Keys to Business Performance

The their book “Accelerating Performance” Colin Price & Sharon Toyle introduced a concept of META (Mobilize, Execute, Transform, Agility) which their research concludes are the most important keys to why some business succeed and accelerate, while some wither away. Let’s take a quick look at what each of these four factors mean:

  • Mobilize
    • Mobilization means aligned action based on a common purpose and priorities. Let’s look at some examples. Drug development is a process that involves a tremendous investment and coordination of scientists, management and regulating bodies that normally takes close to 10 years to complete from concept to market. During the Covid-19 global pandemic the entire scientific community of the world were immediately united by a shared motivation and goal of saving millions of lives. Powerful pharmaceutical companies invested billions of dollars and allocated their best minds to finding the vaccines, thousands of leading research institutions dropped what they were doing and focused their efforts on mitigating the impact of the virus that put millions of people at risk. This common sense to purpose and urgency produced a set of effective vaccines available on the market within 2 years, something that many industry experts would consider impossible under normal circumstance. When you see a company that is spending multiple quarters in political back-and-forth and power struggles, instead of quickly aligning and deciding on a strategic direction and taking deliberate actions, we see a company that lacks strong leadership and an ability to mobilize. It sounds simple enough, “let’s all just mobilize”, but it is actually extremely difficult to achieve consistently. It requires leaders that are confident enough to make choices and also possess an ability to inspire the entire organization to move in that direction. Organizations, especially large ones, face hundreds and thousands conflicting priorities that all seem important and from a tactical point of view may have a relatively equal revenue potential, but it’s impossible to do it all. To achieve anything of significance requires an extreme sense of focus. Have you ever had an experience when your to-do-list is a mile long and you end up doing nothing, since it seems so overwhelming. What if you had just one or two things you were really focused on accomplishing that day. Not just getting started or kind of thinking about it, but really getting it done well, just one or two things that were super important to you. The chances are you will get it done. The companies, even large ones, work the same way. Every year there is a planning cycle, where all the departments list their set of priorities for that year. The lists are long, and there is usually a sense that it’s just not going to be possible to do it all. Strong leaders pick what’s really important for the business, they have a strong sense of WHY, they inspire action and commitment to drive those few key changes. They mobilize an organization to do something great and actually move the needle. These leaders view the priorities from a customer point of view, create high level of engagement through stories that are powerful enough to energize the entire organization behind a common mission.
    • Key Point: Accelerated decision making and aligned purposeful action creates success. Indecisiveness, lack of alignment and a shared sense of purpose has an opposite effect.
  • Execute
    • Most organization and certainly large ones, typically have a lot of resources. There are hundreds, if not thousands of engineers, product and project managers and yet it is common to always lack enough resources to get things done. Why is that?
    • The reason is often not that there aren’t enough people. The reason is often that the people are allocated in wrong places. Instead of focusing their talent on a few critical initiatives for the organizations, we often see these resources spread around the company’s org chart based on who has more influence instead of based on business value delivery. The key resources get stuck in complex processes that require multiple steps of approval. The lack of diversity in thought leadership prevents properly mapping the talent where they can deliver the greatest business outcomes, harnessing the resources around key business drivers.
    • As we said in the previous section, we can’t do it all. We must focus. To do anything of value requires a sustained effort, the Rome was not built in a day. As leaders we must choose what is most important for our business and focus our precious resources on those objectives. If we have a hundred priority 0 items, it’s likely we won’t do any of them completely and well, with our key resources sprinkled around or having to focus on multiple completing objectives, in an environment like that, there will never be enough people.
    • Key Point: Reduce bureaucracy, create a culture where the quality of leadership is measured by inspired, happy, energized employees and business outcomes. Allocate people to projects based on where their talent can deliver the greatest impact on the key business objectives.
  • Transform
    • We live in a world of accelerated change. What use to take years now takes months. We have the technology that allows the pace of innovation to increase dramatically. We can obtain insights from enormous amount of data within seconds and have ML models that can help us make quick intelligent decisions. And yet some companies are unable to pivot even when doing so is an obvious thing to do. Technology companies that keep offering the same products even when it is clear to see the consumers are looking for different capabilities or form factors, large restaurant chains that keep offering the same menu items even when their customers are clearly asking for something else. Why is that?
    • These companies often have organizational structures and leaders that are unable and or unwilling to change. Any change, as a general rule, is uncomfortable. And that is why we avoid changes even when it’s necessary. If you are used to waking up at 10 AM and eating donuts every day, it’s hard to wake up at 6 AM and go for a run followed by a healthy breakfast even when we know it will transform our health. Change is hard even for large organizations. That is because these large organization are driven by people, who also feel the pain of having to change. If you are doing something for years, it is familiar, it produces great results and rewards and all of the sudden you have to do something totally unfamiliar and the end results are uncertain, it is hard to abandon the comfort and jump into the cold shower of change.
    • But it is those organizations that embrace change, the spirit of innovation, organizations the foster a culture of excitement for doing something new. Organizations that reward a culture of brave, blameless trial and error, making mistakes and learning and trying again. Where just because it’s a tradition, something we’ve done before does not mean it’s the best way to do it now or in the future. These organizations find new frontiers of growth before anyone else and consistently succeed.
    • Key Point: Foster a culture of innovation, exploration, constant improvement and the beginners mind. Promote leaders that embrace transformation and change and remove the ones that block it.
  • Agility
    • Imagine a gazelle in an African Safari, peacefully chewing on some vegetation, enjoying warm morning sun. However, if you look closely you will also see that its ears are moving, its nose is sniffing the air, its eyes scanning it surroundings. It’s because Lions can always be nearby and unless a gazelle can react within a split second and move with speed and precision at a moment’s notice, it will become someone’s meal.
    • The organization’s ability to survive in its environment also depends on its ability to react to changes whether those changes mean an opportunity or a threat.
    • As the rate of changes increase, so should the organizations’ agility. The companies that are not nimble will fail.
    • Titanic was a huge ship that was deemed unsinkable. Yet its rudder was too small for its size and it was unable change direction quickly enough to avoid the obstacle in the middle of the night.
    • Business must have a rudder that is big enough to make quick changes. It is imperative to have the leadership and culture muscle that enables agility to navigate the storms and seize the opportunities or risk going down the bottom with tragic consequences.
    • Large business that feel a sense of comfort in their industry dominance can be easily disrupted by quick innovative start-ups who are agile and change quickly with the changes in customer needs and desires.
    • Key Point: Ability to react quickly and decisively is no longer a should have, it is a must have for business to survive in a highly dynamic and competitive landscape of today’s business world.

Adapting these principles requires companies, its leaders and individual contributors do something that is extremely difficult. To look in the mirror and be honest. Does our behavior and mindset bring about inspired, decisive mobilization around things that will drive the business forward in the right direction, am I promoting excellence in execution of key business objectives, am I driving transformation and change when it is necessary, am I agile or too slow to pivot when obstacles or opportunities present themselves. I believe this honesty and transparency will be the first step in tough decisions that follow. Let’s reward people that possess or willing to improve on these qualities, remove the blockers of progress and success, while bringing about a culture of passion, achievement, shared ownership, openness, brave innovation and success.

Published by Yev

Happy to meet you all. I am a Technical Program Manager who is passionate about learning, teaching and mentoring.

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