Scaling Up – Book Review & Use Case

By: Andrew Kurtz, CEO at Vigilix

You know those big book business plans that you always mean to read? The ones that you start over and over again without ever making it past the introduction? Scaling Up by Verne Harnish is nothing like any of those. Instead, it provides an actionable, pre-defined framework for growing your company, walking business leaders through a series of forms and exercises.

The best thing about Scaling Up is that it’s completely customizable—a hundred different CEO’s could read the book and take a hundred different paths to success. The overarching recommendation Harnish makes is to take an iterative approach to the exercises in his book, beginning where you’re weakest and perfecting his procedures there before moving on.

My team and I started with Harnish’s meeting cadence, setting up daily, weekly, quarterly, and annual meetings, each with a different focus. For example, at our daily meetings, the focus is specific obstacles. What is standing in the way of an incredible 24-hours? Yes, the framework does get this specific. Next, we tackled the Scaling Up forms. By far, the most revolutionary forms were the One-Page Strategic Plan and the Face and Pace.

For the One-Page Plan, you first address the core values of your business—things that should never change no matter what. Would you lose money to uphold this value? If the answer is no, it’s not a core value. Next, you sketch out your 10-year goal, allowing yourself to dream, and then you look three to five years out. Finally, you outline your next 365 days, coming up with five to seven major objectives, and you develop a quarterly plan, choosing your number one goal for the next three months. Even though it’s more work upfront, by the end your daily goals feel more motivated.

The Face and Pace is a functional accountability chart—who is responsible for what? According to Harnish, every line item on your profit and loss statement should be owned by someone. Frankly, we struggled to complete this form, putting it off for a while because it was painful. We saw areas where no one was responsible and areas where we had overlapping responsibility. Specifically, we realized that two members of our leadership team, Adam and Kevin, were providing similar functions in different areas. When we did complete the chart, it didn’t follow the book’s framework at all, but it did accurately describe us.

Of course, with any practical guidebook, outcomes are everything. The meeting cadence has given us a structured way to address common goals. I was originally afraid of the daily huddle, but now I can’t imagine trying to run my business without it. I think any business leader knows that there’s a disconnect between what’s really going on day-to-day and what should be going on. The daily huddle immensely improved communication. Adam describes the effect of the daily huddle as the difference between going into battle with couriers vs two-way radios.

Overall, the One-Page Strategic Plan and the Face and Pace Chart have given our team more ownership while also putting up guardrails, providing context for decision-making. Just as important, the framework has made me more willing to delegate responsibility. The Face and Pace exercise went from being discouraging to being exciting, once we restructured to match the framework. Recently, the Vigilix Leadership Team met to review the yearly budget for 2017. I brought the administrative budget, Kevin brought the operational budget, and Adam brought the marketing budget. We have never had a clearer view of what our year could look like, where we have risks and opportunities, and what we need to do to make it happen.

I’d recommend Scaling Up to any business leader at any point—but especially as you are reflecting on past performance and making plans for your new year. Like some of the best personal planners, the framework in the book has an uncanny ability to be both prescriptive and a process of discovery simultaneously. I am now on my third read through. With each iteration, our process becomes more refined, and our team gets more clarity—as though we have cellophane wrapped around our heads and each year we get to remove another layer.