Over the past two weeks, three senior leaders in different companies have inquired about their desire to update a key aspect of their business. It seems that as summer winds its way towards fall, leaders get an itch to refresh. All of the updates mentioned to me fell into two broad categories: strategy and culture.
The reasons for the refresh varied – from a sense that the competition is gaining ground to clients asking for something quite different from that which exists. The biggest driver for the updates, however, appears to be a sense that things could be better. Emerging facts back this up in one situation, but the starting point for the other two is more of an intuitive gut feeling that there is room for improvement, sometimes of significant scope.
If you, too, are considering a refresh or reboot of any size, the following questions will help you narrow your focus, attention and effort.
- Awareness: Are we in agreement about where we are now? Making sure everyone is on board’ in terms of the current situation is essential. Building a sense of urgency is also critical to realizing successful change from where you are today. If some of your team members are standing on the sidelines, then your efforts are bound to fail. If others don’t really feel any immediate urgency, you’re going to face an uphill journey. Building full awareness, engagement and commitment among team members becomes an essential foundation for future action. Key areas for agreement include performance results such as financials, sales data and operational performance; changing context such as industry trends, markets and customers; and up-to-date feedback from key clients and influential stakeholders.
- Aspiration: Are we clear on where we want to go?
Getting team members aligned and energized around the future vision, goals and priorities involves more than discussion and documentation; it’s also understanding how each person is aligning their own effort with the bigger picture. This includes dialogue regarding priority clients, primary products/services and distribution strategies.
- Action: Do we know how we’ll get there?
Laying out a clear roadmap is essential – outlining the specific steps required, people involved and target timeframes. This requires dedicated conversations among all of those involved to ensure that gaps are identified and overlaps resolved. Part of this also involves identifying any new knowledge and expertise required to successfully deliver your core offerings to primary clients. If you want your journey to be even more successful, identify the key enablers (e.g. people, relationships, finances, processes) that must be in place to deliver on your commitments.
- Awareness: Are we clear about who we are today? Maybe your company culture is well-defined and often discussed. More often than not, however, descriptions of culture are fuzzy and ambiguous. Take some time to articulate what defines your culture and ensure team members are in agreement. Try not to succumb to generic terms such as ‘customer-centric,’ ‘dedicated’ or ‘driven’ – be more specific about what it’s like to experience your workplace. Better yet, utilize a validated culture survey (e.g. Denison) to quickly pinpoint areas for improvement.
- Aspiration: Do we know who we want to become? Based on your strategy (where you want to go), you’ll want to define what needs to change in your current culture to best support that direction. Company culture is a big deal, it can make a huge difference to hiring success, branding, marketing and overall performance. Quite literally, it can drive success or be a major barrier to realizing your goals. For one leader, for example, it was moving from an all-encompassing customer service orientation to more focus on high value accounts that provided higher margins for much less effort and time.
- Action: Do we agree on how we get there?A whole array of approaches are available to align and strengthen your culture. One of the best starting points is to define a couple of critical new or different behaviours required of staff. Incorporate these in your people practices (e.g. hiring, training, performance feedback). Senior managers should be the first to role model these behaviours since they really do set the tone for the company. Once they’ve embraced the new approach, they need to focus on encouraging and coaching their own teams.
To find out more about how to best leverage your refresh efforts, contact me today (firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-882-8830).