Huggy Rao is a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. He is also the co-author of the evidence-based management book Scaling up Excellence, reviewed by Bret L Simmons here. In 2014, he gave a TEDxUniversityofNevada talk: Scaling up Excellence. Huggy said an organization is excellent when people do the right thing even when no one is watching over their shoulder. Scaling with excellence requires personal and organizational integrity.
An organization is excellent when people do the right thing even when no one is watching over their shoulder.
Huggy explained that the problem with excellence is that it is in short supply. Most people seek to scale their business by focusing on the “footprint” not by embracing a “mindset”. When the purpose is an internally-focused financial objective, this can lead to larger problems for a company. For example, this Forbes 2015 article discussed Volkswagen’s longstanding goal to become the worlds biggest automaker. Volkswagen’s purpose was focused on footprint versus an externally focused customer impact, like increasing quality and customer satisfaction.
When the purpose is financially driven, people are not focused on doing the right thing for customers. That’s why Huggy said that scaling isn’t just about numbers, it’s a mindset. This mindset is reflected in the way we see our employees interact with customers everyday. Employees should be more than ambassadors of the company or a brand; employees should be advocates for customers. Scaling with excellence occurs when employees feel accountability or a sense of ownership in their work.
Scaling isn’t just about numbers, it’s a mindset.
Companies must move from bad to great with an elimination of the negative and accentuation of the positive. Huggy explained that the signal for a bad organization is that no one cares. People with more than 7 things on their plate become cognitively overloaded. Employees facing too many demands become careless and their feeling of accountability is devalued. Finally, Huggy explained in detail that companies must also know when to replicate versus adapt best business practices.
In short, here’s the summarized list for scaling up excellence:
- Ditch the footprint focus and embrace a mindset of integrity
- Train people to operate as advocates for customers, not ambassadors
- Create a culture where employees have accountability and ownership
- Counter the bad with five times the good
- Avoid cognitively overloading employees
- Know when to replicate versus adapt best practices
What else does it take to scale up with excellence?