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The Journey

“I’ve worked with Growth River for more than 15 years in some very complex and politically volatile business environments, including post-merger integrations and turnarounds. If you are looking for change leadership experts to work with your executive team through the toughest challenges, there is no better choice than Growth River.”
Michael Tease, CEO AMG

The Growth River Approach

Three Distinctions

These three key distinctions frame the approach we take to create value for clients.

  1. The first is that businesses are not machines that can be fixed. They are complex social systems that need to be led.
  2. Second, like doctors need a shared language to link symptoms to solutions, leaders need a shared language to precisely define challenges and solutions to accelerate performance.
  3. Third, transformational change is change to the underlying culture, structure, strategy and processes of your organization. It is a journey into the unknown.

Our value is to collaborate intimately with clients to map transformation change journeys. We do this by leveraging the Growth River Operating System, or OS.

What is the OS?

The OS offers leaders a proven set of frameworks for leading transformational change required to scale any type and size of company. These frameworks are set apart by two factors. First, they put people first, right in the center of the growth and scale challenge. Second, the OS provides them a shared language and comprehensive tool set to work collaboratively and accelerate performance.

The journey to scale and growth is a puzzle. And how do you work a puzzle? First, you find the corners and edges. The Growth River OS defines the four corners through four foundational frameworks.

Together these four frameworks work as a GPS, providing leaders and teams with the tools needed to navigate complex change towards scale and growth. These frameworks include: Seven Crucial ConversationsEvolutionary Stages, The Business Triangle, and Competitive Advantage

The Seven Crucial Conversations

This everyone knows: unlocking business performance requires accelerating team performance. And unlocking organizational performance requires accelerating performance across teams. What is less obvious is how.

The Seven Crucial Conversations is a shared language for growing and scaling companies. The purpose of the 7CCs is to build High Performing Teams (HPTs), Organizations (HPOs), and Business Segments (HPBs).

"Developing high performing teams (HPTs) with a shared language is a smart and proven approach to:

    • Effective leadership development
    • Healthier work environments
    • Accountable cultures
    • Scalable organizations
    • Focused business segments
    • Higher sustainable results

Each crucial conversation contains a series of key performance milestones that empower teams and organizations to cultivate shared perspectives, ways of working, and skills. It includes distinctions, frameworks, metrics synthesized from working with 100's of organizations over the last two decades.

Think of the 7CCs and their milestones as a blueprint to enable teams to accelerate their performance journey.

1. Activating Purpose: Team members know why their team exists. Their shared purpose is alive and informs key decisions, and is an anchor in the face of ambiguity. This establishes a powerful leadership clearing, clarifying what is needed and wanted by the team from each member.

2. Driving Focus: Team members design and follow shared maps to guide performance and agility, and to inform learning. They understand how the work of the team fits into the larger organization’s value streams and performance journey. They apply data to identify gaps and set priorities.

3. Shifting Mindset: Team members consciously take choices to create an environment of trust, transparency, and accountability. They are actively committed to each other’s performance and development.

4. Specifying Roles: Team members implement consultative decision-making. They design and implement a system of capabilities and roles required to win. And they build in key creative tension as a source of innovation and accountability.

5. Streamlining Interdependencies: Team members structure and manage key points of intersection within and beyond the team. They implement meetings, protocols, processes, and other systems, creating the conditions for operational excellence.

6. Aligning Strategies: Every team member defines and advocates strategies to win for their areas of accountability. Naturally this leads to creative tension within and beyond the team. They resolve these tensions through discussion and negotiation towards overall competitive advantage, unleashing collective intelligence and the insights of diversity.

7. Implementing Initiatives: Team members plan and implement initiatives through iterative testing and validation, maximizing value, accelerated learning, and minimizing waste.


The Business Triangle

Ironically, most people in business do not a shared definition of what a business is. The cost of this is often masked as conflictive decision-making, politics, unclear roles, and redundant or suboptimal capabilities. In sum, a loss of agility.

The Business Triangle is a powerful and elegant model that unravels complexity by depicting the relationships between capabilities, roles, and the target client experience.

