It comes down to culture
How to empower your organization to be in a constant state of growth
Co-authored by Viv Goldstein, VP, Organizational & Executive Development at Bionic, part of Accenture Interactive; and Christy Silva, founder of The Mastery
To unlock new opportunities and compete effectively in today’s rapidly changing markets, businesses need to build and maintain a culture of always-on growth. While we can agree that organic growth is essential, embedding the systemic changes that an organization needs to enable such growth requires a radical shift in mindsets to strengthen and support new organizational and procedural capabilities.
When leaders are tasked with achieving growth goals, it is often natural to jump straight into solution execution mode. However, biases and personal assumptions can get in the way of determining what needs to be built and launched into the market if leaders do not take the necessary steps to ensure they are focused on solving critical unmet customer needs. If they start looking for solutions before deeply understanding the customer problem, they miss an important step. To create a viable solution that can be commercialized and scaled, and that delivers true customer and organizational impact, leaders have to do three things:
- Create a formal decision architecture for investments and resource allocation, giving new and uncertain opportunities the protection, funding, and support needed to move forward at speed.
- Implement an evidence-based process to de-risk the path to market, which starts with uncovering and obsessing over the customer problem.
- Install growth operations with clear goals, new systems, communication, and talent strategies to enable and embed a New to Big way of working as a permanent capability.
Where it gets tricky
When first diving into this work, any leader — no matter how familiar they are with the importance of growth — will have a lot of questions concerning this process. And of course, the rigorous strategic approaches to installing systemic changes are critical. However, we also know that is just scratching the surface. To enable systemic organic growth to become a new way of working for an entire organization, a cultural shift is required.
Growth teams need permission to cut through traditional organizational ways of working in order to experiment, to create proof points for new ways of working. They need to be surrounded by an ecosystem that acts boldly and moves at speed. This work requires a leadership team that empowers and inspires the organization to move in new ways to rally around a customer-centric goal. If the organization’s leadership is focused on command and control, they are setting the teams up to face ongoing challenges, tensions, and obstacles throughout the organization’s growth journey. To break through this potential obstacle before things get tense, we offer our Bionic Leadership Series to guide the leadership, both as individuals and as a team. The series opens the toolbox to the insights we’ve gained from coaching and guiding hundreds of enterprise leaders as they task their organizations to innovate and grow.
Here are some of the critical insights based on our experience working with these teams:
Start at the top
Leadership is the master lever behind successful organizational changes. Igniting growth starts with the personal journey of a leader — and that can transcend into a collective mindset shift for the team and the organization. We know that without a mindset shift, the mechanics don’t matter. In our approach, through a combination of one-on-one coaching, dynamic workshops, and immersion, leaders reflect on their role, and the mindsets, behaviors, biases, and skills they need to unlearn and learn in order to propel their organizations forward. And, of course, unlearning is much harder than learning. Using an outside-in, customer-centric approach, we shake up ways of thinking, providing inspiration and psychological safety for leaders to lean into an external point of view.
Coaching for long-term, embedded transformation
The most targeted approach to expanding and developing a leader’s thinking and capacity to drive change is to work directly with an outsider who won’t shy away from the hard truths. A seasoned executive coach or advisor (at Bionic, we call them Venture Partners and they sit directly with the Growth Board), can help executives tap into their deepest motivations and any limiting beliefs standing in the way of successfully empowering their team. The right coach can help leaders envision their own unique approach to growth, reimagine their role, and transform how they show up to the organization.
A coach can also tackle the potential collisions within a leadership team. When there are multiple egos in the room, and long-established ways of working, the coach needs to get in the trenches with the team to reveal and question the historical dynamics and how to best approach enterprise innovation leadership. In our experience, a team diagnostic allows a trusted coach to remain politically neutral as they explore thorny questions like, “How aligned is our risk appetite?”, and “What messages do we send the organization regarding risk and failure?” These conversations tap into the group’s motivation to drive the organization’s capability to fail fast and learn faster. These high-touch interventions set the conditions for system-wide adoption and success.
Establishing a Growth Board
True growth requires a revolutionary shift in leadership. This can be difficult when the governing body- the corporate board — is focused on risk mitigation, efficiency, and productivity. Board meetings are often a dog and pony show full of slick presentations, followed by a Q&A discussion full of wicked smart hole-poking questions. The board is set up to approve or reject ideas, often based on whether the ROI for an initiative would be imminent. In The Board’s New Innovation Imperative, Linda Hill argues that boards need to learn to encourage and embrace risk, totally rewriting their purpose. A move away from the buttoned-up PowerPoints towards engaged collaborative problem solving, especially with a hand-picked diverse board, utilizes the talents of board members far more effectively.
To succeed in radically transforming a business, we set up a Growth Board, which should include a Senior HR Executive, to set the tone for the significance of growth in the organization. This decision-making body is not only responsible for establishing growth goals and managing the portfolio of bets, they are driven to enable long-term capability-building within the organization. Growth Board members learn how to invest like a venture capitalist using question-based leadership techniques — but their role goes beyond finances. Rather than simply putting tasks into performance management systems or OKRs, telling teams what to do next, or insisting on knowing the answers to “unknowable questions,” Growth Boards change the way decisions are made and give the explicit permission for the organization to work in a new way to shift the culture of the business.
Tackling the whole system
For real systemic, customer-centric change to happen, every member of an organization needs to be vested in the goal, understand their role in getting there, and embrace new structures and systems. Growth-centric organizations are prepared to invest in creating products and services that deliver relevance and solutions to their customers. To fully transform, businesses need to bring in outside-in thinking to unlock their talent and create a culture where everyone has the permission, skills, and resources to collaborate and achieve organizational growth goals.
Viv Goldstein leads the executive and organizational development practice at Bionic, part of Accenture Interactive, to embed new entrepreneurial growth and innovation skills within enterprises.
Christy Silva, founder of The Mastery, is an executive and team coach who partners with revolutionary leaders to elevate their game and deepen their impact.