Is Pure Growth The Right Metric?
There's certainly a value to be placed on growth. On the continual pursuit of expansion.
It drives us to look for development opportunities, to rethink how things are done, to change what we think is 'conventional' i.e. "the way it's always been".
Growth is a tremendous value creator. A growth engine - be it at a national, company or individual level - leads to increased economic prosperity, and broader development opportunities for a wider populace.
But what happens when growth becomes the singular, overriding metric for a company? When the pursuit of revenue (or personal wealth) is the only goal that one values?
What happens is that we begin to focus less on the why and more on the what.
What does it take to get another dollar? How do we tack on one additional product or service to the client's invoice. How do we extend our time with the client so as to prolong the assignment and generate more cash.
What happens is that we diffuse who we are and what we are about. We diffuse (or altogether forget) our original mission.
Why are we doing this in the first place? Whose lives are we going to change? How are we going to make a particular situation or person or cause better?
What happens is that we think that growth in and of itself is the underlying goal. And we stop at nothing to fuel that growth, or more accurately feed that addiction, despite the toxic impacts that it inevitably has on the corporate ethos, the underlying morale and the long term viability of the entity.
And then we become just another whore, peddling our wares in a crass commercial market that exists and operates for selfish reasons, with no true constituency or underlying motive (other than the purely economic).
And when the wheels come apart, as they inevitably do, we wonder what went wrong, blaming one group or another within the organization.
When the reason all along was that we had lost our soul in the constant pursuit of another dollar, and another, and another.
I'd suggest we all adopt a wider set of metrics. That we look at growth, for sure, because growth - effectively managed - can be positive, and additive to society in a wide range of senses.
But we need to also consider why the growth is needed.
What is it in pursuit of? How is it helping to solve a specific set of customer problems? What is the growth giving us the opportunity to do in the furtherance of that mission? How is it helping us galvanize, catalyze and embed the change that we seek?
And as important, will the pursuit of growth in our specific situational context destabilize the enterprise that we have built so far?
Because sometimes organizations need to take a breath and absorb what they have already achieved, to fortify their foundations, before another step can be taken.
(Contrary to what some people will tell you, there's nothing wrong with that.)
So, again, to be clear, there's nothing wrong with growth. Growth is good.
Let's just make sure we're doing it for the right reasons.