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As we approach the end of 2018, many of you are probably planning business transformations for the New Year. However, the loftier the goals, the more care needs to be given to the process in achieving them. All organizations today face the need for more frequent and ongoing change in order to maintain their competitive advantages and relevance in the the marketplace. But change is exceedingly difficult in today’s more complex business battlefield. In the Navy SEAL Teams, we operated in what we referred to as VUCA environments: volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous. Sounds just like modern business doesn’t it?
The United States military has been in a constant state of transformation over the past seventeen years. We entered these conflicts essentially as a very slow moving, siloed, over-managed, under-led twentieth century organization. We initially made the incorrect assumption that our enemies followed the same organizational design. Which of course they do not. They are highly decentralized. We quickly realized major structural, cultural and mindset change needed to happen. And happen fast. The majority of today’s business organizations are under the same pressure to change.
But transformation is an evolving concept, which means that when one positive attribute is put solidly in place, it paves the way for the next and the next. Alternatively, when one of these attributes goes missing, the transformation stops. The change doesn’t occur. And just like any recipe, you must have all the ingredients for a winning result. So what are they?
Five Key Ingredients
Successful change formulas involve (1) vision, (2) benefits, (3) sponsorship, (4) resources and (5) methodology. If any of these five ingredients are left out, the outcome won’t taste all that great. For example, if aligned vision is lacking confusion sets in quickly. The key word being aligned. If senior leaders have varying ideas of what success looks like, things get messy really fast. When the benefits aren’t clear (or not clearly communicated), ambivalence occurs. Without full sponsorship from leadership, resistance spreads. Without resources, frustration. Without a clear methodology and approach, procrastination becomes the norm.
Areas That Change Impacts the Most
The areas of an organization affected most by transformation are mindset, behavior, culture, strategy, design and tactics. Mindset affects behavior, which creates a culture that either succeeds or fails in implementing a strong strategy and necessary tactics for execution. Leadership must have an authentic belief in the mission. Successful organizational change is impossible if leadership alignment doesn’t exist – meaning that not all of the senior leaders are bought in. When it comes to transformation within an organization, it’s all or nothing. Even if initial momentum is gained, backsliding will almost always occur without aligned leadership participation and communication.
To develop a mindset shift, create an organization-wide feedback loop. Take a data-driven approach. How? By asking! Ask your employees what’s important to them and what motivates them most. Be honest about the work that must be done (which is usually substantial), but factor in time for enjoyment to counterbalance the discomfort that inevitably comes with change. Remove competing priorities so everyone is clear on what their role is. And don’t forget to celebrate early successes, using the opportunity to tell the story of progress.
Once everyone is aligned on the mission ahead, behaviors will begin to shift. What once seemed impossible is now possible. What seemed like a lofty goal is achievable by task-driven agendas. The attitude a leadership team brings to the table is reflected in the culture. It creates the environment that instills the beliefs of the organization. However, a shift in mindset isn’t perceptible to others without consistent words and action to back it up. A mindset shift to “the new way of doing things” requires consistency and more consistency.
Ask The Important Questions
Do the actions of your leadership team align with the behavior and culture you want for your company? Is the aligned path (and associated goals and KPIs) talked about frequently? Or do assumptions start to take place driving discourse between perception and reality? Your strategy will guide the vision and behavior set out by leaders of the organization. But as we say in the SEAL Teams, don’t run to your death. This vision can become murky if you move too quickly. If you try to implement tactics based on assumptions, people will veer off course.
Part of a strong strategy is continual communication of what everyone wants to accomplish as a team. It also includes clear direction on who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed for which action items. Here is an area where many organizations stumble. No one takes full accountability and production comes to halt. Each area involved in the transformation must receive ongoing attention, effort, and in some cases, course correction. In order for consistency to exist, new standard operating procedures must be developed as well as an organizational design that keeps them in place.
Finally, the tactics you implement are what will drive results. Ensure action items align with the goal(s) of the organization and are communicated across all teams following one mission narrative. Redundancy without action causes frustration. Communication without an action plan causes confusion. Reduce chaos by focusing on the areas affected most by transformation.
Not everyone embraces change in the same way. A true transformation requires many steps and small changes to ultimately make an impact. Align your organization’s mindset and behavior and take action to accomplish the mission set forth. The results you’ll receive from a business standpoint and culture perspective will provide positive returns for years to come. It’s a long-term investment that is well worth it for any organization who wishes to achieve lasting success.
December 27, 2018 at 03:01PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs