What Is an MWB Journey?
An MWB journey is an ongoing process, during which two things are happening simultaneously. One is that the team is learning to behave as a team, with shared objectives and a common agenda. The other is that MWBs are being identified, fought, and hopefully won. But because new battles will emerge over time, and corporate objectives may change, this part of the journey will never end; there will always be another battle to win. And although your managers may indeed become a team, as executives come and go the team will always be at least partially in flux, and will need continued attention to reinforce the shared agenda and expected behaviors.
Before you embark on your journey, you need to make an assessment of the starting conditions facing your business. We will discuss these shortly, but the key point is that not all MWB journeys are the same, and you need to tailor your trip to the particular conditions that you face in your business.
Phase One entails running a kick-off event for your team. This typically brings together the most senior managers in the company for up to a week in an offsite location to identify, through intense discussion and debate, the company’s MWBs. The event ends with the selection of the MWBs and the senior managers who will lead them, and each member of the top team publicly committing to support all of the chosen MWBs. This first phase of the journey tends to be short and intense.
Phase Two involves the motivation and mobilization of the broader organization to win the chosen MWBs. For any given MWB this phase might last as long as several years, during which the organization must take ownership of each MWB, assemble and mobilize the resources to fight it, and win. But each MWB will follow a different course – some will move quickly and achieve early victory, others may lose their way and need to be re-energized or redirected. This phase demands stamina and persistence on the part of the company’s leaders, as it is very easy for the organization to lose focus on the MWBs as the evolving pressures of day-to-day business throw up potential new priorities. And people who do not support the MWBs will do their best to slow things down and derail MWB activities. Such intransigents need to be identified and dealt with.
Each phase of the MWB journey involves two sub-journeys, one emotional and one intellectual. The intellectual journey is necessary to ensure first that you select the right MWBs, and then that you choose the right supporting battles that need to be won to ensure victory in the main battles. The emotional journey should lead first to a new level of openness that will underpin the creation of a top management team that truly functions as a team, and then to a series of focused teams committed to winning each of the MWBs. Depending on where you are starting from, you may find one of these sub-journeys longer and more difficult than the other, and the exact balance between the sub-journeys needs to be tailored to your particular needs. One size does not fit all when it comes to designing MWB journeys.
We believe strongly that these sub-journeys need to run simultaneously. Some leaders are inclined to say, "Let’s do the team building first and then we’ll get to choosing the battles later," while others want to do the reverse. Our experience is that these approaches do not work well. Team building that does not focus on real issues does not take you very far, and MWB choices that have no emotional commitment to the result are a waste of time as they result in decisions that are never wholeheartedly implemented. And as the boxed commentary suggests, there is growing evidence that emotions and reason cannot be readily separated.
We now consider each phase of the journey in more detail.