Growth Insights for CEOs

How People and Organizational Capabilities Sustain Business Growth

Posted by The Chief Outsider

organizational-capabilities-sustain-growthIf you have been following this series of articles on sustainable business growth, you know that we have arrived at our third topic. The first article introduced the difference between a growth plan (singular event) and a growth engine (recurring system). The theme we developed in that piece supported the need to go beyond growth plans to create sustained growth performance. Our argument that while growth plans are good, growth engines are better. 

In our second article, we developed models for integrating growth planning into management processes. The lack of integration typically results in occasional and ineffective management reviews of their organization’s growth portfolio with sporadic inconsistent results. The best practice is to deal with future growth opportunities regularly and consistently. Instead of weekly, monthly, and quarterly reviews of only current revenues, we recommended using the same meeting cadence to review progress toward your horizon 1, 2 and 3 new revenue and profit streams. 

Now we are moving to another dimension of sustainable growth: people, organizational culture, and internal resource support. There is a three-part formula for success. Let’s explore each in turn.

The Key Role: “Growth Champion”

It’s not likely you would recognize this role by this title. Some organizations have senior marketing executives who perform this role, others have innovation officers, and still others have someone in the organization with the accountability for longer-term revenue and profit streams.

The reality, though, is that often no one in the business has this role or these accountabilities.

Without a business leader performing this role, there is no focus for longer-term growth.  We’re emphatically not talking about revenue responsibilities for this month, this quarter, or this year.  We are talking about growth described by the horizon growth model, which maps future revenue streams using a series of three future horizons (H1 = 1-2 years, H2 = 2-3 years, H3 = 3-5 years).  If you would like to learn more about this model, you can check out this article.

The argument for not having the same executive having both short-and longer-term revenue is simple. Short-term priorities always preempt longer-term opportunities. It is almost impossible to lead the effort to meet this month’s sales quota and also spend time building the capabilities needed to generate “next generation” revenue and profit streams. It's the working in the business versus working on the business dichotomy. The Growth Champion role is complementary to the Sales executive role. It is more often positioned organizationally under Marketing than under Sales.

“Growth Champions” are unique. Here’s a view of how an “ideal” growth champion might look.

Competencies and Attributes of a Growth Champion

You’ll note the apparent contradictions in this role. How can someone be both strategic, conceptual and analytical? How can they be collaborative and independent? How about the combination of risk-taking with results-oriented?

We will readily admit that someone with this makeup will be a challenge to identify and recruit. But that doesn’t mean that you cannot find them, or that you cannot take an internal candidate and mentor and coach that person into this role. You’ll need to explore beyond the traditional resume details to understand these competencies and attributes.

To help you get started, we’d like to offer you an example of a complete position description

Organizational Culture

We’ve worked with clients where there is no culture of growth or change. Even if these businesses can find their Growth Champion, the odds are against that person being successful.

It might seem like covering very foundational ground, but if your organization has people who do not think the business has to grow—and in fact, think that growth can be harmful because of the new risks that are perceived to come along—then you have work to do. I recently designed a Growth Champion model for a very successful engineering business. Beyond the immediate concern about how and where they might find Growth Champion candidates, their more pressing concern was securing organizational support for the role. And, they weren’t limiting that need to the executive team. 

I learned this the hard way when I took a Growth Champion role in a business that was looking to diversify its revenue streams. I had a strong, passionate executive sponsor. I had access to funding to build a team of business development experts. I had the freedom and flexibility to build, test, and launch a portfolio of opportunities. What I discovered, though, was that not everyone thought this emphasis on growth was needed.  Even on the executive team, some thought the business was doing just fine and growth would just make their jobs harder. Others thought that growth was in their position description, even though they weren’t spending any time doing it. It took a concerted effort to educate the business on why and how businesses need to grow.

Don’t underestimate the need or the time and effort it may take to lay the foundation for growth. It’s critical to your success.

Internal Resource Support

Many of our clients are far-sighted enough to see that every Growth Champion will ultimately have to depend on internal resources for knowledge, expertise, insights, access to customers, technology, and other business services and support.

That’s time when executives need to not only voice their support—they need to step up with the critical resources needed to define, build, and launch new growth opportunities.  Those critical resources need to understand not only why they should spend some of their time working on what may appear to be speculative projects, but hopefully actively engage because they believe in the need and the opportunity.

It’s a fair question for a new Growth Champion candidate to ask what support they will receive. A Growth Champion doesn’t fly alone. Supporting services will be necessary as soon as an opportunity is prioritized and worthy of a business case or business plan.  That document itself requires a collaborative team to build. Once a decision to proceed is awarded, then even more resources are required. Time and project conflicts will emerge.  The executive team must play an active role in not only prioritizing between potential growth opportunities, but also between ongoing business needs and growth program needs.


A good way to think about the people and organizational needs to build your growth engine is to think of them as core building blocks. These three needs: Growth Champion, Organizational Culture, and Internal Support Resources are complementary and dependent.

Where to Next?

With this article and the first two, we have described three best practices to implementing effective engines of growth in your business. Here’s what you can expect from the last two follow-on articles:

Topic: Platforms

We will focus on building a robust set of enabling tools which fit into the business, adopting and standardizing scorecards, financial models, business cases and business plans, and completing periodic reviews of voice-of-customer VOC, competitive monitoring, and market analyses.

Topic: Roadmap, Results, Metrics, Benefits

This article will focus on effective adoption of best practices, offer a logical sequence to implementation, and discuss building organizational and program maturity.

Please stay tuned for more practical guidance as we bring best practices for implementing engines of growth forward.

Engage with Us!

Do you have ideas to share? Are there some topics that you would like us to address?  Give us a call or email us and we’ll be happy to chat with you.

If you want to download a free Growth Champion Position Description, please register here.

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cmo-mark-coronna-smMark Coronna 
Partner & CMO

Topics: Revenue Growth, Business Growth Strategy, Strategic Planning

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