Members of high performing organizations adopt a shared language for designing and sustaining winning businesses. They start with the recognition that there are four basic types of enterprise capabilities.

    1. Developing Capabilities: to create winning value propositions.
    2. Selling Capabilities: to gain access to target customers and to orchestrate perfect purchase moments.
    3. Delivering Capabilities: to generate positive referrals and reputation.
    4. Supporting Capabilities: to create economies of scale or mitigate risk.

These four types of capabilities exist in every company and across all businesses. When your people understand the scope of their team’s and the organization’s purpose relative to these four types of capabilities, they know where and how to play. And they know how the different capabilities work together as a system for growth and competitive advantage.

These insights provide a basis for attracting and developing talent, aligning capabilities to roles, roles to strategies, and strategies to competitive advantage.

To develop this thinking, start with the definition of a business:

A business is as a system of capabilities designed to develop, sell, deliver, and support products and services to target customers in a way that optimizes growth and competitive advantage.

This definition can be depicted as The Business Triangle.


Evolutionary Stages

Growth River: Evolutionary Stages

Evolutionary Stages is a framework that describes the predictable stages through which business organizations evolve over time.

The mouse that eventually learns to navigate the maze discovers there is one optimal path through it. It learns to avoid investments in dead ends.

Navigating business follows the same logic. There is an optimal path to growth and scale, one that is followed by all companies across industries. We call this pattern Evolutionary Stages.

This framework provides leaders a powerful compass for leading change. It helps identify where an organization is on its performance journey. It drives focus by clarifying current challenges - and forecasts future challenges. It enables leaders to create the narratives that are absolutely critical for leading transformation.

All enterprises inevitably move through four distinct stages as they adapt towards higher volumes and to manage greater complexity. Each of these stages emerges naturally in order to solve the constraints and pathologies of the previous stage.

Here's the archetypical story:

An entrepreneur cuts deals to attract the talent and resources needed to prove an idea. Players work interdependently as needed, and everybody takes turns emptying the trash. They form a loose confederation. Culturally and strategically, they operate at Stage I: Individual Contributor.

With eventual success comes greater complexity. The opportunity to scale requires a different approach. The loose confederation isn't working. People have to think differently, and they have to organize themselves differently. One person has to take charge. Enter Stage II: Directive Leadership.

The company scales. Both new opportunities and challenges emerge. On the plus side, it now becomes possible to play in new markets. Yet the organization is built for yesterday, not tomorrow. The culture, incentives, capabilities and strategies all have to evolve. Decision-making has become a bottleneck. Concentrated at the top, it resides far away from where value is created. Siloed capabilities reduce agility or, in the worst cases, fragment the customer experience.

Enter Stage III: Complete System of Roles. Multiple business segments are introduced and functional capabilities are redesigned to serve across them. A complete system of strategies is implemented, reinforcing distributed decision-making and leadership.

With continued success, come new challenges. In particular, costs become untamable as every team has a leader and every leader gets paid more. Enter Stage IV: Leaders Leading Leaders. A shared performance language enables leaders to oversee multiple teams. And the teams self-author their performance journey, enabled and aligned.

There are two key insights from this story.

First, obviously no stages can be skipped. Enterprise evolution is a layered learning journey; skipping a layer creates a fragile structure.

Second, at each stage the next investment required to accelerate is predictable.

Third, leaders are able to create compelling transformational change narratives - "This is where we were, where we are, and where we are going."

Evolutionary stages is depicted as a clock. High performing teams know what 'time it is on the clock.' This enables them to know what problem they are solving to get to the next level.


Competitive Advantage

Competitive advantage is a measurable state with distinct metrics.

The Four Metrics for Competitive Advantage enables leaders and teams to identify and make strategic tradeoffs. It can be applied to align decisions and resolve conflicts in the direction of competitive advantage.

The four metrics are:

    1. Market Potential:
      • provider of choice
      • employer of choice
      • channel partner of choice
      • community member of choice
      • investment of choice
    2. Operational Scalability
    3. Business Model Sustainability
    4. Financial Returns

Read this white paper on the Four Metrics For Competitive Advantage.