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An open letter

Go placidly amongst the haste, noise and COVID-induced slowdown.

Organizational leaders,

Amidst the unprecedented chaos of this year, you are no doubt feeling the effects. Uncertainty. Doubt. Fear. Anxiety. Quarantine. The rapid shift from booming to busting. These are Interesting times in which to lead.

If you weren’t already actively engaged in planning and strategizing for the necessary pivots required to keep your organization healthy and thriving – you undoubtedly will be. As you do, consider this; your planning and actions have broad effects on many. Your customers, partners, suppliers, employees, and investors are but a few groups that are counting on you. Your business is part of an ecosystem.

As you plan and mobilize, please endeavor to do better. This may sound like a strange request – who doesn’t strive for improvement? That said, with success rates of transformational efforts being as abysmal as they are, it’s clear that the intention to do better and a desire for better results are simply not enough. Please pay close attention to the space between strategy and execution. It is in this space where things are won and lost. Many depend on your leadership and stewardship.

For those leaders that have transformational efforts presently underway, you are more than likely experiencing some sort of a slowdown (or soon will be). Take advantage of the unfortunate pause and conduct an audit. Again, focus on the space between strategy and execution. If strategy and vision is the “macro”, and the project is the “micro” – seek to ensure a strong bridge between the two worlds.

A few checkpoints to consider:

· Do your project teams understand the “what” and the “why” behind the project? Deeply? Those in the “trenches” need a mechanism to supply context, helping to create focus and prioritize the problems they are solving.

· Is there a comprehensive understanding of the specific improvements and desired behavior changes which are central to your vision for better tomorrows? This is especially important if you are implementing a tool; while the project is reliant upon the tool, the real effort is to drive behavior changes via the use of the tool.

· Have you defined and examined the entire value chain – naming and evaluating all the organization’s capabilities which contribute to tomorrow’s success? Success more than likely depends upon much more than the obvious changes.

· Have you explored deeply the motivations of your customers? While the tangible aspects of your changes are what is “bought”, the intangible aspects of the change – how it makes them feel – underlies their choice.

· Are you confident that the scope of the effort is focused and aligned to the specific changes needed? Improper scope is enemy number 1.

· Do your teams have the necessary awareness of the change and its role and criticality for better organizational success? Have you worked to instill the desire for the change at the individual level? These are both needed prior to any training being effective.

· Do you have KPIs established which are truly leading indicators? While the behavior changes are presumably linked to an ultimate outcome (increased sales, reduced cost, etc.), you can’t effectively manage at this level.

These are but a few generic proof points, but I hope they illustrate some aspects of that space in between strategy and execution.

These are weird times. Use all of today’s uncertainty as a catalyst to succeed better. Now, more than ever, does organizational success matter – benefiting your organization’s entire ecosystem.

A final request – know yourself. If your organization has a history of transformational efforts which yield unmet expectations, seek out a good partner. There are many practitioners focused solely on helping to drive increased success for their clients, myself included.

Here’s to better tomorrows.

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