In brief: Progress is a prerequisite for businesses to survive and thrive. Without it, growth won’t be able to sustain. Obviously, there are many aspects to consider: resources, skills, know-how, systems, structures, processes, customers, products, vision, strategy, etc. But the point is: without making progress, growth will halt ─ because change is constant, and so is the need to adapt to change. Therefore, to make progress, every aspect of the business needs to adapt to change to fit the future.
Or in the words of Henry Ford: “The remains of the old must be decently laid away; the path of the new prepared. That is the difference between Revolution and Progress.”
This notion by Henry Ford that Revolution ─ doing the same thing repeatedly until it is no longer viable ─ is not Progress may come as a surprise to you. I will look at a graph further down to explain that the two are actually inversely related.
Progress is about gradual betterment, about improving what is, and not simply repeating what was and did more of it. It is not a leap ─ unless you’ve postponed making progress for way too long.
Just a few more quotes on progress to add to this notion:
- “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ~George Bernard Shaw
- “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” ~Kofi Annan
- “Progress is not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.” ~Khalil Gibran
- “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goals requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” ~Martin Luther King
- “Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” ~Frederick B. Wilcox
- “Believe me; my journey has not been a simple journey of progress. There have been many ups and downs, and it is the choices that I made at each of those times that have helped shape what I have achieved.” ~Satya Nadella (CEO, Microsoft)
- “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” ~Shirley Chisholm
- “Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.” ~James Bryant Conant
Progress requires that we learn from each cycle: What did we do right, and what did we do wrong? What was the competition doing? Has customer expectations changed? In fact, progress is an evolutionary process.
Progress is what makes us better than before. It requires us to look at what we have done, apply our learnings, and let go of what’s not helping us further our cause.
If we don’t learn from our challenges, if we don’t adapt to the circumstances, we’ll stagnate if we don’t let go of what keeps us from moving forward. And we’ll die.
This notion of Darwinian lawfulness, i.e., the urge and desire to become a better fit for the future and many other ideas, concepts, books, models, theories, analyses, and research, has led to the creation of The Venture Wheel™.
Instead of showing you The Venture Wheel™ in a layout that may confuse you, let’s first have a look at a more familiar way of presenting ROUNDMAP’s suggested pathway toward sustaining growth.
In the next figure, we’ve mapped our four maturing lifecycles, or Carousels, to the right, in a top-down formation. On the left, you’ll find the four mastery aspects, from vision to mission, reaching down to market (the potential). And all the way to the left, you’ll notice the PACE formula.
Mind the Loop
One aspect that may have drawn your attention while looking at the figure above is probably the loop in the middle, from execution to evolution. It is a most vital dynamic!
While each carousel (or lifecycle) matures over time, execution follows the path from vision to market. However, most of the learnings needed to become a better fit come from the bottom-up.
For instance, the choice between optimization, adaptation, innovation, or transformation, as part of the Growth Carousel, comes primarily from our reflections on market research and customer responses.
In fact, the mastery aspects, vision, strategy, purpose, and mission, are all evolutionary: they too will need to progress to allow ourselves to fit the four lifecycles to the future better. Thus, the progression of these mastery aspects is being reflected in the lifecycles.
For instance, strategists tend to apply learnings from one product lifecycle to the next. Or what seems to benefit one customer may also benefit the next. And so on.
There is never an end to learning. This is the preception behind lifelong learning.
Mastery & Maturity
As mentioned, the figure above shows you that The Venture Wheel™ consists of two types of elements: Mastery and Maturity. Mastery (left) requires business acumen to understand how a company makes money and achieves its goals and objectives. The Maturity elements are lifecycles: each follows a typical growth pattern, like the diffusion of innovations (Rogers, 1962) or S-curves.
In fact, each Carousel is an S-curve by itself. And they are interconnected, meaning that if, for instance, the customer lifecycle is maturing, the product lifecycle will too. In other words, if we are experiencing a decrease in customer retention, this may indicate that our products are no longer relevant to them.
Please be aware that progress, while reflecting on the learnings, has many hats, for instance, what we need to do to overcome a crisis, or to increase relevance (effectiveness), to reduce cost (excellence), raise productivity (efficiency), or to let go and do better things (antifragile).
The Venture Wheel™
Now, let’s have a look at the circular layout of the Venture Wheel.
What you see is an 8-step process toward growth, from (1) Perspective Mastery (vision) to the (8) Growth Carousel (progress). Each step is critical: without a vision (of the future), strategy becomes a zigzag pathway, causing the firm to chase one opportunity after the other.
No one step is more critical than the other: they all matter equally.
If we take digital transformation as an example: research that led to the book ‘Leading Digital‘ suggests that to profit from digital, digital initiatives all need to be aligned and interconnected, leading to an integrated digital value chain, often reaching far beyond the enterprise walls. Without a digital vision and a governance framework, this would be impossible. Progress comes from applying the insights (data analytics) from customer behavior, customer expectations, competitive offerings, new rules, regulations, etc.
The Steering Wheel
The idea behind the steering wheel is that there are only two ways to steer the business in the right direction: if we turn the wheel to the right (starboard in sailing terms), we are merely repeating the past cycle (doing the same thing over again, or revolving). If we turn the wheel to the left (port in sailing terms), we reflect on the past cycles to focus on what needs to be adjusted, changed, improved, optimized, or what have you (learning, growing, evolving).
Obviously, using the sailing analogy, we can also increase the speed (‘gorilla marketing’), brake (‘stop the campaign’), or reverse (‘withdraw from a market segment’). However, this is not related to the (pace of) evolution but the (pace of) execution.
PACE, as it happens, is the name of ROUNDMAP’s formula that measures the growth the business venture makes over time:
P = Projection – What do we want to achieve in X years? (transforming change)
A = Activation – Are we creating the right customers? (transforming potential)
C = Consolidation – Are we delivering on the promise? (transforming pains)
E = Extension – Are we developing for the future? (transforming relationships)
With the PACE formula, we can also plan the progress of the business venture and our level of achievement of obtaining sustaining and sustainable growth.