Excelling at Strategic Changes with Stragility

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?

How to Avoid the Most Common Branding Mistakes

6 Rules of Brand Revitalization

 

How do you keep a brand relevant?

 

If you are looking to develop a strong global brand, you will find two names consistently mentioned as “go-to” experts: Larry Light and Joan Kiddon. They have just released a second edition of their book on branding, Six Rules of Brand Revitalization.

If you need to revitalize a brand, or if you are looking to avoid the pitfalls others have made, this book is a blueprint to follow for building a brand.

 

“Without trust, there can be no brand loyalty.” -Light / Kiddon

 

I recently spoke with the authors about their new book and the rules of branding.

 

6 Rules of Brand Revitalization

 

1. Refocus the organization.

Where do most corporate leaders get it wrong?

They tend to believe that “refocus” can happen through tools and templates and HR seminars. Refocus is more than filling in the blanks and talking the talk. When there is a conflict between strategy and culture, culture wins. A commitment to change requires refocusing of the cultural mindset that emanates from the top down. Merely embarking on a training program to encourage a focus on new tools, templates, and techniques can distract from the need to accomplish both the behavioral and attitudinal modifications that foster culture change.

 

“Refocusing an organization around common goals is the first step for brand revitalization.” -Light / Kiddon

 

6 Rules of Brand Revitalization

Rule 1: Refocus the organization

Rule 2: Restore brand relevance

Rule 3: Reinvent the brand experience

Rule 4: Reinforce a results culture

Rule 5: Rebuild brand trust

Rule 6: Realize global alignment

 

What tip would you provide to a leadership team in the midst of this refocus?

Leaders are different from commanders. Commanders manage by telling people what to do. They create acceptors. Leaders create believers. Acceptors go through the motions complying with the new processes and behaviors. Believers have true commitment that this refocus is a better path to a successful future. Acceptors are not the same as adherents. The leader must be the one to set the tone and drive the change for all to see and emulate. Leaders must demonstrate commitment if they expect people to become believers in the new world.

 

“The leader must set the tone and drive change.” -Light / Kiddon

 

  

2. Restore brand relevance.

What are the best ways to stay on top of changing customer expectations?

Stay up-to-date with all available information. Read a variety of sources, not just in your business’ field but also across many disciplines. Include regular market research reports. But also include what is happening in the world around us. Be observant. Be informed. Be open to new ideas.

In this world of access to “big data’” there is now a focus on data analytics. Analysis can tell us about what is happening today. Analysis is about the decomposition of data. But real insight does not come from analysis. It comes from creative synthesis. Analysis is about taking data apart. Synthesis is about putting together disparate sources of information in original ways. Synthesis is about detecting patterns that others fail to see. Keeping a brand relevant will involve both analysis and synthesis. Make sure that the organization is open and conducive to creative synthesis.

 

3. Reinvent the brand experience.

How do you define a brand experience?

The total brand experience includes consideration, shopping, purchase, use, service, online, offline, brand communications, handling of customer complaints, and so on. Every touch point with the customer is a part of the total brand experience. It includes every aspect of the brand promise: functional benefits, emotional and social rewards, solutions to problems, and so forth.

 

“Every touch point with the customer is a part of the total brand experience.” -Light / Kiddon

 

How fast can a brand innovate and reinvent?

6 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Evan Carmichael

Leadership Lessons from Entrepreneurs

Evan Carmichael is passionate about helping entrepreneurs. He built and sold a biotech software company at 19. He raised millions as a venture capitalist at 22. And then, he started EvanCarmichael.com as a website to help entrepreneurs. He is, by his own admission, “obsessed” with this passion.

His YouTube channel has millions of views and is the leading channel for entrepreneurs. You may have seen during one of his numerous media interviews or his many keynote speeches.

Recently, I caught up with Evan in Madrid, Spain. Having followed his career online, I wanted to learn more about the entrepreneurial mindset.

Even if we don’t own a business, what can we all learn from entrepreneurs? Here are a few lessons from Evan that inspired me. Since I am all about encouragement and empowerment, I wanted to share some of his most inspiring words.

 

6 Lessons from Entrepreneurs

All of us should:

  1. Embrace the entrepreneurial mindset.

This is a mindset of dissatisfaction with the status quo, of solutions, of challenge, and of driving to a more sustainable, successful place.

 

“Entrepreneurs have a dissatisfaction of the world around us.” –Evan Carmichael

 

“Entrepreneurs are the crazy ones who see a better future.” –Evan Carmichael

 

“Entrepreneurs are the solution providers who want to make the world a better place.” –Evan Carmichael

 

“Most of our global problems could be solved by entrepreneurs.” –Evan Carmichael

 

  1. Adopt a mindset of empowerment.

We should aim for a feeling of empowerment. It’s not about a title or a position. It’s about how we think. Finding a way to make a difference and to drive change is key to success.

 

“You don’t need permission to have an impact.” –Evan Carmichael

 

“Leaders of organizations empower teams to take risks.” –Evan Carmichael

 

  1. Assess and take appropriate risks.

Some entrepreneurs bet everything, but you can be pragmatic. You can take measured bets. Evan’s take on risk was eye opening. He thinks it’s “crazy risky” to assume you will have your job for 25 years and that your company will still be around. “Why not bet on you?” is a challenge we should all learn from.

 

“Betting on yourself is one of the best bets you can make.” –Evan Carmichael

 

  1. Embrace failure.

Failure is a subject I love to study because it is a component of all success. Evan adopts failure as part of the process, as something to embrace and encourage.

