The 5 Most Common Questions Asked About Scaling Up

Scaling Up is a framework initially found in a book called Rockefeller Habits. This simple, one-page strategic plan helps to better capture and execute a company’s long-term vision and strategy. In addition, there are a bunch of other tools to address and manage the challenges of growth.

As a key driver of the Scaling Up 2.0 book, I interviewed 50 CEOs, around the world who had used the Rockefeller Habits methodology to successfully scale their organizations. The goal was to capture their learnings, insights and advice to help other CEOs on their growth journey. The core benefit they talked about was the tool set. Firstly, how it increased their ability to grow. Secondly, how it helped them to manage the chaos of growth and how it made sure their team was focused on the things that matter most. And thirdly, how the systems and structures helped them to sustain that growth.

What You Need to Know up Scaling Up

Here are the most common questions we are asked, by CEOs and executive teams, about the simple yet powerful Scaling Up framework:

 1. How long does it take to complete the one-page strategic plan?

The answer to all these questions begins with “it depends”.

Whether starting from scratch or converting an existing planning framework, we can create a rough draft of a one-page strategic plan – a C+ in terms of completion, quality and a solid starting point to build on – in two days of a strategic planning session.

Then, through continual refinements in six or seven quarterly strategic planning meetings, over 18 to 24 months, you’ll have an A-grade plan, which is about as good as it needs to be.

Note: Building off an existing strategic plan, if the framework is complex and convoluted, often takes more time to simplify, fix or re-calibrate things that are off track, than it does starting from scratch.

 2. How often do you update the one-page plan?

This is an iterative process to constantly tweak and refine until you get to an A-grade plan. What drives results is quality of execution, and that’s why it’s important to spend two days every quarter (or a minimum of one day for smaller companies) to review progress over the last 90 days (financials KPIs, rocks or goals and people), discuss how to execute better next quarter, then reset commitments for the next quarter. By doing this every 90 days, you make much more progress because there are four finish lines per year instead of one annually.

 3. How would you get your team to buy into Scaling Up methods?

Again, it depends. If you’re a leader who gets excited every time you read a new book, your team may see it as the flavour of the month. They’ll be more receptive if they feel there’s a need to do something different to make the business function better.

Generally, we start with a conversation – best with an experienced advisor – to share the framework and its effectiveness so they can see the value for themselves. You can ask them to read the first couple sections of the book (not the whole book, at first) and sometimes it’s a matter of working with the tools, guided by a facilitator, in your annual planning meeting.

 4. Who on my team should be involved in strategic planning meetings?

It depends on your intent.

  • If it’s purely strategic, include the CEO’s direct reports (5 to 7 people).
  • If you need more focus on the alignment of the teams who do execution, in addition to the CEO’s reports, add a handful of key leaders who report to the executive team (12 to 18 people in total).

 5. What’s the #1 thing that blocks companies from Scaling Up?

Usually, two things:

Strategy: Lack of alignment and clarity on the KPIs (operational health) and quarterly goals (to execute the strategy) at the company, executive team and their direct reports. Without these, you cannot easily create accountability in the organization. And without clarity on accountability, you don’t have a mechanism or an environment that naturally creates tension, learning and automatic, improved performance.

People: Lack of highly capable people in key roles. No matter how clear the strategy, execution, and accountability, if people can’t do their job well nothing is going to change. This is why most of the companies we work with have a strong drive towards filling 90% of their key seats with A Players.

 6. Do I need a coach or someone to help me?

The truth is you can do anything yourself, including building or renovating your house. However, it’s faster and easier to get an experienced guide. They have likely already done whatever you’re trying to do 100 times before.

We’ve noticed that many companies fail to scale because they don’t get the right outside expertise. They’re missing that person to help them to make smarter decisions or quickly implement simple systems. Keeping everything very simple and easy to understand and manage is critical to success. Inexperienced people often over-complicate things.

Personally, I would take a lower-quality strategy that is simple and clear to execute over a complicated strategy. An expert can help you move quickly and ensure your strategy and execution plans are simple. Consequently, the ROI you get usually pays for itself.

 7. Which of the 10 Rockefeller Habits do you think is most important?

It depends, company to company. Generally it’s either an aligned executive team, or clarity on most of the top five company goals throughout the company.

The Challenge

  • What do you need to do to bring your strategic planning and execution/accountability process to life? What can you do to make it more effective?

For more, listen to Episode 100 of The Growth Whisperers.

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If you need help to Scale Up or to understand more about what it can do for you, please get in touch. We have a team of expert advisors who do this every day.

Lawrence & Co’s work focuses on sustainable and enhanced growth for you and your business. Our diverse and experienced group of advisors can help your leaders and executive teams stay competitive through the use of various learning tools including workshops, webinars, executive retreats, or one-to-one coaching.

We help high-achieving leaders to have it all – a great business and a rewarding life. Contact us for simple and impactful advice. No BS. No fluff.