Scale Up Your Venture

iStock_000005745963XSmallAttempts to scale up a venture succeed or fail in four places:

  • People, (including degree of shared destiny)
  • Strategy, (including design)
  • Execution, and
  • Cash.

Yet in most instances we encounter, too much emphasis is being placed on execution, cash, and the willpower of the individual. The underlying assumption is that enough cash and willpower, and the right to-do list overcomes all. This view is incomplete – especially in the case of larger, longer change efforts. Scaling Up a system requires attention to three additional factors…

Things scale up at the rate they were designed to scale up.

iStock_000008025420XSmallThe design of a scaling up effort has much more to do with the speed of execution than the willpower applied. No matter the intensity of desire, a turtle is designed to travel at hours per mile rather than miles per hour! If we want it to go faster, we must change the design or fundamental structure of the turtle…

The principle here is that structure determines behavior. Think of projects to change the course of rivers: the focus is not on convincing the water to act differently, or work longer hours. Instead, the focus is on reshaping the riverbed. As soon as the riverbed changes, the water changes behavior, following the path of least resistance. We make sure you have the right design for the mission at hand.

Building is not maintaining – they require different orientations.

Once the design is established, one must put the right people in the right seats. It is not simply a matter of skill, but a matter of the orientation of the individual. Do they see themselves as building something, or are they focused on maintaining and optimizing it?


  • Can create new systems where none exist today – and love the challenge.
  • Are masters of orchestrating change in both systems and people.
  • Get bored with maintaining things and are interested in putting themselves OUT of a job.
  • Could possibly be more expensive to begin with.


  • Best at optimizing existing systems, but struggle to create a new system on their own.
  • Tend to be interested in job security.
  • Often strong desire to keeping things running smoothly.
  • Often lower salary than builders.

Our focus is to help you staff the venture with the right skills and orientation, at the right stage, to get the job done, reinforcing the skills of design and execution to increase odds of success. For more information, see Build Your Leaders.

Successful ventures answer a shared “Why?”.

Most overlooked are questions of relationship:

  • Why should we cooperate to achieve this goal?
  • What can we create together that we cannot create, alone?
  • How are we related to each other? How are our destinies tied?

These questions encompass any project and organization, extending out into the community and across stakeholder groups. When we encounter a struggling venture where, locally, design and execution appear sound, we turn our attention to the people and relationships and “Whys” inherent in the larger system encompassing the venture.

Our priority, here, is to help identify the stakeholders in the system and convene a series of conversations designed to help participants discover the degree to which their future is shared, their purposes aligned, and the extent to which they care about the good of the whole. We then help them explore and confront their freedom to choose, and shape, together, a future they want to live into.

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Call me! - Ann Ralston


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Call me! - Gary Ralston

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