“Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” If you want different results, you have to change your strategies, organization, and operations. Sometimes you can do that gradually. Sometimes you face what Intel’s Andy Grove described as a point of inflection, “An event that changes the way we think and act.” That requires jump-shifting your strategy, organization and operations all at the same time.
The five BRAVE questions across environment, values, attitudes, relationships, and behaviors apply. From the outside in:
Environment – Where play – Context
One of two things is going to give you the opportunity or need for a strategic inflection. The first is a change in your environment. This could be a shift in customer needs or situation, in the competitive landscape, in your collaborators, or in the conditions in which you operate. Recognize the change and its implications.
Values – What matters and why – Purpose
The second trigger could be a change in your own ambitions: mission, vision, objectives or goals.
Attitude – How win – Choices
Whatever creates the opportunity or need, it’s going to require step-changes in your strategy, organization, and operations. In all three – you can’t change one without changing the others without breaking the system. At a high level, strategy or attitude change is about what you focus on. Organizational change is about who does what work. Operational change is about how they do it.
Start with the attitude or strategic change. The change in your environment or objectives creates new reasons why, scenarios and options. Work through them to generate a single new overarching strategy. This will not be doing more of what you’re already doing. It will be doing different things .
There are four primary areas of focus: design, produce, deliver, or service. Most organizations do all four to one degree or another in addition to marketing and selling, which all must do. Pick one as your main strategic focus and primary differentiator, with other activities and your culture flowing into or from that.
Make sure your culture is aligned with your strategy: Independence, learning and enjoyment (and flexibility) for design; Stability, results and authority (and independence) for production; Interdependence, order and safety (and stability) for delivery; Flexibility, purpose and caring (and interdependence) for service.
Relationships – How connect – Communication
Nothing’s going to happen without your people. The strategy change dictates a new set of required capabilities as part of an organizational step change.
Choose either specialized, hierarchy, matrix or decentralized, perhaps nested within a portfolio, as appropriate for your strategic choice. Do a new future capability plan and then start bridging the gaps between your current and required organization.
Behaviors – What impact – Implementation
Then, re-design your operations. This is the third leg of your system. If you change the other two legs without changing the way people work, things fall down.
Design requires freeing support. Producing thrives under command and control. Delivery requires shared responsibilities. Service provides the best customer experience when decentralized leaders take on guided accountability.
A CEO’s role needs to vary as well, driving the right mindsets across the organization: enabling principles for design, enforcing policies to produce, enrolling in team charters to deliver, and championing customer or guest experience guidelines for service.
Steps to accelerating through a strategic inflection point:
- Assess the changes in your environment or values. What has changed? So what are the implications of that? Now what must you do? If the answer is nothing new, fine. If the answer is to continue to evolve, fine. But if the answer is to accelerate through an inflection point, go on to the next step.
- Strategy. Jump-shift your strategic process ahead of the point of inflection. Get all aligned around the key elements of your environment and values and what’s changed. Agree on a single new overarching strategy, new strategic priorities, and cultural changes.
- Organization. Jump-shift your organizational process. Create a new future capability plan in line with your new strategy. Do an immediate role sort. Accelerate individual transitions as appropriate.
- Operations. Jump-shift your operational process, implementing a new management cadence to track and manage your new priorities quarterly, new programs monthly and new projects weekly.
- Communication. Deploy a new communication effort in line with your new management cadence. This is an ongoing campaign, not a one-off event. At every stage of working through a strategic inflection, every single person in your organization and eco-system will have one question that has to be answered before they can pay attention to anything else: “What does this mean for me?”
This is not something to evolve your business. If things are going well, incremental changes are safer. Do this when there’s a major change in your circumstances or ambitions with an enduring impact. Think in terms of mid-market companies where innovation meets scale. That collision creates opportunities for them to accelerate through strategic points of inflection and scale new heights.
In cases like those, incremental changes won’t get you where you need to get to. You’ll need step changes. When you do, remember that any step-change to your strategy, organization or operations impacts the other two. That’s why strong planning, communication, and follow-through can make such a difference.
 Attributed to W. Edwards Deming (or perhaps others)