Excelling at Strategic Changes with Stragility

Strategic Changes

Excel at Strategic Change

It’s more important than ever to be agile enough to respond to new trends, to change with speed, and to reinvent yourself or your organization.

 

How do you build a company that is capable of making these changes?

How do you make change stick?

What should leaders do to make strategy actionable?

 

“Strategy is about making choices; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.” -Michael Porter

 

Ellen R. Auster and Lisa Hillenbrand are the authors of STRAGILITY: Excelling at Strategic Changes. Ellen Auster is Professor of Strategic Management at York University. Lisa Hillenbrand is the founder of Lisa Hillenbrand & Associates. Their new book provides an actionable guide to helping strategy turn into successful execution. The authors have joined forces and have a new consulting firm called Stragility Change Management.

I recently asked them about their research and work in helping leaders excel at strategic change.

 

“In a period of rapid structural change, the only ones who survive are the Change Leaders.” -Peter Drucker

 

Master the 4 Stragility Skills

What is stragility?

Stragility is our word for Strategic, Agile, People Powered Change. It is the skills we all need to successfully lead organizational change. Tragically, 70% of changes fail — leaving companies and careers in ruin. Stragility skills can help all of us beat these odds. Whether you are a CEO, a midlevel manager, or front line supervisor, our book will help you lead successful change.

There are four critical Stragility Skills: sense and shift strategy, embrace the politics to build support for the change, inspire and engage the organization, and build change fitness to counter the change fatigue that is epidemic in our organizations today.

 

4 Stragility Skills

 

Skills to Excel at Strategic Changes

The title of Chapter 2 is intriguing “From Lock and Load to Sense and Shift.” Would you explain a little more about this shift in thinking?

Faced with relentless pressures, locking and loading on strategy is tempting but not a good idea. The world is always changing, and we need to stay ahead of the pack to succeed, or we’ll get blindsided. So sensing and shifting is about checking macro forces, keeping an eye on competitors’ moves, and watching those on the periphery on a regular basis. That way we can avoid, for example, what happened to Blackberry – once so dominant in cell phones, but so focused on competing incrementally that they totally missed the disruptive game-changing iPhone.

 

“Unless people are convinced about what you are asking them to do, they are not going to make it happen.” -Ravi Kant

 

Doing regular internal check-ins to see what’s working well that can be amplified or re-applied and to identify what’s not working well that needs to be addressed is also key to continuing to evolve and staying out in front.

For example, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren has successfully steered Macy’s through a decade of growth by sensing and shifting strategies to delight customers. They’ve tailored offerings in each store, focused on developing employees’ selling skills, and become increasingly good at embracing new channels – like mobile and digital sales. We advocate that all organizations, big and small, sense and shift strategies to better serve customers and deliver their missions.

 

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” -Plato

 

Embrace Politics

Politics is a negative word to most, but you say to embrace it. Why is this so critical to change management?

Ignoring politics or trying to push people forward when they’re resisting usually backfires and leads to more escalation not less. However, when we enroll people in the changes, understand their point of view, and address their concerns, then we not only can move forward, but we build commitment, passion and ownership. As a result, everyone offers their best ideas and helps to propel the change forward. Beyond the immediate change, this is also essential for creating receptivity to future changes.

In his first week as President of KFC, David Novak faced a national franchisee meeting full of angry franchisees. Business was soft and they were furious. In the face of this, Novak needed to marshal his political skills. Instead of getting defensive, he began the meeting by reminding everyone of their shared purpose and mission and then listened to concerns. Then, he divided the group into breakout sessions, each with the task of imagining they were President of KFC and coming up with an action plan. The groups returned with three proposals: improve quality, train people, and launch new menu items. And that’s what they did. And in the process they got back to growing. It is a great example of managing the politics and emotions of change.

 

McKinsey Study: Organizations built on strengths 2x more likely to succeed than those focused on problems.

