“Some leaders run the wrong race because they focus only on short-term performance. Some focus on quarter-by-quarter sales volume, others on year-on-year profit. What matters most is enduring growth – that is both long-term and profitable. It’s the holy grail” - Alison Eyring
One of my weaknesses is being over enthusiastic about new ideas or projects. I dive right in with endless energy only to short out and realize that I may not quite have enough stamina or resources to make it to the end. I’ve had to learn to step back, plan more thoroughly, and pace myself or those around me. It can be very frustrating. We live in a society that values quick action, fast growth, and bottom line results. There’s minimal time to catch our breath and really look from afar to see if we are taking sensible actions, advancing change slowly, and driving optimal long term results.
Alison Eyring is a distinguished long distance athlete enduring incredible triathlons all over the world that would make most of us weak just thinking about it. She is also the successful founder of Organisation Solutions where she advises global executives and companies on leadership and growth. Alison combined her experience and adventures in these two roles to bring us the book Pacing For Growth – Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-Term Success.
Pacing For Growth takes a unique and relevant approach as to how business should approach sustained growth. Leaders have excessive priorities to focus on to keep everyone happy. They need innovation, increased market share, higher margins, and key employees. The list goes on and on. Often, leaders try to achieve everything at the same time and the result is ultimately achieving less. There needs to be a balanced approach to growth. If you grow too fast you will burn people out, miss opportunities and lose momentum. Growing too slow will result in lost momentum, stalled technology and new product lines and the competition will reach the finish line first. So what is the answer? Intelligent Restraint.
Intelligent Restraint is a term that Alison coined through her years of consulting. It is a balanced long term method of approaching business decisions. The idea is to push teams, change, and the business as far as we can but within our capacity. Slow and steady wins the race. This may mean accelerating at one time but pulling back and slowing another. Leaders need to have the patience to build capacity for growth which translates into new capabilities from inside the organization. Growth and capacity work together but need to survive the test of time. Pacing growth enables us to build capacity for future success. Pacing For Growth is divided into 3 parts to effectively illustrate what Intelligent Restraint is and how to engage it within an organization. Part 1 outlines the principles themselves. Part 2 reviews the rules of Intelligent Restraint. Part 3 offers ideas, tools, and examples of putting this principle into action. Following is a synopsis of each part to whet your appetite or paced growth.
3 principles of Intelligent Restraint to guide leaders:
- Capacity determines how far and fast you can go – maximum capacity is the absolute peak performance that a system can perform at without crashing.
- The right capabilities increase capacity – Alison focuses on two capabilities in particular in her book, outside-in thinking and customer-aligned innovation.
- The right pace wins the race – we all know what happens when we push to fast and run out of steam.
3 rules of Intelligent Restraint:
- Focus overrules vision – growth needs to be more than just a vision.
- Routine beats strengths – strengths can ultimately become weaknesses and routine will “conserve energy” and help create new methods of thinking.
- Exert, then recover – continual exertion exhausts people, systems, and cultures. It’s critical to know when to take a step back to recover in order to stay on the path to long term growth.
These rules are critical to making key trade-offs and decisions for teams and the business as you build capacity for growth.
The final section of Pacing For Growth brings everything together for us. Alison shows us how to put Intelligent Restraint to work. First, we need to focus on scaling to grow. Leaders need to increase capacity fast enough but pace the change and growth within human and cost limits. She suggests picking one capability at a time to focus on developing faster, rather than several. Alison stresses how critical routines are in making this happen. For instance, you should create the right routines for development, find routines that really stretch people and systems, create new routines that build sound decision making capabilities, or use them to “leverage moments of truth”. To maximize development Alison shares her FAST framework that she utilizes with leaders. FAST = Focus, Act, Support, Test. In the book she leads us through the framework to catalyze growth in a responsible manner.
I am a visual person and stories always bring new information home for me. Alison devotes a chapter to sharing real experiences in the trenches from leaders. These are people who have put Intelligent Restraint to use and this really helps to bring the concept home. Moreover, it gives us food for thought about how we can use her thoughts in our own roles. Pacing For Growth also ties up all these concepts with some online resources including a Pacing For Growth checklist that is relevant, simple, and practical.
Pacing For Growth offers a sound and practiced approach to growing our organizations within capacity. Today, too few companies take a restraint growth attitude towards growing which only has negative impacts on people, systems, and processes. Corporate America needs to adapt a long term growth mentality so that they are around in the future. Alison shares stories about icons that have flourished or failed over the years, leadership tools and tips for pacing growth and capacity, and keeps us mesmerized with her own personal stories and experiences.