We have found that there are ten factors that determine the success or failure of any organizational change.  In this series, we will examine each of these factors.  The first is whether you have developed a winning strategy.

Organizations that are most effective at driving change have a very clear and meaningful strategy (or end in mind).  Their strategy is grounded in a customer orientation, articulates where and how they will win, and has a clear sense of who they serve and what they solve.  These organizations play to their strengths and celebrate outcomes against their goals.  While this seems intuitive, why is a winning strategy critical for successful change?

First, a well-articulated, winning strategy is a strong rallying cry for the organization.  Your employees understand what you are trying to achieve and how this will benefit them, your customers and all your other stakeholders.

Second, the clarity of knowing where and how you will win helps the organization make more effective trade offs regarding investments of time and money.  Effective change requires changing daily decision making throughout the organization (what to do more of and what to stop doing).  Without a winning strategy, it is difficult to break old habits of behavior.

Third, these organizations develop their strategies to play to their capabilities and strengths.  Building upon existing strengths creates confidence within the organization about the additional changes necessary to fully execute the defined strategy.

Finally, a winning strategy is specific enough that the organization can measure progress against the desired outcomes and celebrate progress towards those goals.  Strategies by their nature are future oriented, dynamic and have a multi-year life.  They contemplate a journey and learning as you go and require keeping the organization motivated by both progress and additional work to be done.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are organizations that lack a winning strategy.  They may be unclear about their strategy or simply have adopted a strategy that isn’t sufficiently unique from that of their competitors.  These organizations have a difficult time articulating what they won’t do, so every opportunity feels equally compelling.  These organizations struggle with staying sufficiently focused to effectively change daily decision making.  They overestimate their strengths, so success (or progress) is difficult to achieve.  Or their lack of organizational confidence may simply make the organization so risk averse that it misses opportunities to win.

Where is your organization on this spectrum?  If you don’t feel that you have a winning strategy, spending additional time to refine your strategy will be a worthwhile investment of time before attempting to make other changes.  Specifically:

  • Be clear about your target customer and the need you solve for them. What do you aspire to do better than anyone else?
  • Line up the strategy with your strengths. Do they match?
  • Explore how to articulate what makes this strategy different from your competitors in head-to-head situations. Why will you win more often than the other guy when serving your target customer?
  • If you believe your strategy is directionally correct, start telling the story. How can you make it more exciting and engaging?

See all of the 10 Reasons Change Succeeds or Fails posts here.