The Missing Element in Your Organizational Strategy

In a cover story for a recent issue of Harvard Business Review, Professor John Kotter described a new type of organization that combines speed of execution with agility to seize new opportunities quickly. “Speed plus agility” is the holy grail that leaders of organizations seek to achieve. Many don’t. There are two big missing pieces that are overlooked by a majority of leaders. This blog describes one of them.

Recently, I was presenting to a group of senior executives from 40 different companies. They represented many different industries and were from different parts of the world. I asked them to work collectively to design the perfect, high-speed, fast-executing organization. What would it look like? What would it feel like? What processes would it have in place? I kept gathering ideas until they had exhausted all of their thoughts and insights.

What they came up with was an organization with a clear strategy, where everyone is urgent and aligned toward a common goal, and where execution of those strategies flowed smoothly with all of the management processes you would expect in place. They had designed the typical process most people think successful companies use to implement new strategies.

“So what is missing,” I asked? “Nothing,” they responded. “Let me ask you all a question,” I continued, “Tell me how well this model works at seizing new opportunities or going after new strategies that require a lot of change?” They scratched their heads as they thought about this, but they came up with an answer that is confirmed by research, that only about 30 percent of organizations are good at seizing new, strategic opportunities. Put another way, 70 percent fail trying to do so. So I asked again, “What is missing?” Silence.

One answer that we have uncovered in our work — and it’s something John Kotter learned a long time ago — is that a missing piece required for speed and agility is an “urgency process.” When I say an “urgency process,” I mean including an actual process — as essential as your strategic planning and execution processes — that is dedicated to creating urgency.

 

 

 

When I mention an “urgency process” to groups of executives, I’ll often hear things like, “What is an urgency process?” and “We did not learn this in business school.” Well, here’s one way of defining it: An urgency process is a quantifiable and repeatable way to generate alignment, urgency, and engagement in a majority of employees in a company, division, functional area, or large team. Some of the elements it contains are:

  • Senior leadership team alignment around a market opportunity
  • An urgency team
  • Urgency initiatives to create alignment, urgency, and engagement
  • A way to capture names of urgent employees that want to volunteer to help
  • A means of measuring urgency to ensure at least 50 percent of the organization is urgent

To be clear, an urgency process is not a communications plan. A communications plan is typically a one-way set of activities designed to inform and create awareness. It is not typically designed to align and engage employees as volunteers to take action.

So what do you do when you have 50 percent of your employees in your team, division, or organization urgent and raising their hand to help? How do you put them productively to use?

Read more from Kotter International here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Randy Ottinger

Randy Ottinger

Randy Ottinger is an Executive Vice President at Kotter International, a firm that helps leaders accelerate strategy implementation in their organizations.

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I'm lost, to say the least! As a new pastor, taking over a newly started church I have read just about everything there is to learn what I can do to grow the church. I truly beleive that those attending our church are friendly and sincere. So that can't be the issue. I have read all the comments to this article and I feel that most churches will never have a fair chance! We are a VERY small church, so we don't have a children's church (yet). So if a family comes and gets upset that we don't have a children's church for them to put their children into, we lose! We do provide things for their kids to do during the service and even have an option for their kids to be in a different room, if they don't want their kids to sit with them. We are also such a small church that we don't have a worship team/band/etc. Our worship music comes from music videos. The congregation we do have likes it this way, but of course we would love to have a worhsip team. So, if someone comes to our church and is upset that we don't have live music, we lose! The point I am trying to make is that when people come in with preconceived ideas of what a church should be like, they will never find a church home, unless they find a church who's goal is to entertain! Every Sunday our message comes from the Bible, so that can't be a complaint for someone, so instead, people leave the church and never come back because they want more from a church: they don't want friendly people who are following the Word of God; they want a church that give them something (a babysitter for their kid, entertainment, free gifts, etc.) I'm sorry if sound cynical, I truly want everyone to hear the Good News and learn about Christ's love, but if they come in looking for something else, then the church will always lose!
 
— JAG
 
Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3
 
— bruceherwig
 
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 

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