It is time to embrace ‘good growth’: the road less travelled by

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Image of Professor Steve Kempster from Lancaster University Management School.
Professor Steve Kempster - Lancaster University Management School

For 50 years the business world has trod the well-worn path that an enterprise will only survive and succeed by committing to a culture of ‘us versus them.’

But the world is changing rapidly. Decision-makers are under pressure to take on broad external factors such as the environment, community and social justice.

Growth at all costs and to the detriment of others just doesn’t cut it anymore. We have reached a critical fork in the road.

As business leaders find themselves in the crosswinds of multiple crises, recovering from the aftermath of a global pandemic, the impact of Brexit, rising prices and a recession, they may be excused for choosing the status quo, the dog-eat-dog mantra.

But there is another way, a road less travelled by: good growth. Here, business value and social impact are both enhanced.

How to achieve this ethical and practical way forward is the focus of our upcoming Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) programme, Good Growth, which has been designed to help senior decision-makers develop and implement strategies within their organisations which pave the way for long-term success through sustainable growth.

The five-month programme is led by Professor Steve Kempster, one of the world’s foremost experts in the field of leadership learning, and underpinned by world leading research produced by LUMS.

Kicking off with a two-day residential, it will be followed by a series of one-day workshops.

It’s fully funded and available to Lancashire SMEs in any sector who employ between 5 and 250 employees and have an annual turnover of less than €50 million.

Planning to survive is planning to grow

Given the economic turmoil, it is understandable that a business would move into survival mode. But this approach can lead to bad growth, according to Professor Kempster.

“The core principles for survival and growth are most similar,” he explained. “A business needs to understand what they are offering, to whom, and how you get the greatest value out of that.

“The outdated, short-term ‘growth at all costs’ approach is exploitative and the damage can be considerable.

“The alternative to the flawed ‘us against them’ is to embrace a notion of ‘us with them’ and create a circular system of increasing good value.

“Good growth is about increasing turnover and profit but doing this in a sustainable way that enhances those relationships with partners, suppliers, customers, employees and our communities. By embedding this principle, not only will you survive but you will become a healthy business on a firm platform to accelerate towards growth.”

This is not just about ethics. Research* has shown that those businesses that have a sustainable and purpose-led growth strategy outperform their competitors over the medium to long-term.

How the Good Growth programme can help

Good Growth has been designed to help business leaders develop a ‘Good Growth’ plan through a mixture of workshops, digital tools, and peer-to-peer learning.

The programme starts with a two-day residential, an immersive learning experience, offering a unique opportunity to establish growth objectives and build collaboration among the cohort of delegates.

This approach is based on the successful outcomes of our Lancaster University Management School leadership and development programmes, such as LEAD, Made Smarter Leadership Programme, Productivity through People and Lancashire Forum. Over the last 20 years these programmes have supported more than 4,200 UK businesses to realise change and transformation.

Professor Kempster explained: “Creating a critical sense of community and trust between the participants is vital in programmes of this nature. A significant amount of learning flows between participants so it is important to lower any boundaries between people and establish an environment where they feel comfortable sharing best practices and supporting each other.”

Over the following five months, supported by digital tools, delegates will establish their purpose by assessing how each dimension of their business contributes, creating a baseline that they can build on and measure growth against. They will then explore and consider how their business practices can contribute to solving local and global challenges in a way that enhances value for all – owners, employees, suppliers, customers, the community and the planet.

The programme will be underpinned by Professor Kempster’s Good Dividends research, a concept which seeks to enhance the six aspects of value within a business and integrate them using a responsible leadership approach as a catalyst to achieve this.

This will give delegates the building blocks for a 'Good Growth' action plan with clear objectives to generate positive outcomes for both people and place, inside and outside their organisation.

The cohort will further develop their plans by establishing a Good Growth board, bringing together four to six participants into a non-executive board of directors who can share fresh and impartial perspectives, as well as scrutinise and encourage.

The aim is for these boards to continue long after the programme has finished, reflecting the gift of ‘the board you couldn’t afford!’

The programme culminates with a 'Good Growth Alliance' summit where participants can share insights about their journeys, the outcomes and future plans.

Professor Kempster said: “When we think of a good person, it is primarily someone who produces a deep underlying feeling of trust, integrity, support and engagement.

“A good business is the same. Employees who are fully engaged, have a clear sense of meaningful work, are appropriately remunerated, are more productive, do higher quality work and give better customer service. By creating a system of good value which flows into and out of the business, up and down the supply chain, you create a healthier organisation and a healthier eco-system which can grow with positive outcomes for people, place and the planet.”

Lancashire Forum project logos, which include: European Regional Development Fund, Northern Powerhouse and Lancaster University Management School.

*Research sources:




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