Magazine Article | October 31, 2012

Urgency: Leadership's Strategy Accelerator

Source: Life Science Leader

By Randy Ottinger, executive vice president, Kotter International

Once a company has identified an opportunity in a marketplace, the real challenge is then to successfully implement that strategy, meaning that the mindset of the organization must change from an old way of doing things to the new way. While there is no magic bullet, a key to the successful implementation of strategy is to create a broad sense of urgency throughout the organization about the opportunity the company is pursuing and to engage as many employees as possible in it. Here are some insights about how to create broad-based urgency and why it is important.

Bring The Outside In — During the development of a strategy, it is critical to bring in multiple points of view from a variety of sources. Customers, partners, investors, and employees all have valuable insights to share. Strategies are not developed well in a vacuum, but are best built when multiple perspectives are considered that provide clarity about the window of opportunity that exists for the company. Sometimes the opportunity relates to innovation and growth, but just as importantly, it can relate to efficiencies. Often it’s the lowest rung of employees that identify those opportunities to streamline. Bringing in other stakeholders early on can help create urgency and credibility around the new strategy.

Align Senior Leaders Around A Clear Opportunity — In a previous column, my colleague Dennis Goin talked about aligning senior leaders. I’ll underscore his point: It is critical that senior leaders are aligned about the opportunity they are pursuing in the marketplace, as well as the strategies that are critical to achieving success. When senior leaders are united, excited, and urgent about an opportunity, that feeling often spreads throughout the organization. It’s almost impossible to galvanize employees to change when their superiors are inconsistent about the way forward. Senior leaders must model the way.

Engage Employee Volunteers — Most life sciences companies are run in a top-down model, with the “answers” coming from relatively few senior leaders. One way of accelerating strategy implementation is to engage many people throughout the company to find innovative, new ways to achieve the strategies that have been developed by senior leaders. While engaging employee volunteers is partly about communicating in creative ways that touches both the heads and hearts of employees, it is also about creating a “want to” attitude where employees are encouraged to volunteer to support the key strategies of the company. That “want to” attitude can evolve into a “get to” culture, where employees believe they have the permission and encouragement to find better ways of doing things within their sphere of influence.

I’ve seen life sciences companies realize success when thousands of urgent employees have raised their hands to help the company achieve its strategies, leading to rapid product introductions and significant cost savings. For those companies, urgency and strategy go hand in glove. Done right, urgency is an accelerator that helps organizations seize market opportunities more quickly.