August 25, 2020

Leaders and Redesign

Faced with a time of challenge, leaders choose from three sets of tools in their kit. The first set enables their organization to grow — to increase revenues. The second enables it to trim — to make cuts and find efficiencies. Grow and trim. Trim and grow. You can readily identify your organization’s past use of these tools.

If you have used these tools well, you have likely not reached as much for the third set which enables transformative change. These are the tools of redesign.

Grow, trim, redesign. In some respects, proficiency with one set of tools helps you as you move to use another set. Yet, and this is a somewhat cruel irony, proficiency with one set of tools can induce disregard for and lack of use of another. Until recently, your colleagues may have thought and said, look at our wonderful growth and revenues! Why on earth would we need to redesign? To be blunt, we have experienced that and have had to learn how to break out of the familiar, tried and true.

The pandemic has thrust redesign on organizations by robbing them of familiar assumptions, patterns and successes. It has forced quick thinking and actions. This time in human history has also brought forward issues involving politics, equity and more. These must factor into more fundamental redesign, which must be not just about organizational health but also about societal value and impact.

Redesign can and should consider:

Purpose, expressed in vision and mission
Organizational strengths and vulnerabilities
Who you serve and why they should choose you
New products and services
How services are provided
The technologies that are right for you and those you serve
Partnerships and strategic alliances that will enhance your capabilities
Leadership strategies
Overcoming that which served and reinforced the old model but constrains the new one

If this list makes you think of strategic planning, that is as it should be. After all, redesign is a strategy. Yet while most strategies are fairly incremental, responding to trends, redesign is more disruptive, responding to more extreme and urgent developments.

This is a time to switch gears. It is a time for organizations to think carefully and broadly about who we are, what we aspire to be and how we will contribute to a better future, and not solely for our organizations. It is a time to create innovative work teams and engage employees in design and implementation. The leadership challenge is to take your organization to a new destination.

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