The 5 questions to ask before taking on any major strategic initiative:
1. What’s in it for the customer?
Every decision your organization makes should consider your customer first. At the start of one engagement years ago, a Vice President actually said, “Let’s face it, the customer is going to hate this.” Well, that sent us back to the drawing board to create a model the customer would love.
2. What’s the business opportunity you’re trying to capture?
Sounds simple enough, but you may be surprised. When you ask 10 people (and you should ask at least 10 people at different levels in your organization), you may get some wildly different answers.
This is an especially important question for startups, too. At a recent meeting with a CEO at a mobile app startup, we had to determine which would take priority, customer acquisition or revenue. Development schedules, marketing plans, annual budgets were all impacted from this one critical decision.
3. What’s in it for your employees?
Change is hard. Change without employee buy-in is dang-near impossible. When a large services organization was planning on a re-alignment, we talked to several frontline employees and mid-level managers who’d seen a few leaders come and go. There was a sense of malaise, that this had all been tried before. By listening to their concerns, and inviting dozens of them into the change process, our client was able to create a deep sense of engagement and to springboard several years of double-digit growth.
4. What happens if we do nothing?
John Kotter, one of the foremost experts on change management, says that the first stage in organizational transformation is to create a sense of urgency. Before taking action, flip your logic argument on its head, and see if it still holds up. You may find that the impact isn’t going to be significant in the first 12 -18 months, so “incubating” the approach may be a better option to start with rather than a wide-scale rollout.
5. Who’s ready to lead?
Senior leaders set the vision, but they can’t operate the tactical execution of the change program. An effective change agent has two important qualities – Energy and Empathy. Choose a leader who has the desire to try to new things. He or she should embrace failures as learning opportunities. The leaders also needs to understand where others might struggle and is able to encourage them to soldier on to a better tomorrow.
John Kelliher is the CEO of Ignition Point Consulting, a boutique management consulting firm based in San Francisco.