Is bigger better? Is it necessary for success?
Has our attraction to bigness become a fatal one? It sure seems so, with increasing frequency. Is bigger really better? Consolidation is the name of the game in the corporate world. Eat or get eaten.
I’m no Luddite. I appreciate technology and how the application of new technologies has made our world better, safer and much less inhospitable for our species. And I believe that our technological prowess may someday be the salvation for humanity if and when we need to leave this planet. (I would not object to a few miscreants heading out sooner, on their own.)
But, dang, it sure seems that we are getting ahead of ourselves and our capabilities to effectively manage what we are bringing to into being. Is it time to get serious about getting small?
The growth imperative pervades the western world. Can we grow indefinitely; to infinity and beyond? Do we need to, to be successful? How much growth is enough?
These are questions that we have asked in my organization, Columbia County Habitat for Humanity, as we began planning for the next few years. The lack of quality affordable housing has reached crisis levels, (in our region and throughout the country) with more and more working families unable to secure safe, decent housing at an affordable cost. This challenge is morphing from a social and class issue into an economic one as well. Communities cannot thrive if their workforce can’t afford to live where their jobs are. We are determined to rise to meet the challenge.
Among the bigger picture questions that we have been asking ourselves is: How do we grow; how do we make progress? Is there a difference? And, ultimately, what should our goals be?
The dictionary says that, as a noun, growth is an increase in size, number, value, or strength, while progress is movement or advancement through a series of events, or points in time; development through time. As a verb, progress is to move, go, or proceed forward; to advance. Growth is a result; progress is a process.
How much growth is too much? If your growth goal stretches your organization and its people beyond their capacities or resources, then growth is not good. Systems fail, people burn out, something breaks. Goal-oriented folks aren’t necessarily good at saying “no mas.”
When you stretch a team beyond its organic capacity, it breaks. From my experience, you often don’t have advance warning. Higher-performing employees (the ones that any organization depends on most) burn out like Hemingway’s character described his path to bankruptcy in The Sun Also Rises: “two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
When setting goals, you must also account for the additional resources needed to achieve those objectives. As expressed in our Vision 2025, our goal is to change more lives by building more affordable housing in our community over the next several year. We will grow through creating new partnerships and services that can extend our own reach and capabilities.
As noted by Peter Drucker, “The non-profit institution’s … “product” is a cured patient, a child that learns, a young man or woman grown into a self-respecting adult; a changed human life altogether.”
We think we can turn Hemingway around, and grow gradually, then suddenly. And change more lives as we progress. As the saying goes:
“If you want to go fast, you go alone. If you want to go far, you go together.”
Good questions, Al. Growth benefitting whom? Progress toward what?
Working together--what a concept!