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Sandy Ogg October 28 2016 4 min read

Momentum Builders: Imprinting

Mobilizing a company to achieve significant, sustainable shifts in performance is hard work. More often than not it involves transforming the organization so that it can move faster than it has before. The odds, however, are often stacked against CEOs. In May 2015, McKinsey & Company reported that only 20% of global executives thought organizational transformation initiatives they were familiar with had been successful in achieving and sustaining performance improvements.*

Why such a reportedly low success rate?

KNOW •  There’s no silver bullet for transforming people’s mindsets and behaviors. No magical elixir that improves engagement and capabilities overnight—otherwise we’d all be using them. Instead, what we have—and in abundance—are momentum killers that slow, stall and stop execution.

Besides dealing with these “energy sucks”, what can CEOs do early on in a large-scale Mobilization to build momentum?

DO  Give people a Compass so they know what direction to move in. That is, clearly articulate your strategic choices on one sheet of paper. Then have everyone—including yourself—use it as a guide for making decisions each day.

Your work here as CEO is about imprinting (a.k.a. leading phase-sensitive learning).

You are aiming the company along a new trajectory. It, and all the people who work in it, are entering a new phase. That means you have to tell people exactly what you want them to fix their attention on: you have to help them rapidly learn a new set of goals and behaviors.

Your Compass, therefore, needs to be crisp and clear. In as few words as possible, tell them what they need to know to orient themselves in the bigger game you have declared for the company. Tell them:

  • Where the organization is going
  • Where it “must win”
  • Who and what you will need to win—and in what ways
  • What standards of behavior you expect from people as they play to win

Invite everyone to post this one sheet where they can see it as they work. Make it clear that anything that doesn’t align with a “must win” must be dropped. Integrate the goals and behavioral standards of the Compass into performance evaluations for individuals, teams and business units. The time it takes to create, share and implement your company’s Compass will be well worth the effort.

Want to learn more about successful applications of the Compass during Mobilization? Check out /move: The CEO's Playbook for Capturing Value.


*“How to Beat the Transformation Odds”, David Jacquemont, Dana Maor and Angelika Reich, McKinsey & Company, 2015. Summary of 2014 online survey from 1,946 executives representing a full range of regions, industries, company sizes, functional specialties, and tenures.

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Sandy Ogg

CEO.works’ founder, Sandy Ogg has spend 30+ years working and learning with CEOs around the world. His experience and the insights he’s gained through this work have informed the CEO.works methodology.