A refrain I often hear from technology entrepreneurs to investors is that their product or solution is so innovative that it will cause a “paradigm shift” in the industry. Their assumption is that customers and investors will be wowed by this into buying, ignoring the evidence that large-scale change takes a long time, most often fails, and scares away customers and investors alike.
For example, I still remember when Dean Kamen launched the Segway Human Transporter in 2002, predicting a transportation paradigm shift, and geared up to sell 10,000 per week for the next five years. Due to the qualms of customers and governments, he sold less than 30,000 of the devices over the next five years. Most other new vehicle designers have suffered a similar fate.
Clearly, large-scale change efforts, whether driven by an entrepreneur or an enterprise, need strong leaders and a proven approach to beat the odds of failure. I found some excellent guidance in this regard in a new book, “Beyond Performance 2.0,” by Scott Keller and Bill Schaninger, based on their work and a decade of research at McKinsey & Company.
They outline five stages, which I espouse, to leading paradigm shift levels of change and increase your odds of success from the historical thirty percent to at least double that number. While the author’s focus is slanted toward enterprises, I believe I have seen and can characterize comparable steps for small businesses and entrepreneurs:
- Aspire: Set strategic objectives and business health goals. Create a compelling long-term change vision with milestones and deliverables. Rollback the future to immediate and mid-term aspirations, while guarding against emotion and biases in the process. Test your goals and objectives on real customers and outside experts to validate reality.
Objectively audit your business health for weaknesses and strengths in resources, leadership, skills, and experience. Build an action plan for any ailing areas needing immediate improvement. Choose where you must be exceptional in service and focus.
- Assess: Forecast required skillsets and needed mindset shifts. Looking at your desired rollout and growth, and understanding resource supply dynamics and availability, identify how any gaps will be closed.
Explore the underlying mindset drivers of the required team behaviors. Isolate and reframe the critical “root-cause” mindsets for any unhealthy ones. Pinpoint helping and hindering behaviors related to health priority areas, such as hiring and training.
- Architect: Build an actionable plan and acquire delivery resources. Define and document the portfolio of initiatives to deliver on your strategic objectives and fulfill your production and skill requirements. Review the plan with your advisors and investors, as well as outside experts. Detail and sequence actions, and schedule resources to deliver.
At the same time, you need to build or reshape the work environment to influence needed shifts in mindsets and behaviors. Hardwire health interventions into performance initiatives by linking desired behavior to measurements, rewards, and consequences.
- Act: Execute the plan and establish leadership drive. Take leadership control and allocate responsibility and feedback loops. Scale up your portfolio of initiatives, monitor progress and dynamically pivot as your plans are implemented. Constantly validate your solution fit, schedule, and business model with feedback from key customer advocates.
Mobilize influencers, make the change personal for a critical mass of leaders, and maintain high-impact two-way communications. Keep the motivation level high for all constituents through internal and external marketing, social media, and events.
- Advance: Institutionalize new learning and leadership creation. Formalize processes and expertise to enable knowledge sharing, continuous improvement, and new learning to characterize the day-to-day working of the organization going forward.
Prioritize roles by value-creation potential on the go-forward strategy, match the best talent to priority roles, and operationalize the talent match process to ensure that it is regularly revisited.
Notice that each of these steps has both a performance and a business health component. In my experience, the difference between success and failure is keeping current and future business health a top priority. Hard work is not enough – especially when paradigm shifts and large-scale change are involved.