Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao’s new book, Scaling Up Excellence, is one of those books you’ll go back to again and again.
Plenty of people know exactly what scaling is, but more don’t. I’ve got a lot of clarity on where I first encountered the term in business fifteen years ago--and the demands that were asked of me. A long-time friend and client wanted to make some very important culture changes in his leadership team. When we started our conversation, the focus was very clear and he kept going back to it over several interactions. He wanted the best scalable competencies to enable his leadership team to interact successfully with the company’s clients.
By scalability we refer to the ability of certain mindsets or competencies to expand from the few to the many.
The scalable competencies that we decided on were able to enhance and expand the ...
As in any successful mindset change we spent a great deal of time identifying and clearing away the destructive behaviors and beliefs so this enhanced effectiveness can spread and stick. Scaling Up Excellence brings such tasks as ours to full fruition. Early on, Sutton and Rao lay out seven “Scaling Mantras” that are the result of extensive research. They enable the reader to identify exactly where to focus their perseverance in order to scale up excellence. Their comment is exceedingly relevant: “If you are embarking on a scaling effort, memorize them, teach them to others and invent ways to keep them firmly in focus—especially when the going gets tough.”
In Sutton’s typically refreshing fashion, he lays these mantras out clearly:
Spread a mindset, not just a footprint. Running up the numbers and putting your logo on as many people and places as possible isn’t enough.
Engage all the senses. Bolster the mindset you want to spread with supportive sights, sounds, smells, and other cues that people may barely notice, if at all.
Link short-term realities to long-term dreams. Hound yourself and others with questions about what it takes to link the never-ending now to the sweet dreams you hope to realize later.
Accelerate accountability. Build in the feeling that “I own the place and the place owns me.”
Fear the clusterfug. The terrible trio of illusion, impatience, and incompetence are ever-present risks. Healthy doses of worry and self-doubt are antidotes to these three scaling clusterfugs.
Scaling requires both addition and subtraction. The problem of more is also a problem of less.
Slow down to scale faster---and better—down the road. Learn when and how to shift gears from automatic, mindless, and fast modes of thinking (“System 1”) to slow, taxing, logical, deliberative, and conscious modes (“System 2”); sometimes the best advice is, “Don’t just do something, stand there.”
Although many people apparently believe that mind-sets are not a very useful focus for organizational intervention and change, the cards are clearly stacked against them. There is now systematic research in many, many areas revealing that mindsets control our behaviors. In other words, mindsets have consequences and they may be limiting and destructive or liberating and productive. Changing the way people think about situations is, in fact, the most powerful and useful way to ultimately change behavior and thereby affect organizational results. Kudos to Sutton and Rao for their spot-on and well-needed research and book.