 

Utilize Key Influencers

Talk a little about the importance of key influencers in driving change.

Key influencers are individuals who are the opinion leaders in the organization. These key influencers often have the resources, skills or social networks needed to win over the hearts and minds of the larger group. Influencers can also be very helpful in enabling their groups or teams to understand the pros and cons of change from the standpoint of different stakeholders, and in persuading others to support the change.

In addition to listening and engaging with those predisposed positively towards the change, we also need to work with key influencers who are more skeptical. Most leaders are inclined to pay attention to the supporters and ignore the skeptics. As tempting as it is to walk away from so-called skeptics, this is rarely the best approach.

In reality, many are what we’d call “positive skeptics.” That is, they believe that the change has flaws that need to be addressed. Engaging these skeptics has many benefits. They can be catalysts for rethinking different aspects of the change to make it more successful – which can save teams months of rework by catching flaws early. Second, involving them often leads to their increased ownership and commitment. Instead of standing on the sidelines, they often become change as the change rolls out. Finally, engaging them sends a powerful signal to the rest of the organization that all voices and opinions are important, alternative points of view can be heard, and constructive feedback on this and future efforts is welcome.

 

“People often have insufficient understanding of why they need to change.”

 

How can we enroll people to get passionate about the change?

Leadership Lessons from Over 200 Thought Leaders

ON AIR

Voices of Influence

A few years ago, I launched this blog with the idea of sharing insights, ideas, and inspiration.  It is my hope that the lessons and ideas shared here help you in some way whether that is fast-tracking your career or overcoming procrastination.

When I started, I thought it was worth it if I made a real difference to just one person.

I’m happy to report that at least one person has found it life-changing.  That person is me.  I learn far more by sharing these ideas than you can imagine.  What an incredible experience to have the opportunity to learn from so many people.

Thank you for reading, for commenting, and for sharing these posts.  I appreciate all of you and look forward to getting to know you better in the coming months.

Below are some of the leadership interviews and posts with thought leaders from a variety of fields on numerous topics.  I hope you find one you missed and that it positively influences your year ahead.

 

“The book you don’t read won’t help.” –Jim Rohn

 

 

Leadership, Management & Execution

 

“You will be the same person in 5 years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” -Charlie Jones

 

Leadership Communication

3 Essential Keys to Navigate Your Political Force Field

Challenge

This is a guest post by Joe Scherrer, author of The Leadership Forge: 50 Fire-Tested Insights to Solve Your Toughest Problems, Care for Your People, and Get Great Results. Joe is the President of The Leadership Crucible and a decorated Air Force veteran. His 24 year career included command of five units.

The Importance of Playing Politics

Ever heard comments like these?

“That decision was all about politics.”

“So-and-so is a real politician.”

 

Or, consider your answers to these questions:

How has politics impacted your ability to lead?

How would you assess your political skills?

Here’s the point: Even if you find “playing politics” distasteful, as a leader you’re a part of your organization’s political environment whether you like it or not. That’s because any time a group of smart, ambitious, type-A, competitive, achievement-oriented people gets together, there will be conflict of various kinds.

 

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” -Plato

 

In your leadership role, you will experience disagreements, deals gone sour, questionable ethics, undermining, jockeying for position, currying of favor, backbiting, and all of the unsavory things that arise when the stakes are high, resources are scarce, power is to be gained or lost, and reputations are on the line.

In short, this is politics.

The reality is that if you if you want to get things done, you need to learn to play the game well.

 

“If you want to get things done, you need to learn the game of politics.” -Joe Scherrer

 

Simply stated, your political force field consists of the dynamic interaction of leaders, each of whom seeks to:

  1. use and increase their power in order to
  2. advance and achieve their agendas and to
  3. protect and satisfy their self-interest.

As a result your political force field fluctuates constantly as power is gained or lost, agendas succeed or fail, and self-interest is fulfilled or frustrated.

