When a well-established company undertakes a large-scale overhaul, defining their strategy is only the first step. Equally critical is inspiring new and existing leadership to embrace this change. And leaders must be armed with an understanding of how to enable the strategy and rally their teams behind it. This process of readying leadership to successfully implement a new strategy is often protracted, taking months—even years—with mixed results.
This raises the question: Is there another way?
We recently worked with a 100-year old manufacturing company seeking to expand from a domestic to a global organization. Using an intensive workshop process we term a DesignSession, we readied the company’s top leadership to successfully implement their strategy within two days. We gathered 100 of their top leadership and built enthusiasm and understanding around the future vision, developed and rehearsed a communication plan, and strategized around enabling capabilities.
The success of the two-day collaborative workshop relied on a deliberate planning process. We partnered with a client sponsor team composed of a top-level representative from Learning and Development, Global Communications, and the Strategy Office. In addition the CEO made himself available for consultation. Together we identified the workshop goals and the leaders who needed to attend. We refined our objectives by conducting focus groups to surface questions and concerns among senior leaders who had been exposed to the new strategy.
We focused on having the right information on hand during the DesignSession. We partnered with business leads to develop large-scale (4ft x 8ft), highly visual, single-frame presentations that conveyed key information about the strategy. By preparing visually engaging, synthesized content rather than lengthy PowerPoints, the presenters would ensure the leaders in attendance would retain the salient information. Plus, the concise presentations would leave time for dialogue to deepen the attendees understanding and sense of ownership over the material.
Collaborative Workshop Flow
Setting the Stage
We asked each participant to arrive at the workshop with an article on a topic they believed would significantly impact the business over the next five years. We opened the first day hearing each of these viewpoints, and then we collectively identified the ten “headlines” that would shape our decision-making going forward. This exercise established a pattern of building individual knowledge into collective wisdom and grounded us in a broader, long-term perspective. Within this context the CEO shared his vision for the future.
Building Ownership and a Common Understanding
The next phase of the workshop was to introduce and level-set the group on the strategy supporting the CEO’s future vision using the single frame presentations prepared in advance with the business heads. Leaders rotated through the presentations in small groups to enhance the opportunity for dialogue and feedback. The interactive format helped the leaders connect to the strategy and appreciate their role in making it a success.
Collectively Taking on the Work
Armed with a common understanding of the strategy, the leaders reconvened to paint a picture of the organization’s current state, desired future, and the gaps and barriers to overcome. This discussion teed up a series of work rounds that dove progressively deeper into developing plans for ensuring that the enabling capabilities would be in place to realize the new strategy. Final plans included determinations on what activities and behaviors needed to start, stop, and continue.
Recognizing Individual Responsibility
Just as important as identifying the work to be done, was building the personal commitment to realizing the desired future state. We gathered for a reflective conversation in which all attendees were asked to respond to questions around the role and responsibilities of leaders in bringing about organizational change. Pride of ownership grew throughout the discussion, as did the leadership’s enthusiasm for working with their teams to realize their goals.
Creating Momentum in the Organization
During the final portion of the workshop, leaders collaborated with one another to develop clear and effective communications to their teams. Since these communications needed to convey their excitement about the future vision and make it easy for teams to understand the strategy at a philosophical and tactical level, leaders took turns practicing and refining the delivery of their messaging.
Results following the DesignSession confirmed the value of convening the full group of 100 leaders over the two-days. The organization was able to:
- Quickly and consistently socialize and cascade key messaging on the strategy
- Leverage cross-functional teams to do real work on enabling capabilities
- Make measurable progress in each of their five strategic platforms
The dedicated time upfront and the senior team’s commitment to taking their top leadership through an intensive process generated invaluable forward momentum. Leaders were aligned, inspired, and ready for action thus accelerating their ability to make the future vision a reality.