Leading the journey to sustainable excellence requires the organization architect understand and leverage the forces and facilitators of change; develop and implement a leadership system, collaborative leadership style, and their individual strengths; and develop a culture of service. The Leadership & Design Blueprint combines two award-winning, peer-reviewed frameworks, one for leading transformation and one for management design. The frameworks are based on years of research and practice helping leaders transform their organizations to achieve sustainable excellence. The 14 Blueprint components are presented as a suggested “path” to help you become the architect of the organization you really want! However, you can enter and exit at any point in the Blueprint.
1. Forces for Change
Organizations today are feeling increased pressure to change from one or more of the six stakeholder groups. All are asking that we do more with less. Better products and services for less money, manpower, and impact on the environment. While the motivation for change varies widely, there must be enough tension to overcome the inertia of satisfaction with the status quo. The framework identifies key forces and facilitators of organizational change that are common to successful organization design or redesign and transformation.
Leadership System – Leaders who have successfully led organizations to achieve sustainable excellence focused their time on nine key activities (Latham, 2013a). These nine key activities form a leadership system. Leadership is part “art” and part “science”, the leadership system could be considered the “science” of leading transformation. The Leadership System is the “centerpiece” of the Leadership Framework for Organization Architects™ and stakeholder value is the centerpiece (focus) of the Leadership System.
2. Stakeholder Value
The focus of a transformation to sustainable excellence is to increase the value created for multiple stakeholders including the workforce, customers, investors, suppliers and partners, the community, and the environment. The focus on stakeholder needs and relationships helps provide a common alignment point for the strategy, systems, scorecard, and overall organization design for sustainable excellence. In short, high performing organizations develop their workforce to create and deliver great products and services which result in satisfied customers who buy more (repeat business) and tell their friends (referral business) which improve the top line which makes the investors happy. They also create an efficient system and value for other stakeholders such as suppliers and partners, society, and the environment. The task here is to understand the stakeholders’ needs, wants, and desires.
3. Compelling Directive
The needs of the stakeholders inform the creation of a compelling directive. The format of the compelling directive varies but typically consists of the organization’s purpose, mission, vision, values and core competencies. The vision describes the “desired” reality. The vision is an essential part of creating positive tension, a key force of change to overcome resistance to change. Richard Beckhard’s change formula describes how a compelling vision combines with dissatisfaction with the status quo to overcome resistance to change. The compelling directive builds a “bridge” between the stakeholders and the strategy.
4. Focused Strategy
By what method? How will the organization achieve the desired reality described in the compelling directive? The focused strategy translates the compelling directive and stakeholders’ needs into more specific goals, objectives, and clear expectations. The key here is to focus on a FEW key goals at a particular point in time. Most organization transformations require hundreds of changes. Success depends on picking just a few of those to work on at a time and then actually executing the plan. Then, working on the next priorities as the journey unfolds. The focused strategy is continuously evolving to meet the current requirements and challenges. The focused strategy aligns the priorities through the organization and provides the foundation to enable, empower, and engage the workforce.
5. Enable, Empower, and Engage
While many leaders say that their people are “their most important asset,” their actions often tell a different story. High performing organizations develop and engage their workforce to accomplish the strategy. Creating an engaged workforce consists of (a) acquiring and placing talent, (b) developing (enabling) and empowering people, (c) involving and engaging the workforce at all levels, and (d) addressing the whole person. Acquiring and retaining the best talent is a challenge for most organizations. The best people will only work for organizations where they feel valued, can enjoy their work, and achieve their full potential in a win-win arrangement. Note – If you don’t need the best people then consider automating the work.
6. [Re]Design Systems
It is all in the follow-through! The focused strategy also drives the implementation of action plans to accomplish the strategy. The organization system is composed of three levels including the strategic leadership, execution excellence, and organization learning and innovation. The deployment of the strategy focuses on the [re]design and further development of one or more key system to achieve an objective. The Design Framework combined with a focus on system design provide structure to design, develop, and deploy any [re]design initiative or system in the organization. Even new product launches are organization systems that need to be [re]designed to achieve the particular goal. The only way we know if our [re]design efforts are actually improving performance is to measure performance.
