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.*
Business as usual doesn’t work when it comes to Mobilization. That’s because mobilizing your company to deliver a significant increase in value is a hybrid sport. Its integrated goal: build a better business while you aggressively create and capture new value.
When IBM conducted their biennial survey of global CEOs in 2010, they found that the biggest challenge facing leaders around the world was complexity*. Six years in and complexity is accelerating—outside and inside our organizations. The more we try to adapt our companies to the intricacies of the global macroeconomy, the chaos caused by terrorism and the emergence of disruptive technologies, the farther we fall behind. Yet, if we ignore the pervasive, persistent problem of complexity, we risk leaving value trapped in our companies.
Warren Bennis once said, “Management is getting people to do what needs to be done. Leadership is getting people to want to do what needs to be done.”* I would add that, in today’s wired world, a vital part of the CEO’s job is about getting people intensely aligned behind wanting to do what needs to be done.
Once seen as a necessary, but mundane function of the business, HR leaders were the people with “soft skills”. The traits of a great CHRO have evolved as CHROs are now at the core of the business, reporting directly to the CEO.
We place a lot of value on CEO talent. So much so that they are becoming more expensive every year.
Keeping people engaged in a process that will span several years is one of the most challenging aspects of the CEO role. During Mobilization, we want everyone—from frontline staff to our leadership team—thinking beyond “business as usual”. We want them to be bold and confident in making new choices about what they are doing and how they are doing it. Unfortunately, people get attached to their success formulas. And what worked in the past will not necessarily work in the new future we are creating.
Making a company more valuable is a matter of knowing how to mobilize people to create and capture value—and how to keep them moving with a sense of urgency and at a pace that sets your company apart and leaves competitors in the dust. But with so many complex, inter-related things to consider both inside and outside your organization, what do you need to focus on to really make that happen?
We place big bets every time we hire into the C-suite. Not only do we immediately put the value at risk with every new hire. At this level, each senior executive also has the potential to influence the culture of our organization, its reputation, and its downstream financial results—either positively or negatively.
Mobilizing an organization is like trying to start a social movement. To some extent, the work of the leader is predictable. As CEO, we have to create an ambitious, yet doable vision. We have to get the right people in place with all the right tools and processes. We have to enroll them in our bold vision and engage them in doing what needs to be done. Working together, we have to build enough momentum to drive it home. That much is predictable.