The first in a series of four articles on key factors in business growth.

We often take a direct approach and ask business teams, “Why can’t you grow?” Their answers tend to fall into 3 categories:

Leadership Mindset

  • Leadership engagement in growth initiatives
  • Assignment of resources
  • Organizational alignment with growth initiatives

Organizational Skillset

  • Knowledge of the business’s growth framework
  • Skills in implementing a growth project
  • Effective team building
  • Adeptness in using growth project tools

Operational Toolset

  • Project teams have the tools to make fact-based decisions about market opportunities, value propositions, building a business case for their project, and designing a successful product launch

In this article, we’ll share some real-world examples of how these three “sets” affect business growth.

Growth Takes All Three Sets

A key finding from our analysis is that businesses cannot separate the three drivers of growth—Leadership Mindset, Organizational Skillset, and Operational Toolset. They go together, must be fostered and developed together, and should be implemented with equal and shared intensity!

When Things Go Wrong

1. In one interview, one frustrated business leader declared, “Our people have all gone through new product development training and we’re still not generating successful new launches.” When asked about his role, we discovered that his priority was today’s business, not ownership of the growth process. He attended most gate reviews, but he didn’t challenge the team to validate their positions. And when the team asked for Voice of the Customer (VOC) quantitative research funding, they were told that they would have to settle for interviews they had to do themselves.

2. While engaged in a market validation workshop, a team’s description of their qualitative learnings fell short of expectations. When we reviewed their approach, we learned that they did not have a shared understanding of how their growth process worked. That contributed to them not being able to express their concept well. The team had skipped steps in doing the market validation, so their understanding of the market was limited. Unfortunately, executives did not demand the team meet a well-defined set of expectations. This is a common practice in our findings.

3. Another team in a technology company was proud to have used the budget their management approved to hire a market research vendor. The vendor designed an approach with questions that worked for the analysis software they always used. But when the results were delivered, they didn’t provide any information that could be used to reduce the risk of being wrong about the nature of market demand. After thousands of dollars spent, they didn’t have the right information to make fact-based decisions. Unfortunately, we hear this a lot the market research results were not useful. Advanced techniques to elicit new insights more closely related to how customers make decisions were rarely used. Additionally, we observed survey questions that were either not properly structured or not well-linked to the research objectives, design and analysis methods. Leadership focused more on research completion than its validity.

Success stories clearly demonstrate the importance of an integrated mindset/skill set/toolset view of new business development. In every case, we found explicit links between how leaders lead, how the organization did their work, and how they utilized quality tools. Detached leadership always results in poor performance. Engaged leadership is necessary but is insufficient by itself. Enabling the development of organizational skillsets and operational toolsets is the cornerstone of leadership.

Leadership Mindset, Organizational Skillset, and Operational Toolset all must function well and together to make business growth happen.

In the following posts in this series, we’ll examine each set’s impact on growth and provide some effective solutions. In our final post, we’ll demonstrate how all these “sets” work together to provide an integrated path to success.

About the Author

Pamela J. RoachPamela Roach is CEO of Breakthrough Marketing Technology. She is dedicated to our mission of enabling businesses to make decisions based on fact. She has designed, collected, analyzed, and delivered the intelligence necessary to produce insights into the motivations, attitudes, and outcomes that characterize multicultural targets. In addition to her work at Breakthrough, she also teaches graduate students Integrated Marketing and Media Campaigns at NYU School for Professional Studies.


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