Ready to Grow?


Ready To Grow with the Baldrige Excellence Framework?

Most organizations have growth as part of their strategy. Sometimes that growth is organic; at other times it occurs through mergers or acquisitions. The latter often comes with a clash of cultures, something that I witnessed when AlliedSignal acquired Honeywell (and took their name). It was so blatant that people identified themselves as members of Honeywell New and Honeywell Classic.

But even organizations that grow organically run risks as they expand. In a recent article in Forbes,, Chris Cancialosi explored how Zappos has preserved its culture as it has grown. Like many of the executives we interviewed for our book*, Tony Hsieh – CEO at Zappos – was intentional about defining the culture he wanted for the company. That meant forming a team to make explicit those implicit behaviors that characterized their unique culture in Zappos’ 10 Core Values. This has given Zappos employees a common language as well as a mental model for what “right” means at the company.

But managing culture isn’t the only challenge facing growing organizations. Many times approaches that supported a smaller organization don’t scale up to meet the demands of a larger organization. Information technology, supply chain management, customer support, and other systems may be stressed with a growth rate that happens rapidly and was not planned for both strategically and in tactical detail.

Several leaders, we interviewed for our book described the challenges of managing an organization that is geographically dispersed. Dr. David Spong, the retired executive who led two different Boeing divisions to win the Baldrige Award, talked about his use of the Baldrige Excellence Framework as a way to effectively manage the second division he led. Boeing Support Systems was a very large organization with more than 13,000 employees spread across eight major sites in six states. In order for the division to apply for the Baldrige Award, he needed each site to begin its own journey to performance excellence. Each site leader was challenged to begin submitting applications to their state’s program and to finally earn its highest level award. What David hadn’t anticipated was the value of having his entire organization using the same framework for running the business, having a common language, and reinforcing alignment up and down and across the division.

How is your organization prepared for growth? How would a systems perspective help you develop a plan to preserve your culture and have the processes you’ll need? Check out the Baldrige Excellence Framework. It doesn’t have all the answers, but it has all of the right questions.

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