Scaling Up Excellence – Notes from Chapter 1

It’s a ground war, not just an air war. (Going slower to scale faster – and better – later.)

The Problem of More = Executives can point to pockets in their organization where people are doing a great job of uncovering and meeting customer needs. There was always some excellence – there just wasn’t enough of it. How do you spread that excellence to more people and more places?

We’ve identified 7 reliable signs that scaling is going well or badly…

1. Spread a mindset, not just a footprint. Distributing your banner and logo far and wide vs. having a deep and enduring influence on how employees and customers think, act, feel, and filter info. Effective scaling depends on believing and living a shared mindset throughout your group, division, or organization.

2. Engage all the senses. Mindsets are spread and sustained by subtle cues that activate all the senses. Bolster the mindset you want to spread with supportive sounds, sights, smells, and other subtle cues that people may barely notice, if at all.

3. Link short-term realities to long-term dreams. The rare ability to make sure that the short-term stuff gets done and done well, while simultaneously never losing sight of the big picture. Scaling requires the wherewithal to hound yourself and others with questions about what it takes to link the never-ending now (the perpetual present tense that every person is trapped in) to the sweet dreams you hope to realize later.

4. Accelerate Accountability. It means an organization is packed with people who embody and protect excellence (even when they are tired, overburdened, distracted), who work vigorously to spread it to others, and who spot, help, critique, and (when necessary) push aside the colleagues who fail to live and spread it. There are many ways to create this brand of urgent, all-hands-on-deck accountability, but the goal is always the same – to bake in that constant pressure to do the right thing.

5. Fear the Clusterfug. The terrible trio of illusion, impatience, and incompetence are ever-present risks. Healthy doses of worry and self-doubt are antidotes to these three hallmarks of scaling and clusterfugs.

* Illusion: Decision makers believe that what they are scaling up is far better and easier to spread than the facts warrant.
* Impatience: Decision makers believe that what they are scaling is so good and easy to spread that they rush to roll it out before it is ready, they are ready, and the organization is ready.”
* Incompetence: Decision makers lack the requisite knowledge and skill about what they are spreading and how to spread it, which in turn transforms otherwise competent people into incompetent ones.

6. Scaling requires both addition and subtraction. The problem of more is also a problem of less.

7. Slow down to scale faster – and better – down the road. Learn when and how to shift gears from automatic, mindless, and fast modes of thinking (“System1”) to slow, taxing, logical, deliberative, and conscious modes (“System 2”); sometimes the best advice is, “Don’t just do something, stand there.”


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