Growth isn’t Linear

A popular way of representing a strategy to achieve growth is a treasure map, where x marks the spot (= goal).


The analogy of a treasure map to represent strategy execution does more harm than good.

Strategy is about determining the next step to help us achieve our objectives. It is to take us from our current mission to our aspired vision. However, in contrast to the treasure map analogy, it isn’t about where we want to be in 5-10 years but what we strive to become. This could be anything from becoming a more inspirational workplace, a more trustworthy partner in trade, or a more profitable company. Neither strategy nor growth follows a linear path.

Reaching For The Next Level

While analogies have inherent limitations, we believe a better way to depict growth is to perceive it as a spiral staircase. While revolving around a positive core (our strengths, talents, positive attributes, and growth potential), each step must take us closer to the next level. Similarly, declining growth is taking us a step away from the projected level of growth.

spiral staircase growth

Given that a business strategy aims to determine the next step, in our analogy, we must ensure that every step takes us closer to the next floor. But don’t overthink strategy, referring to a famous aphorism by Helmuth von Moltke, a former chief of staff of the Prussian Army (1800-1891): ‘No plan survives first contact with the enemy’. In our case, we need to replace ‘enemy’ with ‘competition’ or ‘customer,’ depending on our strategic positioning. 

Helmuth von Moltke: “No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main enemy forces. Only the layman believes that in the course of a campaign, he sees the consistent implementation of an original thought that has been considered in advance in every detail and retained to the end”.

If we fail to respond effectively to these touchpoints, we may end up at a lower level because of a negative investment return. We can prevent regression by collecting feedback from every step and adapting our strategy to ensure our way is up.

In a scheme, it looks like this:

If you are familiar with the ValueActor principle, you know that its output delivers the created value. In this example, we’ve taken the Service Obtainable Market (SOM) as the ValueActor’s full potential, while its strategy aims to reach it. Not every step up is a step outward. To grow in sales, we may first need to better understand the market and customer behavior or make changes to the product.

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