 

“Failure is feedback.” –Evan Carmichael

How to Transform Your Culture To Stay Ahead

How to Transform Your Culture

In all of the organizations I have had the privilege to lead, I am always thinking and focusing on culture. Culture, to me, is important both at home and at work. It is the engine that either limits potential or sustains success.

 

“Transforming culture is the real leadership work.” –John Mattone

 

Cultural Transformations BookcoverToday it seems every forward-thinking company is focused on cultural reinvention. John Mattone and Nick Vaidya’s new book, Cultural Transformations: Lessons of Leadership and Corporate Reinvention was one that I read with great interest. Not only do the authors outline the imperative to continually transform corporate culture to stay ahead of the competition, but they also interview numerous corporate leaders to provide examples to lead the way.

John Mattone has been featured here before. He’s a leadership guru, a top-ranked CEO coach, and runs a top-ranked leadership blog. Whenever he contacts me, I know that I will learn something. I recently had the opportunity to talk with him about his latest work.

 

“The culture you create and reinforce will determine your success.” –John Mattone

 

Culture Change is Constant

When you talk about cultural transformation, what are you referring to?  Under what circumstances might a company look to transform its culture?

Always. The need to transform culture and ensure that you always have the culture in place to drive sustained operating success is a never-ending pursuit and business priority. A healthy, vibrant and mature culture will drive success and keep any organization “ahead of the curve.” So many factors are creating “disruption” in all sectors—digitization, globalization, and the need to operate at two-speeds (fast in emerging economies, slower in mature economies). Traditional differentiators like size, scope, legacy and market position are no longer differentiators. To stay ahead of the curve, CEO’s and senior teams must always be re-thinking, re-shaping, and reinventing their own purpose as well as the purpose of the enterprise. It is no longer about the company you want to create; it is now much more about the company that you must create.

Copyright John Mattone and Nick Vaidya; Used by Permission Copyright John Mattone and Nick Vaidya; Used by Permission

 

 

“The need to transform culture is a never-ending pursuit and business priority.” –John Mattone

 

 

Defining the Right Culture for You

How do you define what is the right culture for your organization?

You have to be passionate and diligent about measuring everything. This is the 6th step of my Cultural Transformation Model. Measuring operating metrics is part of it. Measuring the effectiveness of your talent systems, your engagement levels, and getting views from your customers and suppliers, and actually measuring what’s working and not working in your culture are all critical. Ultimately, it’s about leveraging your strengths and gifts—the positive legacy aspects of your business (and culture) and addressing the “gaps” and having a laser-focus discipline is what’s required. Sometimes, the C-level team determines based on this “world of feedback” that the company must become more innovative. This will then lead to strategies on how to recruit and select talent who possess the capability to be agile, nimble and innovative. Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice in medicine. However, I would say the same principle applies in the world of corporate reinvention and renewal.

Copyright John Mattone and Nick Vaidya; Used by Permission Copyright John Mattone and Nick Vaidya; Used by Permission

 

“A healthy, vibrant and mature culture will drive success.” –John Mattone

 

The Role of the Leader

Take Inventory of Your Regrets to Create a Better Future

Living With Regrets

 

“I often regret that I have spoken; never that I have been silent.” –Publilius Syrus

 

His eyes still haunt me months later.

I was in Chicago for a conference. Early on my first morning there, I found myself exiting the elevator into the well-appointed lobby. Taking a few minutes to warm myself in front of a roaring fire, I braced myself for the cold wind outside. Leaving the hotel was essential to go a block or so to Starbucks where I could find a jolt of caffeine.

That’s when I saw him. As I got closer, I could see him panhandling. A well-dressed businessman silently crossed the street in order to avoid him. I discretely slipped a few bucks from my wallet before he saw me, depositing them into my front pocket. When he asked for some help, I responded with a smile and the money.

The same thing happened the next day.

But, the third day, I thought that this wasn’t working. “Hey, I already gave him money,” I said to myself, “And it’s not like it does any good.” So, I smiled, but kept walking.

How utterly ridiculous. How self-centered. How insensitive.

A few bucks would have helped him a great deal and meant little to me. I regret not giving him those dollars and even more.

 

“I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.” –Lucille Ball

 

Take Time to Think About Your Regrets

It got me thinking about other regrets. Sure, some people can live with the “No Regrets” mindset. I, on the other, take time each year to think about what I do regret, what I should have done differently, what I could have done but did not do. And, painful as it is, and somewhat embarrassing, I am sharing the top 10 of this year’s list with you. I don’t do this as a way to provide an impossible penance or pay a debt. I do it because it acknowledges what I want to change. Hopefully, it sparks something in me to be a better, more caring person. And maybe you, too.

 

“To give up yourself without regret is the greatest charity.” –Bodhidharma

 

When I do this each year, it reminds me that, if I listen to my inner voice early enough, I will live life to its full. I will look back and not think of regret, but smile with a joy of knowing I did exactly what I was supposed to do.

 

“Listen to your inner voice early enough to change and live life to its full.” -Skip Prichard

 

What you’ll notice is that my regrets go in both directions. That’s because too much of one thing equals not enough of another. You will also notice that they start with “I.” Normally, I frown on writing with “I” because it is self-centered; however, this list is all about personal responsibility. And that always starts with I. Anything less would place blame where it should not be.

In a randomized order, here is my list: