If you think big and start small, you can move mountains
I had a great opportunity recently to interview Major General Meyerrose (USAF-RET) on the subject of organizational transformation. Major General Dale Meyerrose is the first Senate confirmed President appointed Chief Information Officer for the intelligence community. The video and transcript of that interview will be available as a post on this site soon, but I wanted to provide a taste of what is to come and drive talk a bit about one of the subjects he brought up in the interview. We were talking about approaches to organizational transformation and he said that he likes to tell people to, “Think big, start small and scale fast.” For me, this really resonates and is something I fully intend to re-use with clients because it captures so much of what I believe to be best practice for anyone contemplating an organizational transformation. In fact, this is probably great advice to heed when working to improve your personal performance as well. I’m going to briefly summarize my takeaways regarding this line below, but please come back and watch the interview to get it straight from Major General Meyerrose.
- Think big. It is critical to start from the ideal end state. You may have to scale back, down, or revise this over time; but by starting with your ideal world you can ensure that you don’t miss an opportunity at greatness. I have often advocated for an incremental approach; but I think it is important to increment with an eye towards your ideal end result and without putting limits on what that ideal end state may be.
- Start small. I think this is incredibly insightful on many levels. By starting small, you increase the likelihood you will succeed by keeping things manageable. Especially on the heels of thinking big, the temptation is to try to do it all. One of the hardest things to do in the excitement of having come up with the next big thing for your organization is to scale it back into something that you can do and succeed at now. Getting that first increment to be successful is critical because you increase the likelihood of long-term success simply by starting with a win. Success breeds success and it will be easier to get the go ahead on the next project by choosing manageable first steps.
- Scale fast. To maximize your return on investment, you need to find the sweet spot between early and incremental success, organizational maturity, and momentum. This is where things get tricky. Finding the right time to scale has the “art” of leadership written all over it as opposed to any scientific approach I can give you. Essentially, I think you need to have developed enough goodwill on the basis of your success in order to get funding and executive buy-in. You also need to have developed the right skills and processes within the organization to enable the scale-up you intend. Finally, I think you need to choose the point where you have enough organizational momentum (executive heads nodding along with the boots on the ground) in order to overcome any rough patches you hit during scale up.
The above are my words tied to the General’s advice. Please check back and get his advice in his own words. I will try to have the interview out by the end of the week.