Moving From Incremental to Transformational Growth

Too often, I see organizations that keep getting in their way. They celebrate mediocre performance, average results, and incremental growth. Occasionally I find an organization that is satisfied in just cruising slowly into obsolescence, unwilling to admit what is happening to the company.

Today’s competitive, fast-paced business climate does not tolerate mediocracy for long. Companies that have become complacent either go out of business or become gobbled up by friend and foe.

The process to move from mediocre to transformational is simple but not easy.

Start with strategy:
Does your strategic plan include goals that stretch the organization, or are your annual goals one’s you know you can make without changing anything? If the answer to this is yes, then you must reinvent your strategic planning process. Strategic goals need to become goals that will drive the business forward and differentiate you from the competition and transform the company into something better than it is today. Strategic goals need to be “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (BHAG – thanks to Jim Collins in Good to Great.) If at least one of your strategic objectives doesn’t scare you, you may not be challenging your organization enough.

In parallel, change the performance standards for your organization:

Moving a company from a model that continues to do what it has always done but with incremental improvement will not change the culture of execution for the company. Every employee must focus on two things:

  1. Becoming a life-long learner
  2. Continually seeking ways to improve all aspects of their tasks

How will this transformation take place? Managers need to learn that their most important job is coaching their staff, being engaged with them daily, and listening to their ideas, concerns, suggestions, and complaints. If a manager’s performance is weighted more heavily on operations than coaching, the execution, the culture will never change.

Managing people is a learned skill. When a person is promoted and now supervises employees, they need to be trained in coaching.

Onboarding is a discipline that requires the new supervisor time to learn who the staff is, what their goals and aspirations, strengths and weakness, fears and concerns, and abilities to learn and innovate are in their role. Without taking this time, the new manager will make mistakes that will adversely impact their ability to lead the team forward.

Coaching isn’t a skill most people are born with; it is a learned skill. Taking the time to teach the new manager this skill will make them more effective managers, create consistency in leadership and management styles, and improve the quality of work and execution of tasks.

If an organization is going to move from incremental growth to transformation and differentiation, the culture of execution needs to change. However, without setting BHAG goals and expert performance, the organization will not change, regardless of how “big” they think.


Rich Jones is the Founder/Principal of Leading2Leadership LLC. Before starting his strategic planning agency, he spent over 20 years in leadership roles in the financial services sector. Before becoming an executive in the financial services sector, Rich was an entrepreneur, building and selling two businesses and working for early-stage start-up companies in executive roles in marketing, business development, and seeking investment partners. With more than three decades of experience, he brings innovative thought to companies and executives. Rich published “Leading2Leadership, a Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence.” The book is available on and was designed to be used as a book study for leadership development programs; it breaks leadership skills into manageable situations for discussion and reflection. Rich works with credit unions, CUSOs, and vendors, designing digital, data, culture, marketing, and branding transformation strategies. In 2014, Chosen as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine, and in 2018, Rich received the Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. A Marine and graduate of Colorado State University, Jones shares his expertise at

Leave a Comment