How Do You Scale Culture During Growth Phases?

Each organisation has its own unique culture that defines and differentiates it, even at the start-up stage. It could be the camaraderie among team members or a strong family culture or certain agility in decision making. As the company grows, there is a real danger that the unique culture may not survive the expansion drive.

The ability of the organization to scale its culture such that it survives the growth phase is an important success factor. It’s not possible without a structured mechanism or a plan to help achieve this.

Identify What Makes You Unique

Every organization has its own inherent culture that makes it unique. Sometimes, these unsaid rules, values, and practices that are unique to the culture simply need to be formalized. For example, Twitter has a quarterly ‘Hack week’ that allows employees to explore their own ideas. Netflix offers unlimited vacation days to its employees, right from the beginning. Identifying what makes you unique is useful to ensure consistency as the organization grows globally.

Dial-up the Good; Dial-down the Bad

Certain aspects of the culture might need to be dialled up to accommodate future growth, while some things need to be dialled down. For instance, if the organisation has a naturally dynamic culture, this quality might hold it in good stead during a growth phase. However, a lack of discipline in accounting practices will need to be fixed.

Define the Culture

Involve both HR and leadership to arriving at an accurate articulation of the culture through a consultative approach. Some questions need to be asked: What are the non-negotiable core values of the organisation? What are the principles that govern the operations of the organisation on a day-to-day basis? How well is the culture aligned with the organisation’s business goals?

Walk the Talk

Any exercise to safeguard organisational culture in times of growth can only be successful if leaders champion it wholeheartedly. Getting leaders to truly live the non-negotiable aspects of the culture on the ground is hard work.

Have a Clear Framework

Let’s say that compassion, empathy and people centricity are stated values of the organisation. In such a case, if there is an employee who is performing poorly due to personal issues, how do you ensure that everyone on the team shows genuine concern, rather than viewing the employee’s performance in isolation? How does one balance the values with business interests? Having a common framework in place to guide these choices can help.

Enabling leaders to live the ethos and create a sustainable culture requires a strong governance and communication framework. It needs to be facilitated through the right toolkits, templates, and action plans.

As business objectives evolve, so will the culture. A dynamic culture that is closely tied to core values is the only way to achieve sustainable growth.