03/10/14

Transformation Starts at the Top

Can you imagine what your businesses needs to become, but just haven’t been able make it happen?  Well, you’re not alone ….. not by a long shot!

Because transforming businesses is like that for most people.  Transitioning a business that was great at one time, into what it needs to become in order to stay great, is hard.  Even when the imperative for doing it is blindingly apparent.

Seeing the future configuration isn’t the hard part.   Most of us already know what the next generation of ours needs to look like.  Rather, it’s in untangling everything we’ve put in place that now locks it and our people into their existing modes, activities, thinking and positioning with our customers.  Unwinding all that’s not for the fearful, the satisfied nor the faint of heart.  And it isn’t easy work.

For 50 years businesses around the world have turned to the concept of strategy as the silver bullet for making these kinds of breakaways.  With surprisingly consistent results.

Seldom has it worked!

Rigorous bottom-up, organization-wide, data intensive exercises to identify “strategic” initiatives and then assign individuals to their execution have arisen to ritual status in lots of companies.  Even though I find few CEO’s who attribute any significant success to those activities

And it doesn’t take more than a brief moment and step to the sidelines and see why.  To see the misconceptions underlying in the “default” strategy game plan for transforming enterprises.

I see three causes:

So then, where does the force that sets an organization off its existing track and onto a fresh path come from?  Only one place.  It can only come from the top.

A quick run down of just the most obvious transformational stories of recent years makes the point:

Effective transformation arises in the workings of one mind.  One mind that thinks differently from the others.  Clearly catalyzed by events and opinions surrounding it, but synthesized in the thinking of a single individual.  One with the ability to see patterns others don’t.  And with the credibility and personal magnetism to inspire an organization to set sail from familiar shores for a destination that  most people, including the one at the top, don’t yet fully understand.

Nor does the prescription only apply to big companies.  The ones we’ve all read about.  In fact it’s much more prevalent among smaller and younger ones where the friction of adhesion to what exists is less to overcome, and where you really don’t need to be a Steve Jobs or John Mackey to get it moving.

It only takes  ……

…… At The Top.

I believe that most of us have that.  And demonstrating it is simply a matter of will …..  ours.

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About the author

Dick Cross
Dick Cross

Dick Cross is the founder and Managing Principal of The Cross Partnership III, a twenty-year-old, Boston-based, “hands-on” consulting and turn-around firm focused on improving the operating and financial performance of businesses owned by financial sponsors. Over the past decade, Dick has served as an interim President/CEO, leading successful business transitions in eight companies over the past twelve years.

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