Is your company in a chaos zone between Stages of Growth?

How to Successfully Navigate the Chaotic
Transition Zone of a Wind Tunnel

How do you deal with the chaos zones that will occur between Stages 2 and 3, and Stages 4 and 5, as your enterprise grows?A Professional Service Firm In Chaos Between Stage 4 and 5

This is a case study of a Stage 4, professional service firm with 54 employees that was able to stay ‘under the radar’ of larger competitors. The CEO had kept her hands on the operations, steering a course that brought good profits. The company had a working environment that employees seemed to enjoy, and turnover was low. They maintained solid sales through customer referrals.

Then, the CEO’s world started to shift after acquiring two new clients. At first, she didn’t treat the addition of these two clients any differently than in the past. To handle the increased workload, she added more staff which took them from a Stage 4 company to a Stage 5 company practically overt night.

What this CEO failed to recognize was that she was getting ready to experience a Wind Tunnel. A transition zone that occurs as a company moves from one stage of growth to another. She would quickly discover that the methodologies that she had used to navigate her company to this stage of growth were not going to help her in the next stage of growth.

The staff had started complaining that it was harder to manage project work. Two of her managers were struggling and spent more time in her office complaining about staff issues. The first sign of trouble came when the CEO realized the financial systems weren’t sophisticated enough to handle the reporting and tracking required to satisfy the new customers.

The next sign of trouble came when projects started losing money. The number of employees made it almost impossible to manage workflow as it had been done in the past. The company was struggling to keep up with the changes required to track the success of projects, allocate resources efficiently and deal with the conflict that was occurring throughout the organization because of unclear roles and responsibilities.

If the CEO had been able to ‘predict’ when that Wind Tunnel was going to hit and even more importantly, know what it meant for the company as it grew, she would have been able to quickly make adjustments and accommodate the various changes that the addition of more people created. By understanding what it meant to move through a Wind Tunnel, this CEO could have prepared to take the following action steps:

  1. Begun the process of IDENTIFYING all the various processes and procedures the company had been using
  2. Taken the time and energy to ARTICULATE what those processes and procedures were to capture the intelligence from long-term employees
  3. Started the activity of EVALUATING all the processes and procedures by asking these critical questions:
  • Do we still need all these processes and procedures?
  • Which ones no longer assist us in being successful?
  • Which ones do we need and how do we improve upon them?

The nine-step Growth Accelerator Roadmap process addresses the challenges of growth trauma in Step 6: Managing Growth (See diagram below).

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