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Sandy Ogg January 6 2016 8 min read

Think Bigger, Start Smaller, Move Faster

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.

We want to interrupt people’s old thinking and behaviors from the get go. A simple maxim, an elegant caption or phrase that encompasses the new thinking behind Mobilization, will do the job. The idea is to have everyone remember that maxim, remark on it to others, and apply it in action.

A remarkably sticky maxim can drive people’s actions.

For many years now, the entrepreneurial blueprint has been “think big, start small, move fast”. What does this have to do with mobilizing a large company around a value agenda? We started small, we’re big now, and we’re moving as fast as we can at this size. Been there, done that.

The question is how do we engage people in creating and capturing more value. We invite them to “think bigger, start smaller, move faster.” Let’s look at how this contemporary maxim can apply to the five elements of a /move Mobilization.

Leadership List | Bigger, smaller, faster

KNOW The company has a bold new ambition, a bigger vision. The question is whether the people we have on hand are the best match and fit for the key jobs that must be done. Playing this bigger game may mean you, as the CEO, have to integrate new players into certain C-suite roles and key value-creating and value-enabling positions throughout the company. Each change in personnel will cause some amount of disruption, even when explained in the context of the new ambition. This may mean starting with a smaller amount of key changes to our player roster, and then rolling out the rest over time.

DO Identify the bigger leadership roles to change out right away—the ones that can help the organization change faster—to get everyone mobilizing sooner.

Strategic Choices | Bigger, smaller, faster

KNOW As CEO, you have to make the biggest strategic choice for everyone: what the company’s ambition will be. You will also be called on to keep thinking strategically bigger—and to help your leadership team keep thinking strategically bigger—for the duration. Choosing a smaller number of must wins will help everyone in the organization focus. Surrounding these with a sense of urgency will get everyone moving faster.

The challenge will be when other strategic ideas come along. We all tend to get distracted by great ideas, and we all get bogged down when we try to do too much at once. Avoid scope creep. Entertain those “other” great ideas either when there are sufficient resources on hand to do the work or when one of the original few priorities fails to deliver what’s needed to win the bigger game.

DO Keep the number of must wins smaller to build speed.

Execution Risks | Bigger, smaller, faster

KNOW If the ambition is bigger than anything the company has ever tried to execute before, there may be ways of parsing the bigger risks involved into smaller chunks. Before moving into action, you and your leadership team can assess how quickly the most critical capabilities gaps can be closed. They can help recalibrate the culture by doing the smaller things each day that demonstrate they embody the values and standards of behavior that support the bigger ambition. Meanwhile, a small contingent of change agents can start finding ways to do things faster, better and cheaper—and those new ways of doing things can be applied across the bigger organization.

DO | Decide how to shape the organization and its culture properly for bigger growth before starting to run the company faster.

Initiatives Momentum | Bigger, smaller, faster

KNOW Cut-through initiatives are smaller increments of change that, introduced to the organization in the right sequence, will build large-scale momentum. For each initiative there will be a big prize, a must win, to go after. Putting small teams on each one, giving them the smallest amount of time possible and slightly fewer resources than required, will spark creativity and innovation.

DO Get the sequence of initiatives right to accelerate the process.

Energy Level | Bigger, smaller, faster

KNOW Without energy, Mobilization will not happen. Start with a smaller focus: yourself. You need to be fit enough to run faster for the entire Mobilization process. Know who and what gives you energy and who and what takes energy. Now make that focus bigger: evaluate people’s enthusiasm—both inside and outside your organization—and readiness for the game. Connect your energy to the jobs you alone can do and the people you need to influence. As you begin each day, identify exactly what and who you need to give your energy to so that the company’s strategic choices and key initiatives keep moving forward.

DO Enroll everyone in the organization in adopting this energy-focused, laser-like approach to their work.

There are many more ways in which CEOs can think bigger, start smaller and move faster during the Mobilization process. Future articles in this series will also explore the do’s and don’ts of “bigger, smaller, faster” in more detail.


Sandy Ogg’ 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 methodology.