Bold Moves, Exceptional Execution: Building Capacity to Weather Change

gettyimages-167890451-compressorWhether you truly believe the pace of business is accelerating or not, it becomes more apparent each year that companies lacking the ability to weather and adapt to rapid change are suffering in comparison to their nimbler peers.

Technology is a great microcosm for studying rapid change. Take the dichotomy of two companies in the news recently. While Amazon is pushing to break free of wires and open up 400 new brick-and-mortar locations, fellow digital conglomerate Yahoo! is pursuing “strategic alternatives,” as a result of lagging adaptation to change. Despite vastly different approaches to contend with change, both organizations, like many others in their sector, are on the clock to pick up the pace and inspire ever-faster organizational change.

But it’s not only tech companies that need to cope with this accelerating shift. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink recently called on corporate leaders across the board to focus more on the longer-term strategic plan and ensure they have more than a cursory focus on their “strategic framework for long-term value creation.” It isn’t enough just to deliver quarterly results anymore—all companies must plan to scale and deliver for the future.

“Focus more on the longer-term strategic plan and ensure they have more than a cursory focus on their strategic framework for long-term value creation.”

To keep their business in the game, leaders in every industry and type of company—whether a public multinational or venture-capital-backed startup—will need to follow these 3 key steps to increase their organization’s capacity for change, to stay relevant and survive in a fiercely competitive marketplace.

1. Create a roadmap to navigate the future. This strategic plan for weathering change should be constructed on a foundation of purpose—clarity about who the company is and what they do; markets—where the business plays, and where they don’t play; and differentiation—how they are unique, and why they will they still be relevant six, 12 and 24 months from now.

2. Encourage broad-based engagement and innovation. Successfully navigating change requires a bold strategy combined with exceptional execution—engaging and empowering leaders across the organization, delivering the results, and accelerating and repeating this as the new norm for how things get done. The CEO and leadership team must foster a culture where employees are not just permitted, but encouraged to find ways within and beyond their defined job descriptions to help the business get results faster.

3. Build networks to execute change faster. Networks trump hierarchies when it comes to collaboration, speed and results. Success will depend on the culture—led by the leadership team—attacking and breaking down hierarchy silos, incentivizing the desired behaviors and creating an environment where people are unafraid to share ideas, take risks and fail fast.

In the end, transformations should be exciting opportunities for breakout results and new ways of working. Just as market leaders seize each iteration of change as an opportunity to grow bigger and better, slower adopters may still have a chance to reinvigorate the company, redefine what they do and how they do it, invest in and innovate products that will thrill consumers and execute and deliver results for investors.

The only question remains…are your leaders up for the challenge?

Russell Raath
Russell Raath is the President of Kotter Consulting, the global consulting business of Kotter International Inc., the management consulting firm founded by Dr John P Kotter, world-renowned Harvard Business School Professor of Leadership and Strategy. At Kotter International we are focused on unlocking the full power of an organization to achieve strategic, sustainable results faster than leaders believe possible.

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