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Breaking the Sigmoid - Working on the business, not in it

'Sigmoiding', or going from one 'hockey stick curve' to the next hockey stick (as our Canadian friends like to say), is the process of moving a business from one phase of growth and trajectory capability to the next one, through innovation.
Start-up and Growth (point 1 to 2)

For example, when a business is in start-up phase (point 1 on the chart above), there is a certain level of people, process, technology and investment capability in the business. This initial injection of energy and capability suits the business from getting from zero to one and on a growth path. The business may have enough inherent capability and capacity to last them a few years to grow and develop their services.

Maturity and Decline (point 2 to 4)

After a certain point, however, there is a point of dimishing returns to the original model whereby additional efforts do not provide the proportional result as they once had, or the change in business environment may mean the business even goes backwards (point 4 on the chart above). For example, the initial apps and systems used may reach a level whereby the business has outgrown them, or the channels customers once engaged with the business have changed.  From our own experience, the impact of Covid has required the changing of many business models to align with the needs of clients, with many businesses pivoting to new ways of working and providing services.

This may come in the form of scale or capability, or even features in the products used that whilst they may have been fit-for-purpose when the business started, are no longer suitable.

After a certain point without strategic change, the business will plateau, or even decline in capability whilst on the original curve. Good people, clients, suppliers and customers who are exhausted and sick of the old ways of doing things may look for greener pastures unless there is a new injection of ideas, energy, capability and innovation to keep them engaged.

While keeping on the technology example, perhaps a series of core Excel sheets, Word docs, and Email templates has been used to run the business to-date.  One file corruption from disaster!

Sigmoiding (curve A to curve B)

An example of moving onto a new Sigmoid curve (e.g. points 2 and 5 on the chart above) could be investing in what platform will provide the next phase of growth. This business could look to cloud-based SaaS products, which give enterprise-like capability, but at a fraction of the price tag.  They would allow the business to grow to the next level of scale with the more staff, customers and activity, not only by revenue and financials, but also by headcount, geography, complexity, risk, compliance and more.

As Rebecca O. Bagley says in her article 'The Key to Growth: Transformational Change':

"...the transition to a new curve must begin while the first one can still support it.  The challenge is to know when to start the new curve"

Get proactive to scale your services in 6 steps

A business that has great insight into what is coming, and where they are on their current Sigmoid curve, can proactively plan ahead to:

  1. Assess where they are currently at - business outputs for their given business inputs

  2. Review and research what ‘great’ looks like in their industry

  3. Complete a gap analysis based on current pain points and opportunities available to the business

  4. Prioritise projects and action based on expected return, management of risk and maintaining business operations while keeping an eye to the future, perhaps mapping this with a business capability roadmap

  5. Trial, prototype, testing and piloting new capability with a specific project team for this purpose

  6. For proven capability, rolling this out to the full business and all people, perhaps aligned with new roles & responsibilities as well as processes and systems.  If testing multiple options at once and having issues coming up with a decision on which option to take, consider trying a decision matrix approach.

Personalised strategy

If you'd like to book in a time to get a personalised strategy for your business, please don't hesitate to contact us for a free initial consultation!

References and further reading: