Danger signs when things are going well
By Kirk Dando
EVERY BUSINESS PUBLICATION tries to
explain why some companies succeed and
others don’t. We all want to understand what
creates success. One thing you rarely hear about
is the dirty little secret of success: What looks
like success (hiring more staff, increasing revenues, beating goals, etc.) is often the beginning of failure.
That’s right; one of the harshest
realities about success is that not
everyone who finds it gets to keep it.
Too often, once your company hits
a certain level, its continued success seems like a foregone conclusion. But you quickly learn that
growth and success bring their own set of
problems. So rather than fighting to keep success or struggling to grow it, most people
struggle just to maintain it.
The good news is that success and failure
leave footprints, and we can learn from thousands of other organizations to help us predict and prepare for opportunities and
problems before they show up in the results.
After helping to build a billion-dollar company and subsequently coaching over 6,000
growth-hungry leaders, I made this remarkable discovery: Many of the same pitfalls or
warning signs of success derail all growth-hungry organizations that do not properly
predict and prepare for them.
Why do I call these the warning
signs of success? The answer is simple: It
is not intuitively obvious, but if you don’t
heed them, the very things that cause
your success eventually will also cause
your demise. But here’s the good news: Pay
attention to them and you can become a
predictive leader, and take the uncertainty,
drama and chaos out of growth.
All in all, I have identified 12 of these warning
signs of success. Here are the leading five, and the
steps you can take to remedy them.
Right idea, wrong person
Know this: You started out with the right ideas,
right people and right direction, but somewhere
along the way you ended up with the wrong people
in key positions. Promoting and selecting individuals with real leadership and management capabilities is just hard.
Do this: As you and your team talk about growing the organization, think ahead to the specific
management skills you’ll need as you grow. Take
personality and likeability out of the equation; get
clear about the exact skills you need for each key
role, and make the tough decisions.
Sowing the seeds of decay
Know this: The systems and processes you put
in place in the beginning that have created your success may actually be killing it. These legacy processes or systems are the exact reason you were able
to grow, but are they still serving you? It is not intuitively obvious that the very systems and processes
that made you successful are now sowing the seeds
of your decay.
Do this: Identify the key systems and processes
(how you get work, how you do work and how you
measure the quality and profitability of work) in
your business. Look critically at these through the
eyes of your customer. What is their journey and
experience with your key systems and processes
from first contact through every department in
your organization? Document what exceeds, what
meets and what lets your customers down as they
work with and buy from you. Change or kill things
that once could handle the weight of growth but
are now creating poor customer experiences and
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