I recently ran a strategy session for a client and revisited the idea of ‘voices’ to help them make their strategic focus more concrete and contextually specific. It is some time since I used ‘voices’ and it was great to see and remember how very powerful this methodology really is.
We had worked very hard to create the future state operating model for the business and the team were pleased with progress but were struggling to understand how they needed to change their behaviours to support the transition to this ‘go to state’. As we know, the real demonstration of leadership through change is ‘constancy of purpose and consistency of practice’ and, whilst many leadership teams frequently assert that they will make the required changes, few truly carry this through into action in a sustainable manner.
To help in the process I asked the team to re-view their target operating model from a behavioural perspective and consider the following questions:
- “What behaviours do you currently demonstrate that align with this future state and will help you to be role models?”
- “What behaviours do you currently demonstrate that will inhibit your achievement of this future state?”
- “What behaviours can you demonstrate that will accelerate the achievement of the future state and deliver a leveraged impact?”
These are powerful questions and inevitably result in a behaviourally focused debate about leadership, role-modelling and the need for evidentially-based commitment to the future state. The words and commitments can, however, still lack real power and this is where the ‘voices’ provide absolute clarity and focus.
The approach here is to ask, “If you are, individually and collectively, behaving in this way, how would you be viewed by those around you and, most importantly, what would they say?”
I have found that the most powerful voices tend to be:
- Voice of the Shareholder – your value return
- Voice of the Employees – your engagement proposition
- Voice of the Customer – your value proposition
- Voice of the Competitor – your competitive threat
- Voice of Me – your personal perspective
The responses always provide genuine insight and understanding that not only refines and validates the target operating model but also provides depth and focus for the behaviours that the leadership team need to overtly demonstrate in order to purposefully drive achievement.
Organisational leaders, as with all of us, find behaviour change a challenge so having the focus on driving towards a target operating model augmented by the voices of key stakeholders really does support and engage the team to try harder. The target operating model provides the concrete information about how they will deliver sustainable competitive advantage, whilst the voices provide the concrete feedback that they are able to generate as they increasingly behave in line with the blueprint they have created.
A further advantage, of course, is that the team have defined performance characteristics against which they can measure progress, provide feedback and challenge each other to perform. In short, an accelerated pathway to their ideal future state.