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We Need Leaders to Become Reinventors

Cartoon illustrating the power of reinvention - from disruptors to reinventors. Artist unknown.

Post crisis, we need to plan

The pandemic has been about business survival, where disruption was necessary to drive through the changes needed at the moment. Little consideration was given to future business needs, but there is a silver lining…reinventors, a leadership style supporting transformative change.

Leaders that can harness the flexibility and agility developed by their teams have a real chance to reinvent their organization for a new era. One in which we need to solve big issues – climate change, digital acceleration, supply chain shortages and issues, and of course, continuously changing customer demands.

So, the question that naturally emerges is how do we reinvent the organization post-pandemic?

Reinventors sell the story

Change starts with a vision (in business) or a dream (privately). It establishes and answers the why question. To illustrate, consider the work of Jacques Cousteau, widely credited with pioneering scuba equipment, preventing nuclear waste dumping off the Cote d’Azur (France), and raising our awareness, through inspiring underwater documentaries, of why the oceans need our protection. 

During his work, he passionately mobilized people by helping them understand why we each need to urge governments, companies, and individuals to protect the environment. His focus on what needed to be done emerged only after people were inspired to act.  He sold the story first.

Consider something more personal, a quest for health. We undertake weight-loss or fitness quests for a meaningful reason – often to reverse medical issues, to enjoy more energy, or to feel better. It is the why that spurs us when it gets tough – being able to see, feel and connect with the image of our future self. 

The story told, what’s next?

Reinventors needs a reality check

Every vision needs a good devil’s advocate. A process that challenges our assumptions, thought processes, and logic so that we don’t lose ourselves in our enthusiasm without considering counterarguments and risks.  A helpful way to reality check something is to, in the words of my friend Peter, ask: “What could go wrong?” In asking ourselves this question, we uncover most of the potential risks which in turn allows us to mitigate each of them, before accepting (or rejecting) the remaining residual risk.

Good starting questions are:

  • What resources do we need to be successful in the quest?
  • How will the organizational culture respond to these changes?
  • How will customers, suppliers and other strategic stakeholders respond?
  • Where does the vision fit with our sustainable development responsibilities?
  • What might we need to forgo to achieve the outcome we seek?

The key is creating an understanding of the landscape within which the vision will reside. This will allow us to develop a plan of action to make it happen.

Build a community of change champions

Reinventors recognize the importance of people to success. Build consensus by involving others and sharing the plan with wider stakeholders. By preparing, mitigating risks, securing buy-in, testing, and communicating outcomes, igniting change is easier than you might imagine. Two key aspects to start with are:

  1. Consensus: change management projects, today, recognize the importance of building a grassroots consensus rather than a top-down “order”. When we are involved in the change, we’ll better understand the rationale and fear tends to melt away.
  2. Get buy-in: good change programs consider and manage concerns raised, potential risks, and possible unintended consequences. For instance, consider possible behavioural changes after the introduction of a new sales compensation program. Consider the golden rule: even if you personally dislike something in the system (or process), remain flexible. That is because others will want to work with you and support the change (given your can-do attitude). Rarely will anyone rush to our side or support us if we are raging against change (and by extension the company “machine”).

Just do it

Reinventors start with a well-thought plan and succeed or fail from the execution of that plan. Let’s consider three actions to illustrate:

  1. Hold project meetings with purpose
  2. Establish boundaries and expectations
  3. Disciplined follow up 

Let’s look at each step individually:

Purpose: We would establish the purpose of meetings up-front, for instance, is the meeting to inform others? Decide something? Seek input? Brainstorm? By being clear on the meeting purpose, we get the right people in the room, and they come prepared. 

Boundaries: We establish mandatory meetings at a consistent recurring time allowing attendees to plan their response. In theory, an attendee can either (1) attend in person; (2) connect remotely, or (3) not attend. The result is that attendees cannot hide behind their choices, therefore accountability becomes a powerful motivator.

Expectations: We outline the expectations of attendees in terms of participation, rules of communication (e.g.: listening), quorum requirements for decision making, and progress reports. By setting expectations, we achieve desired outcomes quicker and better. 

Follow up: Meeting minutes capture, assign and track action items. Follow-up meeting dates are set before the current meeting ends. This embeds a philosophy of accountability; some simple steps include:

  1. Creating an owner and due date for action items
  2. Link action items to purpose and goals (this helps with owners feeling engaged and valued)

Final Thoughts

In this post-pandemic period, we need to reinvent ourselves and our organizations so we can meet the growing expectations and demands of societal stakeholders. Reinventors recognize the importance of harnessing the flexibility and agility developed by their teams through the pandemic. So, those are the teams with a real chance to reinvent their organization for a new era. Lastly, by leveraging the Disney Strategy model, we accelerate this journey by providing clarity and purpose.

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your tips for becoming reinventors, both personally and professionally. 

Give it a try!

Cartoon credit: artist unknown

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