Volume 2   |   Number 4   |   April 2014

In addition to our Red Sox Opening Day and Boston Marathon traditions this month, we celebrate the Easter and Passover holidays, when the stories of one's cultural roots are told.

Almost everyone in the Judeo-Christian world knows the Old Testament story of how Moses was chosen to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt, how he spoke with God to receive the many miracles it took to change a hard-hearted Pharaoh to "let my people go." It was, as we say, a command(ment) performance.

Although convincing Pharaoh certainly took much effort (and ten plagues to boot), convincing 300,000 slaves (without social media) to risk everything they owned and their personal lives for a vision with an uncertain future, required great motivational prowess.

So, between the third and fourth cups of wines of the Seder, I wondered: in the business world, how does someone (without divine intervention) motivate teams to take risk and change?

While sharing the vision, focusing on the journey, celebrating accomplishments, developing accountability are all great textbook motivational strategies, these strategies may still be insufficient to get organizations moving in the right direction at the right time.

 Facts must be faced. Vegetables simply don't taste as good as most other things do."
- Peg Bracken, The Compleat I Hate to Cook Book
On May 18-21, Adaptive Insights will be holding its annual User Group meeting in San Francisco, celebrating its 2000th customer and welcoming Billy Beane (of MoneyBall fame) as the keynote. Don't miss it!

Need to pivot quickly? Read "Moments of Impact" by Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon for concrete suggestions for designing strategic conversations with your team that can help accelerate change (even comes with a 60 page starter kit to help you navigate!)

articleOneTime for a Change

What's really needed is a deadline.

Or a constraint. Or a "line in the sand". Much like placing a grain of sand in an oyster to produce a pearl, introducing a constraint can often bring out the creative best in an organization, especially in times of needed change.

Now I'm not advocating crisis management but rather "managed deadlines" where the needed change is apparent to the team and must occur within an agreed schedule or defined set of resources.

Well understood constraints like a due date or budget are the most common ways to help effect change and encourage risk taking. However certain situations produce their own unique constraints:

  1. College basketball - when I was in college, the NCAA Basketball tournament used to be a mildly interesting affair but once teams had built a game lead, they would often play "keep away" - passing the ball around - until time ran out. Boring. Then the NCAA instituted the shot clock (and the 3 point play). Now the tournament is a multi billion dollar enterprise called "March Madness" and the POTUS projects the winner on national TV.
  1. First Customer - nothing gets a new business' energies moving faster than getting its first order. Working with a start-up recently that welcomed its first customer, the leadership team didn't need an army chasing them to determine that critical changes to the product and business processes were needed before further testing of the business model hypothesis.
  1. Product roll outs - synchronized teamwork for a timely product introduction puts pressure on the creative team, program management, the supply chain and sales/marketing to deliver their parts of the process on schedule with a high degree of quality. Pixar's Toy Story release demonstrates how product or service roll outs can push the team to take risks in pursuit of a company's vision.
  1. Systems Implementation - when new business systems are implemented, the drop dead date i.e. when existing systems phase out and the new ones replace them, becomes an important mechanism for focusing IT and the user community to work together to launch the application while supporting the business process needed for "business as usual."
These are just a few examples how constraints help mobilize organizations to change and take risks. However once the organization is on the new path, the management team must remain visible and available to help lead the way. Just as important is the management team's commitment to a quality outcome and nurturing the established processes needed to meet future challenges.

Finally, any change is best dealt with quickly and directly, especially in today's competitive world. For as the story's been told many times before, just wandering around may not get you to the Promised Land.

About Us: With our unique insights and expertise, F.A.C.T.S. provides practical, cost-effective solutions to clarify and execute your business vision and objectives. We specialize in creating and implementing financial, operational and performance management solutions for your toughest business problems.
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