What will you stop doing?
Transformations are large, complex, and lengthy. They tend to consume a lot of any company’s resources and management focus. Yet, despite companies’ dismal track record with over 70% failure rate, there is simply no way around them. Transformations are critical to the enduring success of every company.
To maximize your chances of success, you must be laser-focused on what you choose to do both for the transformation and for your core business. One of the best ways to accomplish that is by clearly defining and communicating the actions and initiatives that your company will stop pursuing.
As Michael Potter rightly said several decades ago, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”. Choice is one of the most powerful tools a CEO has to convey that they are serious about their vision. Interestingly, it is one that most leaders have a very hard time with as well.
This is not about saying no - lot’s of leaders take pride in saying no - but they do so for the wrong reasons. They say no to change, to learning new concepts and ideas, to having to work hard until they master a new skill, to developing their teams, to taking accountability for their mistakes and results. Instead, you must have such a clear vision of the future you want to achieve and of the path to get there that anything that won’t contribute to that picture simply doesn’t belong within the company. And doing that takes serious commitment and work.
People live in the cult of busy. They schedule back to back meetings, jumping from one topic to the other, without really taking time to think about what really matters. Busyness is an illusion of productivity that has absolutely no merit. If you don’t know where you are going, then every step is wasted.
This is not leadership; at best, this is at best task management. At worst, it is pure incompetence.
Before leaders can say a “no” that matters, they must first say "yes" to the work that lays ahead. They must embrace the uncertainty of coming up with an inspiring vision, the vulnerability to articulate it in such a compelling way that employees will want to be part of that future, and the courage to develop a plan to get there.
Any CEO should then compile and review all the key initiatives in flight within the company to decide what should be stopped, redirecting resources to the journey that really matters. Show your employees that you mean what you say and that you are committed to fulfilling your vision.
As Neil Peart so beautifully wrote, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Own your leadership title and choose to make te right choice.