Changing the world in 9 not so easy steps

Changing a company is a big job. If you really want to make this happen, here’s one approach:

1) Start by fixing or building solid strategy management processes and systems
2) Choose a value discipline
3) Build a conceptual understanding of your strategy and what drives your business
4) Build a series of customer experience principles to drive your strategy and guide value discipline alignment
5) Create a consensus on what your current state on your performance against each principle and then build a vision of what your future state should look like
6) Assess your performance from your customer’s eyes to understand what you need to fix
7) Prioritize, correlate needs by segments, build a plan
8) Follow through and align relentlessly to this model
9) Change your measures to ensure behaviors start to align in order to make this sustainable

Strategic Planning and Risk Management Description

I read a fantastic description of what strategic planning is about. Wanted to share:

An organization’s strategy leverages its physical, financial, intellectual, and technological resources to gain and sustain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Implementing a strategic plan often includes venturing into new and profitable business opportunities, discontinuing unprofitable ones and solidifying its other business operations. Managing the associated risks involves considering the financial viability of new initiatives and investments, as well as assessing the implications of internal and external opportunities and threats for the organization as a whole.

20 Questions
Directors Should Ask about RiskSecond Edition
Hugh Lindsay, FCA, CIP

Transformation: getting the ball rolling

While there are lots of things that could stand in the way of getting a positive transformational change going, such as culture or attitudes, there are a number of things that can work in your favor. If you have the foundational pieces outlined in the last post, start down these lines.

1) Adopt a value discipline, and create a very well defined picture of what every customer experience is going to be about. This gives you something to anchor functional strategies to, and gives every team something to align to.
2) Engage employees in dialogue, build excitement. Strategy is all about people. You need everyone to more than understand this, they have to believe it.
3) Lay out a future state for what the transformation could look like. Operational thinkers are going to stop as soon as they feel this gap. By taking the creative license to lay out how the company may have to be different, you create an environment where you can explore and massage this future state together.
4) Generate information, so you avoid corporate navel gazing. Conduct customer touchpoint assessments, understand what drives value for your customers, and fix the gaps.
5) Lay out a road map for the change based on solid information and the input of subject matter experts across the organization. Have the executive and senior management team preach it and demonstrate it through changes in their actions as well.

Regardless of the industry, success starts and ends with customer performance. Your brand is the result of those experiences. Building a brand is all about knowing what you’re trying to achieve, communicating that relentlessly and then aligning the business model.

A few years back, Lululemon had a blow-out sale in our city. Through this process, they demonstrated an amazing understanding of the importance of protecting the consistency of their brand (the customer experience). They selectively hired people that fit the bill in terms overall appearance and attitude, and then gave them an entire day of training on the company, from how it was started to fabric weight. It was delivered by the man who founded the company. And they paid these young folks around $30/hour to do this work… likely more then double what they would make anywhere else. All this was done even for people that worked a single shift for them! This is a man that understands what it takes to build a brand!

How much training do you provide employees on what it means to represent your brand?

Corporate transformation

The organization I’m currently working with is just starting a transformational change. There is literally a ground swell that people across the organization are feeling. It’s beginning to create anticipation, excitement, and opening up an appetite for more change. The interesting thing is that it’s replacing fear and uncertainty. This is what planning is supposed to be about, creating compelling future direction that transforms your organization and its sense of potential.

Fear is a powerful emotion. It suppresses creativity, energy, creative thinking, possibilities, potential, and constructive interpersonal behaviors. It harnesses the worst in people. Uncertainty can’t always be avoided, but the lack of compelling direction always exacerbates this negative organization free-radical.

Hope and excitement are equally powerful, but in a totally different direction. It literally releases more energy from every individual in the organization and opens up all kinds of potential for what a company can achieve.

Old school management thinking is rooted in fear-based behavior. It assumes that the role of the executive is to boss the organization around, and to have all the answers. New school thinking assumes that every employee is valuable for what is going on upstairs and that by harnessing the collective wisdom of your entire organization, you are much further ahead. Hope and excitement go a lot further in the process of creating a much stronger organization.

If you’re wanting to set the stage for corporate transformation, here are some key ingredients:

#1) Put the mechanisms for strategy management in place
This is the foundation for every organization. You’d never leave for a trip without deciding where you’re going, or buying a map unless your goal was to kill time. And yet this is what organizations do all the time. Managers can’t be bothered to plan out how the company will position itself for future success because they are too busy with the operations. Relevance slips away and no one even knows he left the room.

Every company needs to know how it’s working to strengthen competitive positioning as well as customer performance. You NEED to know what your value discipline is as well as what your strategy map looks like. Without understanding this combination, you’re crippled from the starting line. Your organization also needs environmental acuity, and systems that allow you to make good decisions.

#2) Engage your employees in dialogue about business challenges and the future of the organization
There is a difference between a smart employee coming to work and putting in a solid day, and the same employee when she or he is truly excited and engaged to help you accomplish your strategy. Employees want to be part of a winning team, to create and to succeed. When you show employees trust by engaging them in conversations on important topics, and integrating their feedback into executive planning, you will elicit trust and engagement.

#3) Build a strategy map so you know what drives your business success, and what the ultimate outcomes your organization exists to create
Once again, a lot of work but worth every second. If the executive team already understands this exactly the same way, you have about an hour’s worth of work on your hands. If they don’t (and they don’t) you have quite a bit more. By getting the executive to agree on what is important and what drives your business, you can then structure your business model and metrics to help you get there.

#4) Make sure that everyone understands how they contribute to the success of the plan and are accountable to follow through
Is the amount of rigor you go through to roll out your business plan consistent with the level of knowledge employees need to be passionate supporters of your strategy? Do you use this as an opportunity to make them passionate about your business? It’s one of a series of “right times” to do so.

#5) Protect your brand
When you create that clear sense of what your organization is going to be known for, protect it like it’s a diamond. Hire for it, attach variable comp to it, find metrics that speak to it, make people accountable for it.

All of this is critical, because hiring “good” people, offering “good” products, having “good” HR strategies doesn’t create incredible levels of loyalty. If you want to stand out in the crowd, you need strategy-specific alignment from all departments. Without that, very generalized strategy is the best internal resources can do.

Customers don’t refer “good” suppliers, they refer amazing suppliers.

Which of your futures are you grabbing hold of?

Lately, I’ve been exploring the topic of potential. Planning is largely about capturing more of your potential than you currently have. People engage planning to varying degrees, some love it and some almost hate it. Some people seem to have endless courage to take on the unknown and others pull back at the mere sight of it. People people come up with good plans and then don’t implement, the rare few have the consistency to hold on to that view of the future until it becomes the present. Some have the energy to dream and explore and others defend the status quo like it’s a religion.

The reality is that the future is not predestined. Depending on how you engage the present, a variety of futures await you and your organization. 20 years from now, your organization could absolutely dominate your market, or you could have been put down by a smarter competitor.

Thomas Edison once said that “There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking.” And while this certainly isn’t true of everyone, it’s true of a portion of the population. Your challenge as a planner is to help people want to engage the planning of their own future and to make it something worth being excited about.

Excitement creates energy, and energy is what’s required to make change happen.