Implementation Insights Blog

Implementation Management Associates help organizations around the world achieve large-scale, complex change. This blog discusses our insights into organizational change.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Execution, Speed, and Adaptability are Top CEO Concerns

As Agents of Change we are always seeking Sponsorship for our implementation efforts. Too often it seems we are simply “tilting at windmills”, fighting an unwinnable battle. Our Sponsor’s attention to implementation is easily diverted because of short attention spans, or by competing priorities, market shifts, succession issues, and organizational politics. However, the winds of change may have shifted in our favor, along with the frame of reference of our Sponsors.

A recent Conference Board Survey* of 190 chief executives, chairmen and company presidents suggests that concerns have shifted; i.e., while excellence in and consistency of strategy execution remain the top executive priorities, they are now followed by “speed, flexibility and adaptability to change.” This is particularly significant because the ranking of these latter priorities increased 100% over last year's results. Moreover, nearly half the respondents expressed a “special” concern for the need to mitigate organizational risk attendant to today’s extraordinary scope of change. This latest prioritization ranking is, of course, tied to the current global economic crisis.

For us Agents, a window of “contracting” opportunity has opened. Sponsors may now be increasingly motivated to engage in implementation as “owners” and not just as “renters”. Two rules of thumbs can help guide us through our dialogues with Sponsors. First … it is always easiest to obtain Sponsorship when you are solving a problem for your Sponsor. And, second, if the “problem” is not understood, then there will be resistance to the solution.

In terms of the first rule, we must identify the Sponsor’s pain level re concern about the effectiveness of strategy execution. Establish agreement that “the how to” of implementation is likely to be a problem. Once that is agreed to, we are positioned to leverage the second rule of thumb. At this point the Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM) is more likely to be perceived as an obvious solution to the problem. In other words, it increases the probability of a successful/consistent execution of organizational strategy, while adapting to changes quickly and flexibly. The moons are really aligning in our favor -- AIM will help to address the top three executive concerns simultaneously.

Once the AIM solution resonates, then develop a substantive contracting plan. Remember, your plan should consider the following steps:

  1. Identify who the full complement of Sponsors is by completing a key role map

  2. Determine the timing/sequence for engaging Sponsors

  3. Assure that they are “educated” on the role of the Sponsor

  4. Contract for high leverage behaviors, i.e., express, model and reinforce

  5. Contract to cascade Sponsorship down the role map

  6. Contract to re-contract

  7. Contract to provide leaders with feedback on their effectiveness as Sponsors

The immediate next step is to start the dialogue. Do something with the data! If you have access to and relationship with key Sponsors, get on their calendar. If not, develop a communications campaign to champion the survey results to key players. Lobby opinion leaders directly. Leverage existing meeting forums for agenda time. Don’t allow this window of opportunity to close without having gained implementation traction.

*Tuna, Cari, WSJ, “Executives Shift to Survival Mode”, November 20, 2008.

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