How to unlock your company’s hidden growth potential
Have you ever wondered why your company is not operating at its full potential? Have you ever thought that there is so much more you and your business could do? What are the secrets of the companies that recover faster from setbacks than others, even thrive in times of crisis and grow more rapidly than everyone else in their industry?
Release your brakes
One of their secrets is that they release the brakes. What does that mean? They know how to identify the root causes behind their challenges. This allows them to solve these root causes instead of just trying to fix symptoms. It unlocks their full growth potential. Otherwise, it feels as if you are trying to drive a Ferrari with one foot on the gas and the other foot on the brake. You put a lot of effort into getting ahead, but your speed is still slow.
How do you find out the root causes of the major challenges that plague you and your business every day?
If you have a medical condition but you do not quite know what it is, you typically go to a doctor for a checkup. If he discovers something that needs a deeper examination, he will do an x-ray. Using the knowledge he gains from the x-ray plus his personal observations from examining you, he will come to a conclusion about the root causes of your condition.
In a business, you have to do the same thing. You have to take an honest and neutral look at the symptoms and dig as deeply as needed until you reach the root causes.
The good news is: my team of experts and I have developed a foolproof system to uncover these root causes most effectively. This is one of the reasons why we have been able to consistently achieve phenomenal net profit increases for our clients and business owners across so many industries and countries. I will share the overview of that system with you and show you how to adapt it to your organization.
Step 1: Shut up and listen!
The first step is to have one-on-one conversations with all the key people in your organization. Ask them what could be improved and let them describe the challenges and opportunities, strengths and weaknesses of the organization and their department. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, go down to lower levels as well. It is vital that people are assured of confidentiality so that they can open up and talk freely about the challenges.
Have someone your people will trust conduct these one-on-one conversations so that you get honest answers. Choose the person who will conduct these conversations for you wisely: he or she should be able to earn the trust of your employees easily, ideally have expert status, and come from outside of your organization. If that is not possible, choose someone from within your organization who has not been with your business for a long time and therefore is considered to be more “neutral.”
If you are the CEO or owner, do not make the mistake of trying to lead some of these conversations yourself. In most organizations, there is so much fear and respect for the people at the top that employees will never fully open up because they are afraid to say anything that might be interpreted as bad. You will never get to the truth.
Step 2: Don’t let the blind spots kill you!
The next step is the hardest: the individuals who conduct these conversations need to be radically open-minded. When clients ask us to do this x-ray for them, even if owners or CEOs tell us beforehand which challenges we need to solve, we always take it with a grain of salt.
Why? In our global experience of doing this deep x-ray analysis for companies around the globe—large and small, across many industries and continents—we have come to the following conclusion: the longer someone works in an organization and the higher up he or she is on the corporate ladder, the larger his or her blind spots are.
This is why the top people in any organization rarely know what the real root causes of the major challenges are.
Step 3: Keep a beginner’s mind
I am sure you have heard of the expression of Shunryu Suzuki: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Approach the x-ray process with a beginner’s mind. This is another reason why top management rarely sees the root causes of their company’s main challenges. They are the experts. They have already made up their minds about what they think the real root causes are.
Keep an open mind until the very last conversation, like a detective trying to solve a murder case. Keep asking “why” until you start to connect the dots and a clear picture forms in your mind of where to dig deeper and which areas require more of your attention.
Never assume that you know what the real root causes are. Then, once you have finished all conversations, and if you are honest with your findings, you will discover what we call the “planets.”
Step 4: Find your big planets
Root causes of challenges are like larger planets with smaller planets orbiting around them. This means that the smaller challenges will all connect to the root causes in a logical way. Once you solve the root causes, the smaller challenges will naturally dissolve by themselves.
To give you an example: a family asked us to do an x-ray for their second-generation family business which was a market leader in its field. They wanted their group of companies to become future-proof but had a number of challenges that they needed to solve. When they told us more about these challenges, they were very quick to conclude that marketing was at the root of their problems. And if only we could put together a great marketing strategy and plan for them, all problems would be solved.
After our x-ray analysis, we found out that the actual root causes of their slower sales were distribution and the fact that they were putting too many new products on the market every year.
It was impossible for marketing and distribution to properly serve the full range of their products. There were simply too many. What they really needed was: 1. A portfolio management of their products; this meant getting rid of the products that were not cash cows; 2. A clear formula for the entire group that would make it easy for them to decide, today and in the future, which products to keep and which to discard.
Solutions and next steps
1. Choose an expert from inside or outside of your organization who is radically open-minded to have in-depth one-on-one conversations with all the key people in your organization. Questions should center around what could be improved and the challenges and opportunities, strengths and weaknesses of the organization and respective departments.
2. Make sure top management does not interfere with the process until the final conclusions are made because they naturally have blind spots.
3. Keep asking “why” until you start to connect the dots and you arrive at the root causes of the major challenges.
4. Identify the underlying root causes. All smaller challenges will connect to these root causes in a logical way. INQ
Tom Oliver, a “global management guru” (Bloomberg), is the chair of The Tom Oliver Group, the trusted advisor and counselor to many of the world’s most influential family businesses, medium-sized enterprises, market leaders and global conglomerates. For more information and inquiries: www.TomOliverGroup.com or email
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