Wildfires and Uncontrolled Business Growth

The current wildfires in Colorado within the USA are devastating everything from forests to wildlife to homes.  These uncontrolled acts of nature reminded me how uncontrolled business growth is very similar to a wildfire for these two reasons.

First, wildfires by their very essence are random.  This randomness reduces the ability to fight, control and monitor these acts of nature. Uncontrolled business growth is also difficult to work through especially if the organization is a small business and lacks the strategy,  structure, processes, incentives and people to deal with this challenge as detailed in the 5 Star Model for organizational development.

Second, because of the randomness, resources must be redirected from other critical projects.  For a business to operate a peak efficiency and effectiveness, requires proper allocation of all resources.  Unplanned growth reduces the overall operational effectiveness.

Uncontrolled by its very nature suggests the inability to manage it. When organizations face this type of business growth, this suggests that proper planning was not in place for this anticipated growth or there was a significant event beyond the forecasts within the existing strategic action plan that triggered the growth.  For example, production of the IPhones or IPads are two recent examples.

The ability to increase sales and reduce costs thereby growing the company is a good thing. However, when the growth is unplanned and affects the capacity of the business to carry out its day to day functions, this is a potential recipe for disaster. The end result may look more like the torched, blacken  ground after a wildfire instead of a thriving green forest.

To avoid this disaster requires the following:

  • Vision – Where do you see your business in 3 to 5 years?
  • Values – What business ethics will be demonstrated through everyone’s behaviors?
  • Mission – What do we want to achieve by the end of the current financial year?
  • Key Performance Indicators – What daily metrics will we use to ensure we are aware of current business activities?
  • Critical Success Factors – What is necessary and sufficient to achieve our current mission
  • Strategic plan – How do we coordinate the efforts between marketing, sales, customers, growth & innovation, leadership & management and financials?
  • WAY SMART Goals – What specific long term, short term, tangible and intangible objectives do we need to achieve?
  • Schedule – How often will we review this action plan?
  • Course Corrections – How will we determine when we may need to change the plan?
  • Research – What do our customers think of us?  What is happening within the marketplace?
  • Assessments – How do we know we have the right people in the place? How do we know that everyone is rowing in the right direction?
  • Alignment – How can we ensure that everything is working together like the gears of a clock for optimum performance?
  • Communication – How do we share this information with all stakeholders?

By being proactive instead of reactive (fighting wildfires), any business can not only survive, but thrive. The challenge is investing the time to think strategically and then putting together a written plan of action with a commitment to work from that plan if you truly want to be the Red Jacket in a sea of gray suits.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith
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