When new behavior and new ways of thinking are required, an essential step is for the CEO, the board, and key managers to have an image in their minds of what the organization will look and act like after achieving its strategic goals.
Companies frequently talk about “our mission, vision, and values.” The trouble is that most of the time, the word “vision” is used incorrectly. When CEOs say they’ve defined their company’s vision, I ask them to explain it to me. Many respond with something like, “Our vision is to be the most innovative, agile company in our industry.” To which I reply, “That’s a mission, not a vision.”
In cases like these, the so-called vision merely repeats what is already in the strategy, and, worse, does nothing to emotionally engage the people who are being asked to implement it. A leader’s vision — particularly if that leader needs to bring about significant change in the organization — should start as a vivid, credible image of an ideal future state. The clearer a CEO is about what people should do differently to achieve new, challenging objectives, the greater his or her chances of achieving the changes necessary for success. New behavior doesn’t come from missions, however aspirational, but from deep, emotional commitment to doing things differently.
CEO’s must enlist the organization’s most influential managers so they roll up their sleeves and become committed enough to new ways of operating to cause changes both in their behavior and that of the people they influence.
The most effective way to engage these key executives is to communicate a vision — a vivid, detailed, and inspiring description of what will be seen, heard, and felt when the company has implemented the needed changes. Anything that doesn’t meet this standard is not a vision.
Following are five guiding principles:
- Find your own unique way. There is no simple, generic way to craft a real vision, one that is a powerful asset for change. It must be tailored to the character of the company, must be described in the leader’s own words, and must reflect the leader’s personality. No one should question whether it represents the CEO’s true and thoughtful ideas for the organization’s future.
- Appeal to emotions often and vividly. As important as anything else, a description of the optimal organization must paint a picture that people are drawn to because it strikes them as more satisfying than today’s environment — in particular, as a place where their needs for achievement, affiliation, and control can be met.
- Describe changes that can be imagined. For the leader seeking to implement a new strategy, a carefully crafted vision is the best way to acknowledge the extent of the changes that will be necessary, particularly when those changes affect popular, long-standing practices. No one is happy to give up habits and ways of operating that have worked for them and that feel comfortable. Usually, people will accept the need to change behaviors gradually, after being involved to some degree in determining the specifics of new practices.
- Describe valued behavior, not values. In describing the vision, the leader should distinguish between core humanistic values and the behavior that will be valued in order for the organization to successfully change.
- Be both firm and flexible. A leader who is formulating a vision must be firm about core elements of what should be in it but can and should be flexible on others. Key managers must be included in the process of refining the vision and made an integral part of finalizing and honing it. They must understand what the leader believes is not negotiable, where there is some room for negotiation, and where he is not certain what is best and wants to discuss ideas.
You can read the full blog post here.
Silicon Valley brand guru, Allen Olivo, recently spoke at an industry forum, where he highlighted how important it is for brands to be human.
“You don’t want to have to keep rebuilding and rebranding your company and lose track of what you stand for. In the world where everything is changing, a way to create sustainability in your brand is to come at this from the point of view of humans. It’s about sculpting your brand based on human outcomes, because it’s humans that buy products and make decisions.”
“Don’t shortcut it, because that’s the thing that gives you your North Star. When you have to transition, or if there’s an issue or you stumble, you can come back to what you believe,” he said. “If you don’t have it, you don’t know where to go and your customers don’t know where to go.”
“Find the essential, universal truths for your brand. Connect the story through the highest common denominator, not the lowest. When you go up high, you can hang a lot of stuff on the clothes line, but it’s very hard to build up if you start low.”
“What are they going through as human beings, and how do you find places for your brand to add value? Because you’re not going to change the customer journey,”
“The stuff that defines the business is on the bottom of the pyramid. Most organisations, however, have built their brands there. But that model is unsustainable. Someone is going to do it cheaper, faster or better – it’s going to happen. “You have to base it on the higher level of how you do what you do and why you do it.” Olivo said in reference to Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’.
Olivo offered up three ways successful brands humanise their engagement:
- The first is they have a point of view on how stuff gets put together.
- The second thing human brands do is signal intent. “This is about saying, if I want you to stay with me, and be part of my ecosystem, I have to let you know where I’m going internally as well as externally,”
- The third thing human-oriented brands do to gain authenticity is solve for universal human truths.
Olivo goes onto give examples of brands following each of these paths.
You can read the full recount of Olivo’s talk here.
In a recent HBR article, David Robertson highlights how Gatorade addressed a decline in sales by re-engaging with its core customer – the elite athlete. They found that while elite athletes needed to hydrate throughout competition, they also loaded up with carbohydrates prior to an event and consumed protein shakes after an event to help with muscle recovery.
Gatorade in turn, created energy chews and carbohydrate drinks for pre-event preparations and protein shakes and bars for post-event recovery. At the same time they reduced the number of flavours available of the core Gatorade drink that were available and discounted less.
From a low of less than $4.5 billion in 2009, Gatorade hit $5.6 billion in sales in 2015, and owned 78% of the US market. Competitor Powerade’s growth stopped.
You can read the full article here.
In a recent HBR article, Ayse Birsel, discusses one of many tools used by designers and problem solvers to brainstorm and overcome problems – wrong thinking. Wrong thinking is essentially about coming up with the worst possible idea imaginable. The complete opposite of what appears to be the logical solution. The sorts of ideas that people would immediately say are “dumb ideas”.
This technique is another way to re-frame the situation and force you to think about the problem differently. Birsel goes onto give a few examples including how Fred Sanger, when trying to break down and sequence the human genome, instead tried to build DNA. Another describes how Argentinian chef Francois Mallmann, got out of the normal and accepted environment for a chef in order to create entirely new culinary experiences.
