A Dynamic Organization Principle #6

Develop Ambitions Greater than Means

The limits you create will be real to you until you learn to step beyond them. Then, you  will look back at the reality you used to inhabit, wondering how you were able to stand  its narrow confines. —Paul Ferrini, Author and spiritual teacher

Companies looking to engage in perpetual transformational opportunities are most successful when they set their ambitions much higher than their means. As people participate in the vision, energy is released that inspires innovative ways for reaching the goal.

People who feel passionate about the vision step up to be leaders. Others wait until the goal seems more tenable before they engage. Abusiness_intelligence_success_ few resist and may add to the instability. However, if handled skillfully, the contrasting tensions can assist the transformation.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that companies that do not stretch their vision will be surpassed by the competition. These actions can assist companies to stretch their vision and prepare people for perpetual transformation:

  • Express a vision or strategic intent to members of the organization that leads to breakthrough thinking and action. By allowing the participants to embrace a grand vision, leaders naturally align themselves and move beyond what was once considered impossible.
  • Disperse control. The complexity of a major shift in vision requires top leadership to disperse control. By sharing the vision and empowering the participants, the idea takes on an energy of its own. The role of leadership is to continually share the vision, provide support, and celebrate accomplishments.
  • Stay focused and harness energy. In large, complex organizations, many transformative processes may be happening at the same time. The key to success is to stay focused and harness the energy created by the overall goal. A simple rallying cry, slogan, or watchword is helpful to thread the varying activities and maintain high spirits.
  • Discuss change and introduce points of inflection. Introducing a new vision when most members of an organization are satisfied with the status quo may prove to be futile. Most organizations are more susceptible to major shifts in focus during times of crisis. Starting a conversation about what might happen if the market shifts drastically can begin to prepare members for change. Introducing an artificial point of inflection is another option for stimulating receptivity.

Come back for the next 4 Principles on Leading a Dynamic Organization! Feel free to comment with questions, insights, or additions to this post. To receive alerts when the next blog is published, click on the RSS feed at the top left of the page to subscribe.
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[i] Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel, Large-Scale Organizational Change (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000), 79.

A Dynamic Organization Principle #4

Use Strategic Infection Points

A strategic inflection point, a term coined by Andrew Grove, former CEO of Intel Corporation, “occurs when a company is confronted by an innovation of revolutionary significance (force 10x) that affects the entire industry in which it operates.”[i] Minor shifts, such as price drops and changes in purchase behavior, challenge companies every day. Strategic inflection points, however, force companies into seismic shifts or extinction. As our economy becomes more unpredictable, strategic inflection points are increasing in frequency. By developing adaptability and resilience, organizations can leverage the opportunities these strategic inflection points present.
Chaos dynamics says that strategic inflection points represent decision points or bifurcations for leadership_techniques_many organizations. At this point, companies must adapt in order to survive. The status quo is no longer viable.
The long-term success of an organization in times of volatility depends on its ability to take advantage of each strategic inflection point better than its competitors. There are several ways to leverage this opportunity.
Organizations are better able to perceive key shifts in advance of competitors by tapping into their front-line employees. The “sales staff, warehouse managers, customer service representatives, product developers, scientists, or purchasing agents are often the first to sense”[ii] these changes.
When top leaders see continuation of the status quo as unviable, they may decide to generate a period of transitional chaos. Clear, frequent, and comprehensive communication is essential during these times. If employees are kept in the dark about what is happening, fear increases and positive energies that support innovation and cooperation shut down. At a time when it is often the most difficult, people need to be heard. Communication about the status and expected outcome must flow freely in all directions.
Disorder is a strange or chaotic attractor that can unleash powerful forces for change within an organization. However, when faced with an unforeseen strategic inflection point, top leaders are challenged with maintaining a delicate balance. By dispersing control and supporting the organization as it self-organizes within the new paradigm, the company survives and grows in resilience.
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[i] Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel, Large-Scale Organizational Change (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000), 70.
[ii] Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel, Large-Scale Organizational Change (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000), 72.

A Dynamic Organization: Principle #2

Maintain Long-term Identity while Repositioning

Advances in technology and global connectivity have combined to unleash a host of new opportunities for companies of all sizes. As organizations become adept at morphing their strategies to take advantage of these opportunities, they gain strategic benefit by business_change_model_ establishing and maintaining a long-term identity that speaks to their core strength. This ability to change also protects companies from failure if their existing business is marginalized or deemed untenable by government legislation, new technological innovation, or other unforeseen events. By building and communicating an identity vision, organizations are able to leverage their ability to “differentiate themselves from competitors, motivate their employees, and build lasting relationships with customers.”[i]

Several approaches can help leaders reposition their business while maintaining their overall identity. Defining a transcendent vision allows a company to redefine aspects of its business while maintaining its overall identity. SAS, for example, is a global Business Intelligence Solutions company that started out creating software for statistical analysis. A SAS user was someone who knew how to write SAS code. Today, SAS has broadened its scope and evolved into a leader in Business Intelligence solutions with an emphasis on business analytics. With SAS, anyone within the organization can access information to gain knowledge about their business through simple graphical user interfaces (GUIs). But the vision of the company as one that helps businesses turn data into knowledge still rings true for SAS.

To ensure success when adapting strategies, organizations should keep an eye on customer value while taking advantage of all the internal knowledge as well as market indicators to determine which new activity or group of activities will serve future needs of customers.

Another consideration is to reduce reliance on forecasting tools and statistical methodologies. In a volatile economy, these tools are only marginally useful. Companies that are thriving today are leveraging the concepts of chaos theory and complexity science. These concepts include “better monitoring of trends in the external environment, regular reevaluation of the broader industry configuration to see where margins are highest (to see which players are making the most money), scenario planning, pattern recognition, improved ability to pick up weak signals in the environment, and rapid and coordinated decision making.”[ii] By focusing on the future rather than on past patterns and accomplishments, the application succeeds by tapping into the innovative spirit of the organization.

Look for the next 8 Principles on Leading a Dynamic Organization! Feel free to comment with questions, additions and ways in which you have had to morph your strategies in order to take advantage of new opportunities!

Feel free to comment with questions, insights, or additions to this post. To receive alerts when the next blog is published, click on the RSS feed at the top left of the page to subscribe.

[i] Christopher Laszlo and Jean-François Laugel, Large-Scale Organizational Change (Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000), 57.
[ii] Ibid., 62.

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