Achieving Growth: Creating a Common Language

Achieving Growth: Creating a Common Language

We work with a lot of growing businesses to improve their bottom line. This month we’ve
invited a guest – Mike McKenzie of McKenzie Growth Management
(www.growthprobability.com) – to write about growing the top line. It ties in with
this month’s theme of communication and team building.


A new day, a new client, yet I was listening to the same old boardroom debate.

The directors were all passionate about their business, but they had wildly different views of
how best to achieve the growth they desired. For one director, it was all about additional
investment in their core product. For another director, their market was overcrowded, and
they needed to find new ways to grow. A side conversation was taking place about the need
to invest in HR and training in order to improve staff retention. Meanwhile, the Finance
Director was telling anyone who would listen that, if sales managers kept discounting to win
deals, they would struggle to generate the profits needed to invest in anything!

With such entrenched positions, I feared the day would generate more heat than light. A
quick exchange of glances with the MD told me that he, too, was bracing himself for another
unproductive session.

“Might this help?” I asked as I scribbled something on the flip-chart in the corner of the

Within a matter of minutes, the mood had changed. Those same directors were up on their
feet pointing at the diagram (rather than each other) and starting to find common ground.

Why did it work?

Firstly it created a point of focus. Although each group member had their own points of
self-interest they were now all considering a new concept that needed understanding. It
also challenged them to consider their differing views in a different context.

By ‘reframing’ the group’s thinking about their challenges it created a reaction of “I’ve never
thought about it that way before”.

Now all participants were seeking to understand the various challenges the business faced
within a common framework. There were still differing opinions, but there was an external
point of reference to ‘anchor’ their discussion.

As that point of reference was visual, the participants started to describe challenges in
terms of where they sat in relation to each other. This became a kind of language for the
group that they could all relate to.

Lastly, it was important that there was an independent facilitator. Someone with no axe to
grind and whose questions could be heard by the group without internal prejudice. These
questions kept the momentum going.

The outcome was alignment behind an uncomplicated view of where their business stood.

The group had determined whether they were – in their words – “Missing the Boat” or
“Heading Off Course” or even “All at Sea”. They were then able to prioritise actions to do
something about it!

It’s not a magic wand, but in situations where dissonance is getting in the way of agreeing
actions then the approach of workshopping a solution is extremely useful.

Giving a team a new point of reference and helping them to ‘reframe’ their challenges can
help establish a shared view of where you are now and what needs to be done.

That particular ‘scribble’ in that meeting became known as the Growth Probability Matrix™
and you can find out more at www.growthprobability.com