7. Comprehensive Scorecard
The progress and performance improvements resulting from the deployment of the action plans are measured and tracked by a comprehensive scorecard that measures the stakeholders, strategy, and systems. The comprehensive scorecard goes beyond a simple “bottom-line” to a deeper understanding of the organization as a system. This includes both current performance and the performance trends over time. Measuring performance and comparing your organization’s performance to other high performing organizations helps create dissatisfaction with the status quo and key part of creating tension which is central to Beckhard’s change formula. The scorecard is designed to facilitate a dialogue about the stakeholders, progress on the strategy, and a deep understanding of the organization system.
8. Organization Performance Review
Scorecard results are analyzed and periodically reviewed by the leaders at all levels who then revise the action plans and operations as necessary to accomplish the strategy. While much of the learning during these reviews is limited to single-loop learning and keeping things on track, occasionally the dialogue will result in an examination of the underlying assumptions and double-loop learning that enables the team to rethink the underlying assumptions and address root causes to prevent similar future problems. This fact-based approach to management includes organization performance analysis that informs the reinforcement of the desired behaviors.
9. Align, Coach, Appreciate
There is an old saying, “what gets measured gets done and what gets rewarded gets repeated!” Reinforcing behavior is based on the progress towards the overall strategy and includes recognition, rewards, promotions, and sometimes the removal of individuals. All too often the incentive systems are counter-productive and drive behaviors that are inconsistent with the overall compelling directive and strategy. So caution is warranted when evaluating and incentivizing performance. High performing organizations align their incentives to ensure individual performance is supporting the best overall system performance.
10. Learn & Improve
Successful leaders of transformation are never satisfied with the organization’s performance and learn from experience. To fully develop the organization’s systems, culture, and individual people requires that the organization learn not only from their successes but also from their failures. Organizations that have achieved sustainable excellence by learning from success and failure did so using four common methods or approach including strategic management cycle, organization assessment and improvement, benchmarking, and continuous improvement. These methods are often integrated into the other eight leadership system components.
Steps 2-10 present the nine activities in a sequence. However, leading an organization transformation is not a linear process. So, think about the leadership system of nine activities as a flexible framework that can be entered and exited at any place in the system. How a leader implements these nine activities varies widely and depends on the design of each system component and the leadership style.
11. Collaborative Leadership Style
The framework identifies nine leader behaviors that support the leadership system. You might consider these the “art” of leading transformation. There is an old saying in the military, “a leader is always on parade.” Leader as a role model is probably in every leadership book and course on the planet. And, for good reason. However, in this case, it takes on a slightly different connotation. In this context, as Gandhi proposed, leaders have to become the change they want to see in the organization.
12. Culture of Service
While the design of the leadership and management systems is the first signal of leadership intent, the ultimate goal is the overall organizational culture change. Culture is the “glue” that holds the organization together and makes it come alive. Ultimately, sustaining excellence requires the new systems, processes, and practices become habit and embedded in the culture. Culture is composed of values, norms, traditions, symbols, and rituals. In the end, individuals working together are the essence of any sustainable change.
13. The Individual Leader
A quick look “under the hood.” Implementing the leadership style and system consistently and maintaining enough persistence to change the culture requires the behaviors and activities be authentic. Leadership activities (system) and behaviors (style) are observable to the followers. Organization architects have five characteristics that increase the odds of achieving and sustaining high performance including purpose and meaning, humble but confident, integrity, systems perspective, and motivational and attitudinal patterns.
14. Facilitators of Change
The Journey to sustainable excellence is one of learning and innovation. It is a journey focused on [re]designing and developing all three types of organization systems including strategic leadership, execution excellence, and learning and innovation. Start with the strategic leadership systems because they set the direction and guidance for the design or redesign of the execution excellence systems. However, if you only develop a great strategy, you will experience a “boom then bust” curve. In other words, you will get everyone excited about the innovative product or service and thus obtain many initial sales (boom) only to come back down (bust) when you can’t deliver the quality expected. There is an old saying, “when you think your journey to excellence is over, IT IS!” Achieving and sustaining excellence is a never-ending journey. So, it helps if you enjoy the journey.
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