Signs a Fast-Growing Organization is at a ‘Crisis Point’ (And What to do About It)

Leading a fast-growing organization, whether it’s a business or a nonprofit, is a lot like climbing a steep mountain to the top. It can be both exhilarating and rewarding. This is especially true if you’ve been achieving your growth objectives, over and over again. But, one of the biggest challenges for leaders of successful organizations is to figure out how to keep growing and thriving into the future. Why? Because, as an organization continues to expand it will eventually hit a ceiling. This is called a ‘crisis point’. And, for most growing organizations, this will happen more than once.

A ‘crisis point’ is like a fork in the road. It’s a pivotal moment, when a growing organization experiences uncertainty and significant growth-related challenges. This happens when an organization becomes a victim of its own success. The organization starts to show its limitations, and it can no longer grow unless critical internal changes are made.

Most importantly, being stuck at a ‘crisis point’ for too long can throw an organization off course completely. And, if left unchecked, it can cause an organization to fail. In this post, I will discuss how you can overcome a ‘crisis point’, and position your organization for continuous growth.

Reaching a ‘Crisis Point’ Means An Organization Must Evolve

In 1972, Larry E. Greiner, a leading management strategy expert, introduced a growth model. Commonly known as the ‘Greiner Curve’, it’s still widely used today. According to Greiner, regardless of industry and size, all organizations experience a series of distinct growth stages, marked by periods of uncertainty.

In his research, he observed that because new challenges emerge during growth, organizations gradually slip into a period of ‘crisis’ at the end of each stage. And, he concluded that the only way for an organization to progress from one growth stage to another is by overcoming this period of ‘crisis’. How? By making the necessary internal changes and evolving.

Top Signs an Organization is at a ‘Crisis Point’

When you’re running a fast-growing organization, it’s crucial to take a step back to make sure you’re on the right track. It’s important to pause, ‘zoom out’ and take a hard look at the bigger picture. Is your organization hitting all of the growth targets? How is growth impacting employee wellness? Are you able to deliver your offerings to your customers effectively? In addition, watch for the key signs your organization is slipping into a period of ‘crisis’:

Lack of Strategic Direction & Clarity: You and your teams have met many growth objectives on your strategic plan. Your organization has grown successfully in the past, but you don’t know what to tackle next. You have tapped out most of your resources, and more is needed to continue growing.

Operational Inefficiencies: Your customer base has expanded and demand for your offerings has increased. But, right now your teams are not operating effectively, and they are unable to fulfill the needs of their customers.

Financial Instability: You’ve invested in many areas like marketing, new systems, tools and larger office space to support your growth objectives. But, the return on investment (ROI) has been slow, and the financial health of your organization is beginning to suffer.

Decrease in Employee Engagement : Because of the operational and financial challenges, the work environment is beginning to suffer. In fact, some of your employees are starting to become disengaged. There is an increase in employee absences, and you notice some of your top employees are leaving your organization.

Drive Growth by Making People a Top Priority

So, as a leader, what can you do to ensure your organization thrives and keeps growing successfully? When we experience growth challenges, we react by focusing most of our resources on improving the infrastructure or ‘hard’ side of the organization. For example, we may invest on creating new, faster and better ways of doing things by redesigning business processes. Or, we may implement a new software platform and introduce new work tools.

While fixing the operational elements will help alleviate some challenges, without the right talent in place, your organization will remain stuck at a ‘crisis point’. So instead, focus on the ‘human’ side of your organization first. Take a close look at the people and the teams you currently have in place. Determine if you have the right organizational structure in place. Assess your teams to see if you have the right mix of talent to help scale and grow your organization into the future.

Finally, don’t neglect the organizational culture. As the organization grows, the culture will inevitably change too. So it’s important to have a strategy in place to make sure you’re instilling the right culture in your organization. Start by conducting an organizational culture assessment. Once you’ve pinpointed the gaps, formulate a plan to build a positive high-performing culture that will drive growth.

Are you leading a fast-growth company, start-up or nonprofit? How did you overcome your biggest challenges? Connect with me to share your insights.  

About Irlana Ho

I believe that by helping organizations leverage diversity, we can build a more inclusive world where every individual’s uniqueness is respected, valued and embraced. For over a decade, I’ve worked in global companies in industries such as aerospace, telecommunications and fashion retail. Within these diverse business environments, I’ve enabled leaders and their teams to excel and make their mark, by helping them implement remarkable people management strategies, talent development programs and solutions. I’ve seen that when the right organizational culture is in place - a culture of true collaboration, synergy and inclusion - a diverse multicultural team can thrive and be unstoppable at achieving great things, and even the impossible.