There are five key dimensions against which an organization must exhibit strength. We interviewed people representing over ninety organizations, from a wide array of categories, for our book Shift Ahead. Some of them were successful in shifting; others were less so. Nevertheless, all could attest to the fact that these five dimensions were essential elements in being able to shift at critical moments of change.
1. Financial Wherewithal. The first dimension against which an organization must exhibit strength is having the necessary financial foundation, the basic rocket fuel to support the effort for the long haul. Many organizations start this journey with good intentions, but underestimate the financial horsepower required to get them where they want to go. It may be that they started the process early enough, in good financial health, but either didn’t anticipate breakdowns or setbacks along the way that would require additional funding, or that the process would go on much longer than originally thought. In addition, many organizations cannot manage investor expectations or establish realistic goals, making it necessary for them to reevaluate objectives, which affects credibility and eventual outcomes.
2. Cultural Disposition. The second dimension against which an organization must exhibit strength is having a culture with a can-do attitude, or at the very least a leader who can institute and maintain a positive cultural vibe. In all success stories in our book, the organization was primed to succeed. Everyone knew his or her role in making it happen and was given the tools and the appropriate support. While it is always easy to get discouraged, cultural optimism is essential to overcome obstacles. In all cases in which success was achieved, there was a sense that everyone in the organization was “in this together.”
3. Clarity Of Focus. Your organization can have an abundance of both cash and optimism, but it needs to be laser-focused on where it wants to go and why. Most organizations cannot make multiple bets or hedge their bets on the future. The goal must be simple and clear and memorable, and it must be more than to make money. Everyone must understand what the goal is and understand how a given action aligns— or doesn’t—with bringing it to life.
4. Executional Excellence. All organizations that were successful in shifting ahead were able to take their concept and turn it into reality in a way that met, or exceeded, the expectations of all stakeholders. Their efforts were seen as credible and game-changing, from both inside and outside the organization. The road may be paved with good intentions, but there is no partial credit, no almost there, when it comes to a successfully executed shift of focus. If you can’t make it happen, it doesn’t matter.
5. Leadership. To undertake a successful shift, there must be a leader at the helm who is not just forward-looking but has peripheral vision. Such an individual does not just see down the road, but can see from multiple directions. This person must be able to simplify and crystalize the mission and communicate it to the many stakeholders involved. This leader must be able to exemplify the mission in a credible fashion, not just give it lip service. The leader must be able to tolerate uncertainty and keep the troops in a positive frame of mind throughout the process. To borrow from Star Trek, this person must have what it takes to “go boldly where no man has ever gone before,” at least no man (or woman) in the organization, and demonstrate a personal commitment to driving the endeavor forward.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Allen Adamson and Joel Steckel. Excerpted from their book Shift Ahead: How The Best Companies Stay Relevant In A Fast Changing World
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