Growth Should be a Tactic, Not a Strategy

Starbucks was recently named the most innovative company in the Food & Beverage category in Fast Company’s “World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies.”

Not a bad place for a company that just a few short years ago was failing at success.

CEO Howard Schultz tends to see his company’s recent tribulations as a case study in what can happen to a business that uses growth as a strategy rather than a tactic.

For the better part of 15 years, from 1992 through 2006, practically everything the company did produced a level of success and adulation. If Frappuccino is a hot category and you introduce a new flavor, and it moves the needle a lot, the organization comes to believe, ‘That was a great thing we did.’ And it imprints a feeling of, ‘That was innovation.’ But that’s not innovation. In fact, it’s laziness.

By Schultz’s criteria, the line extension of a product involves little in the way of risk-taking or long-range vision. That was the problem with the old Starbucks.

And it’s probably a problem with your church, too.

Starbucks’ rebound is complicated: the financial rebound can be traced to domestic cost-cutting and global expansion (most notably China). More fascinating is Starbucks’ reputational rebound – the result of Schultz and his company’s efforts to renew a culture of entrepreneurialism and innovation that had fallen by the wayside during a mad rush for growth a few years back.

It’s a cultural shift from a methodical expansion of the brand to a methodical enhancement of the brand. As Fast Company’s Jon Gertner writes:

Starbucks no longer seems to perceive its future as depending on an ability to clone its essential store concept ad infinitum. To be somewhat reductive: You can try to sell the same amount of stuff at more stores. Or you can try to sell more and more stuff at the same number of stores. These days, the overarching gestalt of the company – demonstrated by its plans for redesigned stores, investments in innovative coffee machines, and expansion of its digital networks, and rewards programs – is striving for every branch to be both more versatile and more artisanal.

Don’t let all this business talk put you to sleep:

Churches often think growth is the end game, when it’s really only part of the playbook.

What sacrifices have you made – only to later regret – in the name of growth?


Favorite Post from February, 2012


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