"Leading ourselves to exhaustion!!!"

by Didier Marlier on Sunday May 15th, 2011

Is it because everybody agrees, in private, that the fundamental problems of the recent crisis still have to be addressed, that most Boardrooms  resonate with the same sacred word: GROWTH? Is it like a desperate and collective blind attempt to cash in before a tremendous after shock erupts?

Whatever the answer to that question, some firms will succeed in disrupting their competitive environment and grow whilst many others won’t. Reflecting with my partner in crime of ELP[1], Nick van Heck, we came to the conclusion that many firms will wear themselves out by jumping on the “Growth bandwagon” unless they understand a fundamental truth: If their intention and strategy drive them towards aspiring to disruptive based growth but their sense of reality and implicit beliefs stay the same, they will only lead themselves to exhaustion!”

After having been deeply challenged by Simon Sinek’s clip[2] suggesting that companies miss their crucial point of relevance when thinking and communicating in terms of What and How instead of Why, my partners and I came with a statement or Manifesto about what we believe to be our “Raison d’être”. Parts of the answer could lie here already:

  • We aspire to support our clients in remaining masters of their own destiny, in an environment which becomes increasingly complex and sometimes chaotic
  • Developing our clients’ capacities to permanently “scan the periphery” and preparing them to recognize emerging patterns faster than their competitors will be critical under such circumstances
  • Our clients’ success will be a function of the quality of their interactions, thinking patterns, behaviours and dialogues
  • We believe that our clients should not outsource such a leading edge to consultants or other specialists. They need to learn to practice them…

In other terms, succeeding in your Growth objectives will be a direct consequence of the quality of the permanent strategic dialogue you will be able to install in your organization. It is what we also call “Moving from strategy to strategizing”, or from “strategy-being-the-privilege-of-a-few-at-a-moment-in-time-prior-to-going-back-to-business-as-usual” to strategy as a developmental and alignment process for all in the organization. The kind of phenomenal and sustainable growth we are striving for is directly linked to our capacity to create intelligent organizations.

In simplified terms, organizations can be in three psychological states: purposeful, reactive and egocentric.

  • When an organization is in a purposeful state, one can observe a strong alignment and clarity behind the strategic intent. There are different ways and stories to express it but all employees have created their own clarity and meaning of it and consequently “own it”. The energy is creative, entrepreneurial, innovative, serene and resolute. The purpose of Growth is clear to all. Orthodoxies are openly challenged and change is part of the normal leadership practice. Such organizations will succeed in disrupting their environment and grow in a sustainable manner.
  • Reactive organizations are often misleading: they seem to be buzzing energy and activity. But, watching it closely, the energy is nervous and anxious. Stress levels are high, fear of failing is in all conversations and there seems to be an obsession at copying and fighting against established market leaders. Growth is a must (instead of a free choice for the purposeful enterprise), and people aggressively punish themselves and others in order to succeed… but as their stress level remains high, tunnel vision develops and orthodoxies are reinforced instead of being challenged. People eagerly hope to grow and disrupt by doing more of the same… Such organizations will find disillusion at the end of their growth pilgrimage.
  • The egocentric organization has realized as well that the world changes at a high speed but is petrified in front of the daunting challenge. One hears “discussions of impossibilities” amongst the followers, seeking to justify their inaction and incapacity to read the evolution and adapt to it. The mood is depressed or in total delusion about the situation. No organization or individual can be strategic when they are in such a state.

Understanding and challenging our self limiting orthodoxies, moving from a market-driven (listening to our customers explicit needs) to a market-driving (scanning the periphery, looking for micro-signals and being able to discriminate between the relevant and irrelevant ones, capturing some trends early and letting others emerge prior to jumping into the fire) culture, creating disruptions and leading, creating intelligent rather than compliant organizations, engaging people rather than broadcasting to them, are signs of organizations who will meet and master growth along their transformational journey…

The firm we were with in Atlanta this week is determined to become a leading, “purposeful” organization. The Latin America division of Dow Chemical, invites more than 300 of its top leaders to move in that direction to. São-Paulo and Amsterdam are my dropping points this week and back to São-Paulo the following week…

Have a great week all


[1] www.elpnetwork.com


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