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Accelerated Preparedness

Scalability Insights for Defence

Indian and Australian Army soldiers share infantry tactics, techniques and procedures during Exercise Austrahind 22.

Executive Summary

Prepare to Scale

Scalability is about how an organisation’s performance responds to significant changes in workload. The workload may be changing in quantity (more, or less, of the same) or type (existing products and services, or new ones), challenging the current size and shape of an organisation.

Sound familiar? Recent events (e.g. the COVID-19 pandemic) have forced many organisations—public, private and for-purpose—to rapidly scale: upwards, downwards, inwards, outwards. And this has often been without 
notice or warning. For the Australian Defence Force (ADF), the 2023 Defence Strategic Review underscores the vanishing notion of strategic warning time and calls for Defence to undertake ‘accelerated preparedness’. 
This is a strong cue to examine scalability within the Defence organisation.

The term ‘scalability’ is often thrown around in executive parlance. But in commencing this journey, I quickly appreciated that scalability—as a concept, as theory and as practitioner guidance—did not exist in coherent form for Defence, or for any other organisation for that matter. This paper steps into that breach.

The key premise of this work is that an organisation can enhance its scalability. It can do this through sound scalability design, and through impactful scalability response. But scalability is a craft—combining both science (requiring technical expertise) and the art form of ‘knowing your business’. It is also premised on understanding changes in the operating environment. Perfecting a craft requires some knowledge, and some practice—in advance of the need to perform it. This paper provides the foundation knowledge necessary to start the scalability journey, whether your business is warfighting, leading a public agency, turning a profit or running a charity. Given the challenges facing Defence to scale in response to rapidly changing strategic circumstances, the insights in this paper can provide assurance of organisational resilience to those charged with leading change.

The scalability leadership task is to ‘find and fix’ the sequence of binding constraints that any scaling response will encounter. This applies whether you are leading at an organisational level or leading individual business processes. Regardless, as a leader you will need a scalability mindset, sense-makers and a scaling strategy to do this. You will need to know the difference between first and second-order scalability, and you will certainly need to know how your organisation creates value, and about its capacity components. This paper shares these and other facets of scalability. 


  • Part 1 presents scalability theory—defining what scalability is, describing how to scale (methods), and developing an initial conceptual model of scalability.
  • Part 2 is practitioner focused, presenting:
    • the scoping and planning considerations for real people, teams and organisations directed to scale
    • an industry case study of first-order scalability, based on the Australian retail supermarket response to the COVID-19 pandemic
    • scaling principles and metrics for benchmarking and reporting
    • scalability implications for Australian military strategy and capabilities.

Originally written to identify the scalability implications for the ADF, this paper starts from theoretical scratch, achieves that original practitioner’s objective, and then goes considerably beyond, presenting the definitive current ‘state of the art’ for scalability. For practitioners, the work contains handy flick-through tools, including:

  • ‘Scalability Action Plan-on-a-Page for Leaders’ as an aide mémoire
  • ‘Quick Take-Outs’ for each chapter
  • ‘So What for Defence? The Scalability Top 10’
  • illustrations to explain scalability concepts.

For the ADF specifically, this work challenges the organisation to identify those capabilities that deliver both asymmetric results and scalability in the context of military strategy. Interested? Read on. Then over to you, to implement scalability in your own business process, system or organisation!

Publication Date

Publication Identifiers

ISSN (Print) 1448-2843
ISSN (Digital) 2200-0992