Scaling Up

How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t

Author: Verne Harnish
Genre: nonfiction; business, management, strategy
Rating: 4/5

In one sentence: if you’re looking to bring some structure to your company that’s easy to implement and doesn’t turn your organization into a bureaucracy, this is the book for you.

Scaling Up is the sequel to The Rockefeller Habits. Those habits form a practical framework for growing businesses, originally published in 2002 by Verne Harnish. This new title, Scaling Up, revamps the entire methodology.

The framework is simple, yet not easy to master. Simple, because it connects long-term strategic planning to your day-to-day activities through a fixed meeting rhythm and a series of templates that come with the book.

Not easy, because following the habits requires discipline. Implementing the concepts from this book means reserving time each week to spend on strategic planning and thinking. This can seem almost impossible in a relatively small and growing organization, where most work rests in the urgent / important quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix.

If you do manage to free up that space in your team’s schedule, the methodology can be extremely powerful. It ensures you keep an eye on the long-term, while simultaneously having everyone laser-focused on the #1 priority of the company. The book also provides clear tips and guidelines on getting the right people onboard (and keeping them happy!), and on how to improve your cash position (and keeping it healthy!).

So are there any disadvantages? Certainly. For one, it’s easy to overwhelm yourself and your team by trying to implement everything at once. As the author himself writes early on:

“WARNING: You’ll drive everyone in the organization crazy if you implement all of these habits at one time. The key is focusing on one or two each quarter, giving everyone roughly 24 to 36 months to install these simple, yet powerful, routines.”

It’s tempting to go after everything right away, because you will want to improve in all four key areas described in the book (People, Strategy, Execution, Cash). But taking it one step at a time, starting with the area that needs most attention, is crucial to making this work.

Another problem is that the author is holding back a bit. Harnish runs a global training and coaching company, and it’s at times too obvious the book doubles as a sales pitch for his firm’s services. He is generous when it comes to sharing book recommendations, but almost up to a fault: there are so many quotations and references to other books, you will despair about all the required follow-up reading.

Having said that: if you’re looking to bring some structure to your company that’s easy to implement and doesn’t turn your organization into a bureaucracy, this is the book for you. You and your team can get started with the provided tools right away, and you will immediately notice a difference.

“It’s about keeping everyone focused on the summit (BHAG®) and then deciding the appropriate next step (quarterly Priority) while respecting the rules that keep you from being swept off the mountain (Values).”

This quote from the book nicely sums up how the methodology connects the long-term to the now. By having a clear goal in the distant future, anchoring it in values and then planning and reviewing accordingly each quarter, you set an effective and pleasant rhythm for you and your team to turn that big dream into reality!

> Scaling Up

Goes well with The Hard Thing About Hard Things: while Scaling Up provides a framework to run your business, The Hard Thing About Hard Things looks more at the psychological challenges you face as a boss.


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