Why process is key for growing companies

Why do some companies start out strong then fail to sustain their success as they grow? Process discipline is one of the essential ingredients required to help growing companies thrive.

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Have you ever heard of Solyndra? How about Jawbone? Or Abound Solar?

Whether you’ve heard of these companies before or not, according to CBInsights, they’re three of the largest and most costly start-up failures of all time. Solyndra, a manufacturer of solar panels that received at least $1.22 billion in funding, filed for bankruptcy in 2011. Similarly, despite having raised $930 million, device maker Jawbone couldn’t hold onto its market share and is currently undergoing liquidation. And Abound Solar, a manufacturer of photovoltaic modules for solar panels, received a total of $172 million before filing for bankruptcy.

Of course, there are many reasons why companies that are hugely successful as start-ups eventually fail to sustain long-term growth, from recessions to market pressures to poor management. Another important contributing factor can be the inability to recognize that business expansion requires an adaptation of how a company views itself. Simply put: what works for a start-up in its initial growth spurt won’t work for a company that’s evolving and maturing.

Process discipline is key for growing companies

One key difference between success as a start-up and as a more mature company is process discipline. Think about it: in a start-up that relies on a handful of people who are in close contact with each other, process is often implicit knowledge that every team member knows inside and out. That makes it easy to design, convey and practice processes. Whether team members share the same physical or virtual space, there are relatively few people who need to be informed of and adhere to those processes. And any process changes are easily communicated.

As a company grows, however, it becomes more challenging to convey those same processes to an expanded workforce—especially when there are teams in multiple locations or even multiple countries working together towards the same objective. It also becomes more difficult to determine what is and isn’t working, as well as to communicate any process improvements that need to be made.

Process can be the cornerstone for a company’s values

What’s so important to understand is that when correctly implemented, process can serve as a cornerstone for a company’s values—even while it expands. It can be the framework that holds all of the organization’s resources and assets together, from its people to its technology to its suppliers. Why? Because the reasons why a company creates its processes, the way it designs them and the manner in which it adheres to them are essential to defining and reinforcing its culture and mission.

Process mistakes and how to correct them

Considering the importance of process to a company’s very DNA, it should be clear that it’s critical to invest in robust process management. Here are four process management mistakes growing companies often make—and how to correct them:

Mistake no. 1: Failing to involve leadership

Process helps define your company’s culture, mission and vision. That’s why it’s essential that your leadership team supports process and provides governance to ensure processes are adhered to. This top-down approach will help communicate the value of process management to the entire organization and keep your employees motivated to observe the processes that apply to their roles.

Mistake no. 2: Keeping processes siloed to teams

As your business expands, end-to-end processes will no longer be relegated to individual teams. Instead, they’ll involve multiple teams. To facilitate smooth operations, make sure that process ownership and accountability spans teams. This will also encourage effective collaboration when it comes to identifying and implementing process improvement opportunities.

Mistake no. 3: Failing to communicate process in an accessible and understandable manner

With a growing workforce comes the need to make sure that everyone can find and understand critical processes. Establish a central knowledge base that contain clear, concise processes so employees can reference them as needed.

Mistake no. 4: Becoming complacent

Complacency is the enemy of improvement and innovation. Encourage your teams to always challenge the way things are done by asking, “Why do we do this process this way? Is there a better way to accomplish this?” By nurturing this type of “challenger” philosophy, your company can sustain the innovative mindset that fueled its initial growth.

Create an environment where growth can occur

To successfully scale your organization, you need to create an environment where growth can occur. That includes being aware of process-related mistakes that can impede your company’s development—and finding ways to correct them. Only by doing so can you provide your organization with the foundation it needs to thrive.

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