You can read the full article here.
In a recent HBR article by Eric Garton and Andy Noble – both of Bain & Company – explain how senior leaders can adopt agile practices in an early first move to transitioning their organisation to becoming more agile. Something that takes time.
This helps set the stage for such a transition as it shows the leaders are walking their talk before asking others to do the same. Leaders will also learn some of the nuances along the way in regards to where these practices might work and where they likely won’t.
- Create a managed backlog of enterprise priorities: See your leadership team as an agile Scrum that prioritizes the backlog based on importance, then tackles them in sequence until completed. Reprioritize your enterprise backlog when new initiatives are added.
- Create small, talent-rich teams working outside the hierarchy to address your most important priorities: These teams are given permission to use Agile methods and processes and to work outside of the often energy-draining and slower-moving traditional processes and decision hierarchies. Self-managed teams with limited hierarchy and bureaucracy are explicit features of such organizational models.
- Time-box your work and make extensive use of test-and-learn techniques: Working in smaller increments of focused time, typically one to four weeks, also accelerates decision velocity and the overall corporate metabolism. Using test-and-learn techniques with both customers and internal stakeholders allows companies to take minimum viable solutions and iterate on them quickly, abandoning weaker solutions for better ones.
Agile, and the resulting decision velocity, starts at the top of the house. Senior leadership teams that lead in an agile manner and make high-velocity decisions will see these behaviors mimicked at lower levels in the organization.
You can read the full article here.
A recent HBR article by Tuck Rickards and Rhys Grossman, explains that as companies start to realize the Digital does in fact mean a total transformation of a business and not just modernizing parts of it, its important to have Board Directors that have Digital acumen to help facilitate such holistic transformations.
The pair articulate four types of Digital Directors:
- Digital thinker. The director has had little direct interaction with digital as an operator but conceptually understands the digital environment. They have been a board director or adviser in a digital business but are not a digital native.
- Digital disruptor. The director has been deeply embedded in digital, often with experience from a pure-play company. This type of leader typically has less general management breadth.
- Digital leader. The director has had substantial experience running a traditional business that leverages digital in a significant way (retail or media, for example). It’s likely that this person has less hands-on digital experience but has managed disruption as a general manager.
- Digital transformer. The director has led or participated in a transformation of a traditional business. Typically the person does not have the seniority of a digital leader but is more digitally astute.
The appointment of directors from the fourth category is increasing and encouraged by Rickards and Grossman, although they recognise that the distinction between a ‘Digital’ Director and a ‘non-Digital’ Director is blurring.
Your can read their full article here.
As Franz explains,
A well-defined and clearly-communicated vision becomes the organization’s north star and helps employees understand how they are consistently expected to deliver the experience for your customers.
Franz goes on to list some great examples of customer centric vision statements such as the following:
- Warby Parker: We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket.
- State Farm: Remarkable. Every day. Every customer. Every interaction.
- The Ritz-Carlton: The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
- IKEA: Create a better everyday life for the many people.
Before going onto articulate how to develop a vision statement and how to apply it.
You can read the full article here.
In a recent HBR article, Greg Satell, articulates there are four basic types of innovation depending on the problem that needs solving. In turn there are various techniques that are best leveraged depending on the situation.
- Sustaining Innovation: Where most innovation occurs as we are simply trying to improve what we are already doing. The problem and the domain skill sets are fairly clear
- Breakthrough Innovation: Where the problem is well understood but it’s a very tricky one to solve and the skill sets required to solve it are not clear cut.
- Disruptive Innovation: When innovating your products or services further won’t help and you need to innovate your business model as the marketplace has changed.
- Basic Research: When neither the problem nor the domain skill sets required to solve it are well defined. A base level of research needs to be conducted to gather more data.
You can read Satell’s complete article here, including how a bag of clams saved a microchip manufacturer hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Earlier this year, an Australian based company specializing in helping organisations improve their customer experience using Design Thinking, The Customer Experience Company, re-branded itself after 15 years of considerable growth. They also created and moved into an entirely new office space. And they wrote all about it.
So for an interesting read how Design Thinking professionals “eat their own dog food” and use the same practices they use with clients for designing their own brand and new office, check out their Brand Manager’s blog post here.
In another recent HBR article, Mark Bonchek and Barry Libert, argue that organisations wanting to undertake a transformation are in need of a new mental model and new measurement model just as much as a new business model.
You have to change how you think before you can change what you do, and then change what you measure to close the loop.
The authors cite examples of companies trying to copy the business model of another and failing as they had not change the way they thought or measured results. The primary example given is the Southwest Airlines business model and the attempts to copy it by Continental Lite, Ted by United, and Song by Delta which all failed. Whereas JetBlue, which has emulated all three models, has succeeded.
Southwest cofounder Herb ‘Kelleher is known for saying: “I tell my employees that we’re in the service business, and it’s incidental that we fly airplanes.” Other carriers fly airplanes that carry people. Southwest serves people using airplanes.”
“Traditional carriers were still thinking about their business as flying planes rather than thinking about serving people, still worrying about capturing share rather than growing the market, and still measuring success based on how well they utilized planes rather than how well they served passengers.”
“In contrast, companies like JetBlue decided to emulate Southwest’s entire system: mental model, business model, and measurement model. Like Southwest, JetBlue focuses on people over planes, with a mission to “bring humanity back to air travel.” Beyond the usual financial metrics, JetBlue also measures the strength of its culture and the quality of its experience.”
You can read the full article here.