Let’s look at what it takes for you to maneuver successfully within your political force field.

 

3 Essential Keys for Successful Navigation

Of course, the ideal policy would be to act altruistically in the service of the organization with the expectation that those around you will do the same.  However, since the real world falls short of the ideal, you must adopt other methods to navigate successfully through the human minefield that is the politics of leadership.

Key #1: Maintain Your Integrity.

Know what you believe in and remain grounded in your values.  Although you’re playing in the arena of high-level professional politics, it’s neither necessary nor advisable to sacrifice your integrity to do your job.

Key #2: Realize You’re Not Above the Politics.

Since you’re part of the system, the way you handle yourself and deal with situations will cause the political force field around you to flux and change.

Key #3: Be Aware of the Politics.

Part of your problem-solving calculus and decision-making process must include an assessment of your political force field.  Leaders who fail to account for the political situation wonder why their solutions don’t fly and their decisions fail.

 

“Integrity has no need of rules.” -Albert Camus

5 Vital Steps for Successful Navigation

Completing these five straightforward steps will allow you to map out your political force field, remain aware of your status within it, and take action to navigate it with confidence.

Step 1.  Identify the key actors who make up the political situation in which you find yourself.  List all the people who control, influence, or otherwise affect your ability to produce results and achieve your goals.

9 C’s of Lincoln’s Leadership

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Photo by netdance on flickr.

When it was in the theatres, I watched the extraordinary movie Lincoln.  Rarely do I watch a movie a second time, but I’m such an admirer of President Lincoln that I couldn’t wait for its video release.  My family watched it last weekend.  To me, the acting is so perfect that I feel like I am truly watching Lincoln himself.

There are thousands of articles and books about Lincoln.  As I watched the movie, I noted some of his attributes for achieving his goals.  The movie was primarily focused on Lincoln’s goal to pass the Thirteenth Amendment.  Throughout the fight in the House of Representatives, Lincoln was:

1.  Committed.  He was willing to risk his reputation to do what was right.

2.  Clever.  How he won votes in the House of Representatives is part of the story that intrigues me.

3.  Calm.  In the midst of incomprehensible stress, Abraham Lincoln was calm.  He would tell a story, a joke, or quietly sit by himself.

4.  Compromising.  He didn’t compromise his values, but he understood the political necessities and how to negotiate in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

Leadership Lessons from Over 50 Thought Leaders

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People + Books = 1 Changed Life

 

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was one of my great influencers.  He repeatedly said that, “You will be the same person you are today in five years but for two things:  the people you meet and the books you read.” Every year, I am privileged to have the opportunity to read so many incredible books and meet fascinating people from all walks of life.

Last year, I launched this blog with the idea of sharing insights, ideas, and inspiration from many sources. On the one hand, I’m disappointed that I was only able to share a fraction of all of the people who influenced me. On the other, I’m glad that I started doing it because now, as I look back on it, I’m the one who benefited the most. Charlie was right. All of the books I read and all of the people I met did indeed change me.

Here are a few of the people who shared their experience and wisdom. If I can learn a fraction of what they know, I will be better equipped to lead in the coming year.

Before you start the new year, take the time to meet some of these people and take their leadership lessons with you. Instead of “interview in progress” you will find a “great life in progress.”

Leadership, News & Politics

 

Dan Rather (his life in the news)

Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State)

Barbara Simons (on the dangers of new ballot machines)

Senator Bill Bradley (on how we can all do better)

 

Business Leadership, Strategy & Execution

 

John Baldoni (purpose, leadership)

Jill Geisler (Make Work Happy)

Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos on culture)

Cynthia Montgomery (strategist)

Jim Huling (on the 4 disciplines of execution)

Geoffrey Moore (how to cross the chasm and rethink the future)

Faisal Hoque (BTM CEO on the power of convergence)

Chris Grivas (which creative style are you?)

Shep Hyken (7 strategies of amazing customer service)