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Phase Two: Engaging the Organization

As you return to the office with your team, you must communicate to the broader organization the decisions that you have made, why you have made them, and the team’s commitment to the new agenda. For greatest impact the team should appear personally in front of an audience of key people and explain what they went through–both intellectually and emotionally–during the kick-off event. Pull no punches. Explain the debates and why the group came out where it did on the key issues. Make it clear that the team saw the week as a turning point for them as individuals and as a group. And as a turning point for the organization. Leave no one in any doubt that things are going to be different.

The danger in returning to work (back to the "swamp" as we call it in Chapter 7) is that the team will be sucked inexorably back into the day-to-day activities that they have been away from for a week, and within three weeks it will seem as if the kick-off event never happened. Difficult as it is, it is the job of the leader–and the team–to prevent this.

In Chapter 7 we discuss in detail the stages of the engagement process highlighted in Figure 1.2. As with the kick-off event, this process requires addressing both intellectual and emotional journeys. Intellectually the challenge is to demonstrate to the entire company that the MWBs make sense. Given the situation the business faces, these are the key challenges, and their selection was driven by reason, not politics.

Figure 1.2

Figure 1.2 The MWB journey - Phase Two: engaging the organization

Emotionally the challenge is to motivate people to commit to their part of the journey, even though this is likely to mean working across silos in ways they have never done before. You need to create energy and forward momentum throughout the organization. Without winning both the intellectual and emotional journeys, the whole effort will become just another initiative that went nowhere, and the question "So what’s different after this offsite?" will be perfectly valid.

Embedding the Agenda

In the weeks following the kick-off event you need to start the process of embedding the MWB agenda at the "heart" of the organization, to make it the central focus that will guide all future priorities and actions. The first step is to establish communication of the type we previously described: personal, open, face-to-face, and consistent. It’s not a one-off "this is what we did on our offsite" exercise; you need to put in place channels for ongoing communications, which you will use again and again after the first waves of excitement about MWBs start to ebb. (They will.) Lou Gerstner, Chairman and CEO of IBM from 1993 to 2002, and current Chairman of the Carlyle Group, says so, and so do we.4

Then the leader of each MWB needs to start bringing on board the people who will become important members of the MWB teams but were not at the kick-off event. These teams are very likely to have a cross-silo composition. Their first task is to create more detailed versions of the action plans sketched out at the kick-off. The early plans will not be perfect, but you need them now because until you have a first cut on the who, what, when, where and how, the MWBs cannot start to move forward. Because the teams will often bring together people who may not know each other, it is important that as they develop the detailed plans, they use many of the same exercises as the team at the kick-off event. Opening windows, debating the critical actions and discussing team and individual roles and behaviors will build the shared understanding of the actions, resources, and capabilities required to win, and the commitment to the new ways of working that will underpin delivery of their action plan.

Your plans are an important first step, but you are also going to need the core processes of the organization, meaning the planning, budgeting, monitoring and reward systems, to support the new direction. Often these systems are difficult to alter but you need to do it because if you do not the old systems–which support the old behavior–will prevent progress. It will take more than a couple of weeks to make these changes, but get started now–because changing how performance is monitored and how people are paid, just to pick two examples, will tell the broader organization that you are serious about the new agenda. And make sure that reviewing MWB progress is front and center at all leadership team meetings. If the MWBs are to become the priority for the organization, they must be the continual focus of the team.

The final, and probably most difficult, part of embedding the MWBs is making available the time and resources for whole-hearted action. You cannot simply add the MWB agenda on top of ongoing activities–the result will be widespread burnout and cynicism. At the offsite you and your team decided what the organization would have to stop doing to free up the time, resources, and energy to win the MWBs. Now you have to make those "must-stops" a reality. This will be a challenge, as some of them are likely to be fiercely resisted. To win the battle of the must-stops, you will need an aligned organization

Aligning the Organization

No company can win its MWBs through the efforts of the leadership team alone. The broader organization has to buy into the new agenda. How you create this buy-in will very much depend on how ready various parts of the organization are to embrace the MWBs. When they learn of them, are people going to say, "Thank goodness, at last we are moving forward," or "They must be kidding, that is not possible."? Getting the organization aligned behind the MWB agenda has to be planned carefully–both in terms of where to start and how fast to move. But again, don’t delay, because building a broad organizational commitment to winning the battles is going to take time, so the sooner you get started the better.

Getting the organization on board and ready for action requires several steps. First the team as a whole has to make very visible its commitment to the new agenda, as discussed previously. The MWB agenda must then be cascaded through the different organizational units of the company, through mini-versions of the kick-off event, because their active buy-in and support are critical to delivering the MWB agenda. The original MWBs are not up for debate, but the supporting battles, which need to be won to bring victory in the overall battles, need to be identified, agreed, and implemented. Then you need to repeat the cascade events down into the organization as necessary, with senior managers running the events, making the link to previous events, and removing roadblocks when needed.

The final component of getting the organization aligned is to bring on board those much-maligned (depending on which side of the fence you sit) staff people at headquarters. Generally the corporate center does not have external markets, so it is not likely to have MWBs of its own. However, the expertise of the central staff can be very important in helping the various MWB teams. So use the staff groups, do not isolate them. If they feel left out, they may hamper the journey.

Maintaining Momentum

As the MWB cascade continues you will need to actively encourage and support the new management behavior that everyone committed to at the kick-off event, as well as keep track of how well the MWBs are delivering against their milestones and targets.

We suggest that you start reviewing MWB progress on a regular basis, beginning about six months after the kick-off event. Monitor both movement toward "hard" targets such as revenues, new markets entered, or products launched, and softer behavioral issues. The latter are very important because managers who are resisting the new ways of working can destroy the atmosphere that you want to create. Do not allow the reviews to become endless debates. Make decisions, and ensure that there is wide recognition for exceptional performance and visible consequences for under-performance.

If your early reviews show that your team is coming together, energy levels are high, and the MWB battles are well defined and starting to be fought, you can give yourself a pat on the back. At this point, your journey is truly under way. But–and there is always a but–there will inevitably be hiccups along the way. Some battles may get derailed, others will just never really get going. It is important to recognize (early, hopefully, because the battles are constantly on the team agenda) when things are off track. Often you will need to re-energize the battle, perhaps by making some personnel changes. But sometimes you will need to refocus the battle or abandon it. In a changing world, fixed strategic priorities are seldom a recipe for success. So the last big challenge is to know when to declare victory and replace an existing MWB with a new one. After a significant investment of emotional energy and resources, parting with an "old friend" may be difficult, but do it. The next challenge is waiting for you.

Getting an organization moving in a new direction, and keeping it moving, can be exhausting. Some teams have compared the early months of an MWB journey to trying to get a heavy flywheel moving. They put in lots of energy, but there is little visible movement. To build momentum, you and your team will continually need to support each other to sustain your collective commitment and your ability to keep generating energy in others. Clearly, positive early results help, so be sure to celebrate these and broadcast them extensively. But also create opportunities which will allow the team to maintain and reinforce the emotional relationships they have built. If the team lose spirit, you do not have much hope of moving the rest of the organization forward.

In Chapter 7, we suggest that the final determinant of success is "going the last 10 percent"–doing the small things that are hard to describe because they are so varied, from sending a handwritten thank-you note, to throwing a party, to just showing up when you are not expected. These seemingly small acts can make a huge difference to the mind set of the organization and become the stuff of enduring organizational legend.

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