Growing Pains

At Management Systems, we define “Growing Pains” as the problems encountered when an organization has not been fully successful in developing its internal “infrastructure” to the extent necessary to support its size (measured in revenues or budget) and/or rate of growth.  As used here, an organization’s “infrastructure” refers to the resources, operational and management systems and culture (the top four levels in the Pyramid of Organizational Development™) an organization requires at a given stage of growth. The faster the organization grows, the more severe the growing pains. However, “growing pains” can also occur under conditions of relatively slow or even negative growth when there is a “gap” between the size of the organization and the capacity of its infrastructure to support that size as shown below.

Our research has found a statistically significant “inverse” relationship between the level of growing pains and the bottom line of financial performance.  Specifically, our research has found that high growing pains are statistically correlated to low financial results, and low growing pains are related to high financial results (see Publications). Through our research and experience we have identified ten classic growing pains, shown below:

  1. People feel that “there are not enough hours in the day.”

  2. People are spending too much time “putting out fires.”

  3. People are not aware of what others are doing.

  4. People lack an understanding about where the company is headed.

  5. There are too few good managers.

  6. People feel that, “I have to do it myself if I want it done correctly.”

  7. Most people feel that meetings are a waste of time.

  8. When plans are made, there is very little follow-up, so things just don’t get done.

  9. Some people have begun to feel insecure about their place in the company.

  10. The company has continued to grow in sales, but not in profits.

These growing pains are not only problems in themselves; they are an indication of a systemic problem requiring the development of a stronger infrastructure. 

Although "growing pains" are relatively common in the sense that they are observed in many companies – especially in rapidly growing organizations – they represent an early warning signal for management of impending difficulties and even the potential risk of failure. They also represent a “signal” to management to develop the organization’s infrastructure so that it better supports the organization’s current stage of growth (size). 

If an organization does not assess the degree of severity of its growing pains and develop a plan to address them, management will find it increasingly difficult to deal with these problems, which can potentially put the existence of the organization at risk.  Growing Pains can be assessed (measured) by using Management Systems’ validated Growing Pains Survey©.

The Growing Pains framework is further explained in several of our books and articles (see Publications), including Eric Flamholtz’s and Yvonne Randle’s book, Growing Pains.