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The Focused Growth Acid Test

In my last startup we struggled for some good number of months to figure out what our corporate values would be. The values were intended to serve as a moral compass when it came to hard decision making, or when the data didn’t point us in a clear direction. The one value we struggled with mightily was “Focused Growth”. Opinions on the Executive Team were split; some loved it, but others didn’t understand how focused growth could possibly be a value.

Our struggles with “focused growth” reminded me of a conversation some years ago. Marv came to me and said he wasn’t able to keep up with the workload, and I needed to hire more people or else he would fail. I sent Marv back to the drawing board to retool the processes that were sucking the hours out of his work day. Similarly, I was nearly fired once for suggesting that rather than “doing more with less” that we simply do less. My premise was our business had outgrown our processes and we were constantly scrambling to keep things together.

Image result for do more with less

In both examples business processes were allowed to evolve without discipline and without thought to the eventual consequences unfocused growth. Focused growth isn’t a thing; it’s a way of looking at the world. Our struggles to create a set of meaningful corporate values pushed me to think about how we could apply a focused growth methodology to basic business processes.

Hence the Focused Growth Process Vetting Model. Ask these four questions anytime you’re evaluating a process, changing a process, or getting ready to throw people into a process:

  1. Do people love the process ?
  2. Is the process simple?
  3. Will people follow the process if I’m not actively enforcing it?
  4. Can I increase the workload 5x without hiring more people?

If the answer to ANY of these questions is no, then the process is wrong and it must change. “No” fails the Focused Growth acid test.

Focused growth in process design is another way of asking  “is it simple, scalable, and sustainable?”. We’ve been using this model since mid-2014 and it works. I’d love to hear your thoughts and especially your own experience in applying focused growth to process design.

Best regards,


Jan. 2017


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