Looking at the Growth Champions it is apparent that success is not just down to the nature of the firm, nor is it due to the decisions that are taken in terms of how, where, and why to play in different fields. Success is driven by the unification of culture and strategy around the growth ambition and then linked to the competences and capabilities available to the company. The profiles and analysis all point to sustained growth being an integrated outcome of these two very different issues into a coherent and well-focused whole. The key lessons can be summarised into six groups:
- Passionate leadership really matters, even in a mature business. A leader who is prepared to challenge conventional wisdoms, internally and externally, and put an aspirational stake in the ground gives the organization focus.
- Having the CEO as champion and lead, not just sponsor, the growth agenda engages everyone and can bring about fundamental change in the business and its performance.
- Succession planning is important and promoting from within provides continuity and a leadership who understands the culture and shares the values of the organization.
Clarity of Ambition
- Growth aspirations need to both inspire and be specific enough to create focus – ideally they engage the rational and the emotional side in a coherent mix.
- Ambition needs to be reflected in the day-to-day business activities and made tangible though clear targets and believable principles.
- Aligned leadership, ambition, and values driven from the top are key to inspiring exceptional performance from within the organization and forming deep relationships with external stakeholders.
- Clear ambitions that fit with the organizational values enable all employees to believe that they are doing something worthwhile.
- Companies need to have an acute understanding of their distinctive competences and areas of weakness and then build an organization that amplifies those competences and addresses the weaknesses.
- A clear ambition grounded in proven capability and genuine aspiration builds the confidence that an organization is making the right decisions and moving forward with its eyes open.
Innovation in the DNA
- Successful growth comes from relentless focus on innovation across the board. From core products and services to internal processes and new business models, multifaceted innovation is critical.
- Innovation should be anchored in the company’s ambition, so it has both context and is a sustainable part of the corporate fabric.
- Talking about innovation is easy but you must support what you say with what you can see in the organization – the structures and systems that support and reward innovation are balanced with creativity and autonomy – and this translates into what you do and how you do things.
- Neither R&D investment nor media messaging can be taken as the sole indicators of how innovative a company is. Growth does not come from a single activity but rather from a flexible combination of many factors.
Foresight and Insight
- Growth Champions have demonstrated the ability to understand the insights and implications for their industry and business and turn that into actions that result in innovation and exceptional growth.
- Companies that understand the forces and trends shaping their markets and the implications combined with the insights from today are better positioned to lead in emerging opportunities. In an increasingly turbulent world this capability will become more valuable and will often distinguish winners from losers.
- This capability must be an integral part of a company’s strategic planning: foresight and insight alone do not deliver growth – they have to inform and drive action.
Return of the Conglomerate
- Diversified and somewhat integrated conglomerates can work and be highly competitive against more focused peers.
- No single conglomerate model guarantees success but the chosen model should be aligned with the organizational culture, capabilities, and leadership’s ambition.
- Conglomerates enable in-house knowledge transfer and capability building across different sectors.