Growth Q & A


Robert M. Tomasko


To help launch the Spanish translation of Go For Growth, Gestion's July-August 1998 issue featured a quote from the book on its cover and an author interview inside. This magazine is the "Harvard Business Review" of Argentina, and this issue included articles from Warren Bennis, Ester Dyson, Henry Mintzberg, and Adrian Slywotzky.


The Gestion cover read:

Los ambios ocurren solamente
cuando las personas cambian.
El crecimiento, cuando las personas crecen.

... which translates roughly to: Change occurs only when people change. Growth occurs only when people grow.

Here are a few other points I tried to emphasize in the interview:


Q. Is growth the same as getting bigger?

A. Increasing in size alone is not a good growth objective. Growth is not always synonymous with becoming bigger, but it always involves becoming better. Better means to be in better control of your destiny. For some companies this happens best when they become smaller.


Q. When a company embarks on a growth plan, how can it neutralize the
danger of risking the future?

A. It cannot. The future is inherently risky. but some futures are riskier than others. Scenario and alternative futures planning can help make these risks visible, but planning cannot eliminate risks. What it does provide is a "heads up" warning; it provides lead time necessary to make intelligent mid-course corrections.


Q. Growth generates anxiety. How do you transform it into vision and courage?

A. By having , and widely sharing throughout the company, a concrete vision of the growth result you want to achieve - and then constantly evaluating the progress being made toward achieving it.

Anxiety and fear are the constant companions of reengineering and downsizing. When growth becomes the key driver of the business, these emotions are replaced by a different kind of unease - creative tension.

This is where the energy comes from to move the business forward.


Q. Is growth only the job of top management?

A. No. Every employee must understand her or his part in the growth plan.

Q. What is the most important growth skill that should be spread through out the organization?

A. All employees need to see clearly the connections between the events taking place TODAY and the results they want in the FUTURE. They also must be able to understand how today's conditions are a direct result of actions that happened, or did not happen, in the past.

This ability to think across time horizons is not common. Too often we become mired in today's problems, and are unable to see future possibilities. And sometimes we become so defensive about our current predicament, that we fail to understand the root causes of our problems.


Q. What kind of companies have the best chance to achieve a high level of growth?

A. Ones able to focus simultaneously on future opportunities and current realities. They are able to avoid directing people's attention in their rear view mirrors (looking backward at the past). They are also able to focus on creating new realities, not just fixing past problems.


Q. What things have changed since you wrote your book about downsizing?

A. Downsizing has become a too much of a habit in some companies, a substitute for having a strategy. Employee and managerial loyalty has weakened.

In too many companies cost cutting has become an end in itself. Downsizing should never be done without placing it in the context of an overall growth plan for the business.

Downsizing is too often used in place of the harder job of developing a strategy for renewal and growth.


© Robert M. Tomasko 2002



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