Many of the businesses we work with go through periods of time that can be described as chaotic and painful. There is a certain reality that hits owners and leadership teams that is unavoidable yet painfully necessary. We have even heard business owners question why they went into business as they experience the challenges that are presented. Why are these chaotic times occurring? And, is there anything that can be done to predict when a transition will occur?

As organizations grow, there are predictable stages they go through.  These stages are like clockwork when it comes to how they impact structure, leadership, gates of focus and more.  Between each stage of growth is what are called Transition Zones. Those Transition Zones are actually a phase of chaos that the organization moves through to prepare itself for the next stage of growth. Literally without that chaos, the organization would not be able to sustain itself or be able to compete in the next stage of growth.

So these zones, or chaotic zones are an important juncture in the growth model of any organization. They are going to hit you, you can’t ignore them but you can know when they hit and you can prepare for them. These chaotic transition zones are evident also in nature, of which many of the concepts of the 7 Stages of Growth are compared. Nature tells us a lot about change and the necessity of that change is the same in nature as it is in organizations. Take for example the caterpillar whose sole purpose is to become a beautiful butterfly. That butterfly will have to go through the chrysalis stage of change and experience a lot of chaos before it emerges as a butterfly. If something interrupts that change, the transition will never occur and the butterfly will die before it’s able to emerge from the cocoon.

The same thing happens in companies as they move through these chaos zones. It’s also interesting to note that inside these vulnerable transition zones of company growth, a high level of confusion among the staff about what is going on often appears. While leaders of organizations tend to understand and accept change (mainly because they are at the helm of creating that change) the employees in an organization are often caught off guard and confused by that change. As human beings we tend to gravitate toward what’s safe, and what can be explained. We look for a state of equilibrium that is safe and understandable. However, if we stay in that state too long an organization can slowly die.

As companies move through these stages of growth they experience two transition zones.

Flood Zone – a Flood Zone is a transition zone that shows up when the level of activity in an organization increases – literally the company tends to feel like there is a flood of activity. The people in the organization quickly feel overwhelmed by the activity occurring. There are more projects, more money, more confusion and performance and productivity can erode. When this occurs, there is a knee-jerk reaction by the leadership to hire more people. In fact, hiring more people simply creates more activity and the company continues to feel like they are drowning.

The Flood Zone occurs between Stages 1 and 2, Stages 3 and 4 and Stages 5 and 6 (go here to find out more about these stages). If you are in any of these stages of growth, the first reaction of the leader should be to slow everything down and have people evaluate what exactly is going on. Instead of hiring more people, which adds to the complexity of the organization, the company should look at what it is doing, how it is doing it and ask everyone involved if there other systems or processes that can be put in place to reduce the level of confusion and concern.

Wind Tunnel – a Wind Tunnel is much different than a Flood Zone. A Wind Tunnel requires the organization to let go of methodologies that no longer work and create new ones that do. The leadership will have a difficult time recognizing that what worked before isn’t working now. Because of the increase in complexity, the company must re-evaluate how they are managing the many different aspects of the company and find new ways that will work better. To believe that ‘what worked before will continue to work’ is a strategy that will create a high level of frustration among the employees. The best practice as you experience a Wind Tunnel is to ‘tap into the intelligence’ of your staff and encourage them to innovate new ways of operating that are a better fit for the size of the organization and the demands placed upon it because of the number of employees. A Wind Tunnel occurs between Stages 2 and 3, Stages 4 and 5 and Stages 6 and 7.

Both transitions zones are a part of growth. You can’t ignore these chaos zones but you can begin to understand them and you can create a language of growth that will help your employees understand what is going on.

We help you gain clarity on where your company is today and why it may be experiencing specific growth issues. With this information, we help align your management team, empowering them to identify and address issues faster. Our Stages of Growth X-Ray® assessment provides a comprehensive look at where the company has come from and examine its current status in the critical areas. This ensures we are focused on facts and the root cause of issues impacting your growth rather than making assumptions about what is getting in your way.  We then look ahead at addressing the challenges to growth and identify what obstacles you may need to remove. At the end of the process, we help you create a roadmap to growth that will resonate with every single person in the company to unlock and realize your growth potential.

Contact The Vantage Group today for additional information on how our Centered approach to growth planning can benefit your organization.