What is one of the biggest hurdles faced by new and even slightly more established businesses? Scaling up. Knowing how and when to scale up is a challenge that many people in business, even those with years of experience, still struggle with. This topic itself is not often covered by scholars who have devoted their lives to studying and researching the best business practices and tools. But, Stanford professors Robert I. Sutton and Hayagreeva “Huggy” Rao, authors of Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less (2014), bring in literature that is very necessary to business owners and decisions makers everywhere.
Robert I. Sutton is a Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford as well as Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. His colleague, Huggy Rao, is the Atholl McBean Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
In Scaling Up Excellence, Sutton and Rao present close to a decade of research toward understanding what businesses must do to develop areas that perform very well and then expanding on those areas to keep the business fresh and recharged. This always involves implementing new and better work practices, which Scaling up Excellence also does an exceptional job at helping the reader to figure out. To achieve this, Sutton and Rao use accounts from several industries, including start-ups, nonprofits, education, technology, government, airlines, healthcare, retail, and pharmaceuticals. Every type of organization has a challenge that they encounter when scaling, and the authors do an excellent job at identifying those. They also rely on case studies and academic research centered around some of these key industries to identify what practices can instead harm an organization and how to best avoid them.
While the authors do make the effort to explain that there are never any clear cut answers to this problem, the information presented in Scaling Up Excellence is nonetheless something to be considered when trying to take that business to the next level. Scaling up successfully is easier said than done, but Sutton and Rao’s work has brought to light some serious pitfalls that we can avoid. One such pitfall involves taking the wrong approach toward scaling up, whether the organization decides to focus on localized areas for scaling or replicating successful practices across the board. One may work better for your company than the other.