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 love Ed's writings and heart. I am frustrated by these articles, however. Much of the missiological basis of the Church Growth Movement are not mentioned, and the origination of the formulas are not substantiated. Also, the Movement via Wagner, started mentioning the importance of health over 3o years ago. I wish these articles were better researched and less sweeping in their generalizations. Things like E1, E2, E3 evangelism, group multiplication, relational networks, faith, health, and the care to measure the right things are largely missing here. Perhaps Ed has earned the right to generalize, but I still was disappointed. But keep researching Ed! Ed and Thom have continued on in the spirit of the movement by doing quality research, and for that I am deeply grateful.
 
— Gary Westra
 
This discussion will continue, for sure. I am tasked with the online worship ministry do our church at FBC Trussville and it is proving to be an important piece of the overall ministry. As in most things In life and technology, balance is in order. Many of our older adults prefer the "live" service online rather than a week or even day-later DVD or downloaded service. They tell me it is important for them to be a part while the service occurs. This is key because if a person simply wanted the message or music or to see the pastor because they "like" him, then it would not need to be live. There is a sense with our people that they need to experience the worship with their church family in real time. Theologically, folks will have issues. This is a disruptive technology for church. But I would hope that before we toss it all away we would approach it with wisdom and humility. Personally, I would like to see the Church grow through small, cost-effective ways like this and not just brick-and-mortar.
 
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It seems this was written awhile ago but I would like to respond. Mr. Surratt makes great points. Points that should be taken seriously by all churches. I just do not think these points are the main reason people are not coming back to churches. Who knows the exact reason why anyone does not come back unless they tell you, but I can say with certainty the reasons I do not return are usually the same. 1. Love, tolerance, and acceptance. (unbelievers, baby Christians) Church members seem to want their guests or potential members to behave a certain way. They want them to conform to the system that is already in place. In some ways this is understandable. In other ways, it is isolating to the guest. They want to feel loved and accepted the way they are. They want to be told everything is ok no matter their past. They want to be given time to work out their immediate more pressing issues without having to worry about what to wear and how to talk (church speak). 2. Love, tolerance, and acceptance (believers, unchurched) Many times, these people are looking for what fits their already preconceived ideas of what "good churches" are. These preconceived notions are difficult to overcome and some of them were addressed in Mr. Surratt's article. But I can tell you that a truly loving, a truly tolerant, and a truly accepting church can overcome most of these things. You may never be able to overcome a taste in music, or a theological difference, but most everything else can be healed with Love. 3. People can see the business aspect of the church. I see it almost immediately when I walk into certain churches for the first time. I think people understand that a church has many aspects of itself that are business oriented. I just believe they dont want to experience these aspects when they visit. How many churches are so focused on growth, in numbers of bodies, that they forget the growth of the heart? The American church is now fully Americanized. Its a show and a numbers game. People come to church, especially new comers, CRAVING to fill a void in their life. If you are offering the same thing they can get in the real world, how are you any different? There are plenty of other reasons people do not return and many may not be avoidable. However, the church as a whole needs to reevaluate the arena in which they are playing. The simplicity of the Gospel is good enough to fulfill the hearts of the unbelievers and restore the prodigal's to a relationship with Christ. Love thy neighbor as thyself and love thy God with all your heart.
 
— Shay Wallace
 

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