• Mohamed F. Ahmed

Principles of Scaling Excellence - Part III


In my previous posts of scaling up excellence, Part I and Part II, I went through 5 principles to

scale excellence within your organization. In this final post, I'll address the three final principles: engage all five senses to immerse the team in your cause; build, connect and cascade centers of excellence; and increase scaling capacity through increasing your talent density.

Your team must feel the difference of your culture and company not only by how you do things but by how your employees engage with their physical surroundings. It should continuously remind them of the company's cause. For example, having meeting rooms with transparent glass windows is a good subtle cue of transparency. Subtle queues act as propellents of good behaviors. They communicate the right mindset, as in the transparency example. Subtle cues trigger felt accountability without increasing load. For example, having pictures of your customers in the workspace how your product helps your customers is a great cue of the importance of empathy in within your team. Also, subtle cues juice up desirable behaviors. For example, having your execs setting in the same open space with exact same disks, encourages everyone to reach out to them to share thoughts and provide immediate feedback. Below are suggested ways to embed your subtle cues in your workspace:

  1. Use Metaphors

  2. Encourage automatic behavior through pictures

  3. Touch your team through the five senses. Do you have distinct scent of the workplace? Special colors?

  4. Signage as a Cue. Do you name meeting rooms and other spaces after inspirational models? Do they send message?

  5. Space as a Cue. Is it open space? Crowded?

Excellence has to be spread like a virus. It cannot be achieved and spread like Peanut Butter. You must be really alert to any bystander effects in your organization. This is how teams and companies fail. Look for signs of pluralistic ignorance, where you see systematic problems and now one is offering help to solve them. Diffusion of responsibility is usually the first symptom to look for to identify pluralistic ignorance. Ask yourself, do I have a clear owner of each major deliverable or process? You need to find one person who would act as the CEO of what you identified as critical to your team or business. As you introduce change in the organization you need to connect your people together and use these connections as pipes and prisms. In other words, having different team members accountable in front of each other for their behaviors and deliverables encourages more to do the expected right thing. At the same time you can further fuel up excellence by showcasing these changed behaviors to others in your organization and make it more contagious within different connected teams. This is a diversity game by its own. Repeated exposure to different people is the key to the success of spreading excellence. Use different formats: one to one (mentoring), One to many (reviews and open discussions), Many to many (larger reviews and design interactions).

Increase your scaling capacity by combining felt accountability and high talent density. Felt accountability with low talent density produces fear of failure. You want to have people who are confident about their abilities and willing to learn. From that perspective hiring is your core process, not innovation! Hire employees who are pre-wired to be accountable. Steve Jobs puts it

" When I hire somebody..... the real issue is, are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They will want what's best for Apple, not what's best for them, what's best for Steve or anybody else."

Use another organization as your HR department. Google for example used graduate schools at top universities in its early days as the main source of talents. My post of Do you want to hire a Ninja, A Jedi, or a Pirate touches on the aspect of types of team members you would like to hire. It is important to be conscious about these to build a healthy balanced team willing to be accountable for their goals.

At the end, you need to keep in mind that reaching excellence and scaling it within your organization is a ground war, not a series of air strikes. You have to gain it inch by inch everyday. Keep your leadership in the right mindset and diversify your techniques and strategies. To summarize below are the principles that you can apply in your journey of scaling excellence:

  • Cut unwanted behaviors FAST

  • Link hot causes to cools solutions

  • Help your teams live the right Mindset.

  • Use the right incentives to encourage the right behaviors

  • Reduce cognitive load

  • Engage all five senses of your team to immerse them in your cause

  • build, connect and cascade centers of excellence

  • Increase your scaling capacity by increasing your talent density and felt accountability

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© 2016 by Mohamed F. Ahmed