to continuously improve the features and processes of existing products and existing solutions respectively;
  • Should bet on marketing programs that are focused on customer needs and market developments in all its aspects as well as ensuring that the sales team is also focused on customers’ needs and capable of showing the added value customers will gain from the use of their products or services, as opposed to a team that just focuses on price;
  • Must insist on continuous improvement of its internal processes;
  • Should foster permanently the development of skills and competencies of its most important asset – People, challenging them continuously not letting them getting into the comfort zone, introducing strategically “new blood” into the organization – talent to confront the “status quo” and the “modus operandi“, however talented People that act with a responsible attitude tempered with the ability that children, for example, have to ask why and learn from their curiosity.
  • Should accept that those in the organization who allow themselves to get complacent and resist to continuous improvement should leave, otherwise they become a liability to the organization.

Although all organizations at some point in time may go through a period of growing pain, the most important thing is to be alert and realize that these periods can exist; only with this awareness will everyone in the organization be mobilized to ensure these periods are as short as possible.

This post is also available in: Portuguese (Portugal)

3 thoughts on “Growing pains

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