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I have found that most good things in life start with questions.. Our minds have the tendency to answer any question that is posed to us.. Irrespective of whether we want to or not. For example, if I were to ask you:
What is 10 time 10?
Your mind would have already calculated the answer irrespective of whether you wanted to answer it or not.
We can use this same tendency to ask more deeper questions as well. For example, how to create better products and/or businesses?
We could also take our business on a growth trajectory, by finding answers to the following questions?
- What does my customer really care about?
- Where and how do they discover us?
- What do we want them to experience when they work with us?
- How can we help them tell their story (of our interaction) to their friends?
This of course is assuming that you already have answers to the more basic questions:
- Who is my customers?
- What value do they think we provide to them?
- What other ways can we provide the same value to them?
- Where do they hang out? How can we be a part of that gang?
One thing that we need to remember is that just as your mind will answer good questions, it will also answer bad questions.. So, we need to be careful about the kind of questions that we pose to ourselves, our teams and our customers..
So, what questions are we going to ask ourselves, our teams and our customers today?
Hindu scriptures talk about three basic components that all matter is made up of:
- Sattva – A bias towards Knowledge
- Rajas – A bias towards action
- Tamas – A bias towards inertia
These are the same components that are required in leading change initiatives.
It is critical that the leaders of the change initiative know the reasons for the change that they want to bring in. They should have answers to questions like
- Why is the change necessary? Why now?
- What will successful transition look like
- What is in it for everyone who is involved?
- What needs to change (culture, processes, products, etc)
- What needs to remain
- Break down the transitions into clearly explainable steps or behaviors that need to be changed and what do the new behaviors look like.
It is equally critical that the leaders do not just stop at the intellectual level and knowing what needs to happen. They need to make this happen. In order for that they need to:
- Show a bias for action
- Communicate their knowledge and reasons for driving the change. Do it continuously.
- Explain the actions that they want to see clearly, so that people understand exactly what is expected out of them.
- Keep the change simple. Trying too many things at the same time doesnt work.
- Provide continuous feedback on how people are doing. Publicly. Praise when they exhibit the right behavior and reprimand when they don’t.
If the knowledge and action parts are done well, you would have built some momentum in the change effort.
- It is critical that you allow for the momentum to take effect and drive the change initiative.
- Do not start another change initiative until the purpose has been solved.
- Use organizational inertia to your advantage rather than fight against it.
This concept is not only applicable for leading organizational change but also for individual change. You can apply the same steps to reduce weight, write a book or follow your dream.
Last week we celebrated my son’s 10th birthday. Apart from a set of gifts that we got him, his uncle and aunt decided to gift him a tablet and asked us to choose one for him.
After a lot of research, discussion, debates and online search, we zeroed in on two models – a windows tab from Acer and Google Nexus. We then announced it to my son that he will get a tab of his own and that we are considering one of these two options.
To say the least, he was totally elated and excited. His excitement reminded me of the times when i was so excited and when I recalled those times, it hit me so hard that I could not believe it.
The last time i was as excited about something was at least a decade back. This is not to say that i am not excited about a lot of other stuff that i do in my job or when I write a good blog post or when i talk to some one I look upto for my podcast or when I am able to help delight a customer or when I released my first book on Amazon. I do feel excitement but it pales when compared to the excitement of a 10 year old who is about to get his own tablet PC.
This is the kind of excitement that we need to bring into our own professional and personal lives to be able to leave a lasting impact in everything that we do.
This kind of excitement is palpable and can spread among our friends and colleagues, creating a lot of positive energy all around us.
This is the kind of excitement that we should strive to create among our customers and prospects towards our products/services.
This is the kind of excitement that we should strive to create among our team, in order for the team to be inspire and do great work.
The question is what can we do to create and feel such excitement in ourselves and in others.
I have noticed that all large organizations that fail, have one thing in common: They fail because they are not able to change how they run their business fast enough with the changing business environment.
Until last century, the change in the environment was slow and took a long time to take root – so, organizations had the crucial element of time on their side and could re-invent themselves to stay relevant or die a long & painful death.
The convergence of internet, mobile, and a change in the demographic of the consumer has meant that organizations today don’t have the luxury of time on their side.
In order to stay relevant, they need to learn to build velocity in all aspects of their business.
Build Velocity in developing new products or rethinking (or killing) products that are not being adopted; Velocity in their communications (both internal and external); Velocity in their sales and marketing process.
And most importantly, they need to build velocity in their ability to make & implement decisions.
Gone are the days when organizations could afford to let information flow from bottom to the top management and then wait for the top management to take decisions, which are then cascaded down to the execution layer of the organization.
Today, organizations need to be built or designed for velocity. Traditional structures will need to be re-invented and new organizational structures thought of.
Traditional pyramid structures need to be replaced with newer organizational structures. One such structure that i proposed in an blog post earlier is that of a concentric circles with the customer being at the center of the organization.
When you combine this new organization model and add the concept of “Commander’s Intent”, you get the foundations of a high velocity organization.
Commanders Intent is a single page document that is created in the military that lays down the primary intent of the military exercise so that even if there is one soldier standing, he knows what is expected out of him. The commander’s intent is the vision that the leader has for the organization and its journey in time.
When you have an empowered front line staff, energetic and supportive middle managers and a leader with a clear vision, you lay down the foundations for a high velocity organization.
I know that this is not easy to implement, but for some organizations, which are on the brink of extinction, this could be their last strike. For example, large brick and mortar retailers who are currently facing challenges of slowing business spurred by growing online commerce, could use this model to bring life back in their stores. The key is that, all the three components need to be there for this strategy to work – Commanders Intent, Empowered, Engaged & Involved front-line staff, supportive management structure.
Organizations that are able to put this in practice can build sustainable competitive advantage as they will not only respond to their changing environment much faster than their competitors and at the same time continue to move towards their vision. Also, the people who are responding to the changing environment are the people who actually understand this first hand and can also figure out what could be done to counter these changes in the business environment.
These are my thoughts. What do you think? How easy or difficult do you think implementing this new organization design is and if this will indeed provide velocity in decision-making?