Keep Your Company's Metabolism High

Keep Your Company's Metabolism High

The answer for leaders of companies large and small: Set a faster pace.

  • min read


Keep Your Company's Metabolism High

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Many large company CEOs I talk with say the most serious issue their companies face is a lack of urgency. When their companies were smaller, everyone worked relentlessly to build a strong market position. But once that’s achieved and they know that tomorrow won’t bring disaster, the company’s pulse begins to slow and its reactions grow sluggish.

At smaller companies, this is the moment when opportunities begin to pass by faster than people can grasp them. At larger companies, such behavior often triggers painful waves of reorganization very late in the game. Think of the legions of brick-and-mortar companies that offered low prices as an essential part of their strategy, yet initially saw the Internet as a threat rather than a potential quantum advance.

The answer for leaders of companies large and small: Set a faster pace. A Monday morning meeting can help resolve conflict before it becomes paralyzing. Just as important, a weekly meeting also sends a signal about the cadence you want employees to adopt.

At some point, most companies settle into calendars of monthly meetings, or six annual innovation events, or four big offsites. That’s as deadly as clogged arteries. Employees themselves start to work at a lower metabolic rate, and all activities slow down to fit the rhythms of that calendar. If the executive team meets monthly, decisions can stall for four weeks. If the innovation council meets six times a year, then innovation won’t progress faster than two-month steps.

A Monday meeting cuts through the cobwebs. It fairly screams to the organization, “Kick it in gear! You don’t have months to resolve bottlenecks or make decisions, you have hours, or you’ll hear from us before this day next week.”

Of course, it doesn’t have to be Monday, and it doesn’t have to be a meeting. Once CEO I know doesn’t bother assembling his executive team weekly, but keeps the same afternoon free every week to hear and resolve conflicts as they bubble up. That’s a substantial amount of time in a CEO’s agenda, but it makes clear to employees that if the CEO won’t let anything slow down the company, then they better not either.

James Allen is co-leader of the global strategy practice at Bain & Company and co-author of the upcoming book “The Founder’s Mentality.”


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