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The ACT Basics: Powerfully Simple

The ACT process itself does not look too exciting or different on the surface. Many people sharing advice and methodologies have maps that will look almost identical to the untrained eye. However, there are big differences when you go to use them; just as two pieces of music can look very similar on paper, one creates beauty when played, and the other creates dissonant noise. On the surface, both scores will have notes, bars (the lines where the notes sit), and different markings that are the basics of music. But if the notes aren’t in the correct sequence and timing and played in the correct key and note combinations, it will just produce noise. One of the pieces of music in Figure 1.4 is the first part of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music), a beautiful song. The other is noise, given a few subtle changes and errors. Can you tell which is which? Clearly, some musicians and experts will immediately know, but it is tough to tell on the surface. If we played them both through for you, you’d immediately know for sure. The second one sounds really awful.

Figure 1.4

Figure 1.4 Harmony or Cacophony?

Consider the ACT process architecture a symphony that has continuously been played through, improved, and boiled down to the essentials over years of productive work and active use. Each time a new leader uses it, he or she turns another crank on streamlining the process that’s been going through refinement for over 30 years. So, the fact that it is simple and not some Rube Goldberg type of process with a million extra moving parts with fancy names is intentional and took hard work. Each part has been simplified and optimally sequenced, and it plays off the other parts in an intentional way in which you as a transformation leader can depend. The methodology is perfectly horizontal. It has never met an industry vertical for which it did not succeed.

In its simplest expression the Accelerated Corporate Transformation, or ACT, process architecture takes the form illustrated in Figure 1.5. The highlighted elements are what we refer to as the Foundational elements that are necessary for effectively leading a rapid transformation.

Figure 1.5

Figure 1.5 ACT Process Architecture

Source: Copyright © by Robert H. Miles, Corporate Transformation Resources, 2001. Permission granted.

The basic ACT-based plan starts with the Launch Phase, compressed into a few months that goes from clarifying the purpose, strategic vision, business success model, company values, and corporate transformation initiatives, as well as some obvious “Quick Starts” to get the process moving while planning proceeds. The Launch Phase consists of a series of steps, starting with confronting reality, focus, and alignment, which ends with a transition to the Cascade Phase, which rapidly engages the full organization, and which enables and engages managers and employees at all levels to translate the corporate transformation constructs into individual commitments to action that are relevant for their level and job scope. ACT accomplishes this rollout with its unique Rapid, High-engagement, All-employee Cascade™ methodology and tools.

The cascade is followed by a longer Execution Phase that puts in place quarterly leadership performance checkpoints to hold accountabilities, share best practices across the businesses and departments, and make mid-course adjustments in an agile way when needed. Each quarterly checkpoint is quickly followed by a mini-cascade that enables all managers and employees to make timely refinements in their commitments to further accelerate the corporate transformation.

Finally, there is a Renew Phase at the end of the first performance year under ACT, which is designed to refresh the corporate transformation initiatives in light of actual achievements and associated organizational learning. This phase engages everyone in a relaunch of the ACT-based corporate transformation process, although in a more streamlined manner than was possible the first time through.

The top of Figure 1.5 shows a graphic of the full process architecture; the bottom of the figure shows how the organizational energy and focus are built and sustained over time. Notice that the process steps are designed and sequenced specifically to maintain the business focus and energy at the correct level to drive results over the course of the first full performance cycle, usually one year. When implemented without skipping its few simple steps, the ACT process creates energy and momentum, as well as an acceleration of business performance and culture change as it is integrated into the business operations.

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