There is one movement that makes every business grow. A forward motion that goes in a straight line from A to B. From Strategy to behavior. From our grand vision to the single actions we believe will get us closer to our goal.
It’s a line that can have many or few stations on the way, but it always starts in the head of C-level and ends at the hands of the people.
In theory, it’s pretty simple.
You have a vision, plan out your strategy, and execute a series of specific behaviors to get to the goal.
In theory, that is. As it turns out, theory and reality aren’t siblings.
More like, far distance snap-chat buddies.
In the real world of business, that straight line from strategy to behavior looks more like a toddler’s crayon drawing, and it’s your job to make it as smooth as possible.
But just as toddlers, we grow and get better at our craft. We start to understand the world around us and realize what’s easy, in theory, is hard in real life, but practice makes us better.
The era of rapid change & bottom-up
Luckily for you, the last decade, a lot of self-acclaimed bottom-up organizations and thought leaders have been practicing the art of closing the gap between strategy and behavior in the era of rapid change.
Not just academic, but how change management actually works in the hands and heads of people.
We talked, listened, watched, followed, and ultimately learned from them. We took all that knowledge and those learnings, combined them with our own ideas and research, and build this methodology to make a better way to run a business in the ’20s.
People-Led Growth is built for the new generation of leaders, workforces, and businesses. Those who want to grow by involving people and adapt to a world in change.
This wheel is our reference in the book. The first layer is our functions in the company. Strategy, development, operations. The next layer is our process. Must-Win-Battle, Knowledge, Creativity, Collaboration, and Behavior. The center is where growth lives.
Think of it as a flywheel. A spinning disk, which speed is representing your growth as a company.
Every time you add to a function or process, you apply force, which makes it go faster, and growth happens. Every time you add friction to it, in form of bureaucracy, bad leadership, and employee disengagement, it slows down, and growth follows.
The methodology is made for you to maximize the force you can put on the wheel and achieve better growth. We dedicated a chapter to every single part of it that explains the knowledge and experiences behind it and how you make it work in everyday business life.
We start outside in. The first ring in the flywheel are our functions and is mostly about mindset and approach as a company.
Function – Strategy as a tool has evolved in the past 15 years. Rapid change is the new normal, and we have to be able to adopt new consumer expectations, business models, technology, and employee demands just as fast as the world spins.
But the old mindset of strategy is troublesome in that regard. 5-year strategy plans are outdated before they leave the c-suite, and agile is something that is spoken but never practiced.
So, we need a new playbook for our strategy.
Or actually, we need to execute an old one.
In 1989, Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad wrote the book Strategic Intent. In it, they describe how we need to adapt strategy from the school of learning. And it starts with the title of the book: Strategic Intent.
Instead of having a 5-year strategic goal that fits the current world, but is outdated at arrival, you should set a 50-year vision. What does the world look like in five decades, and what’s your role in making it so?
If you do that, I promise you, you are not planning step-by-step.
You now have to change your mindset to be more agile. Instead of being specific in your actions, you can only outline what Must-Win-Battles you need to do right now, to get there in the future.
With that mindset, you need to invent a lot of new stuff down the line. That means trying, failing, and learning. In other words: you have to stop planning and start exploring.
By doing that, you solve the biggest flaw in the 5-year strategy plan – the overconfidence of trying to predict short term in a world that’s going to change a lot in half a decade.
Function – When you nailed your explorative strategy, you need to set up a way to learn and develop fast. The problem here is two-fold for a lot of traditional run companies. Here, development is, by design, not inclusive, and driven top-down.
When you run a top-down development, you are losing out in two fronts.
1. When you develop, you want to have as much information as possible about the market and your customers. But your customer support guys, sales reps, marketing girls, and receptionists are probably not adding their knowledge to the development, because development is higher up in the organizational hierarchy.
2. When you have a new product or process, you tell people what to do of new things, and you meet a lot of friction because people don’t like to be directed to change. That means you have trouble keeping up with the world around you.
This paradox is the effect of a world that’s changing faster than our organizational structures are evolving. Because, traditionally, our organizations are not set up for high involvement. So now you need to put in a new layer to lower the natural accruing friction, caused by our structure – also known as change management. So we add more complexity, which isn’t going to make us go faster – quite the opposite.
What People-Led Growth wants you to do is to be more inclusive in development and let everyone contribute, so you get better solutions and much less friction in the implementation of new changes. Re-think the way you structure your organization.
It’s not focused on only solving the change management problem, but take another approach to the development of your company, so it becomes a natural part of it, and you can pick up the speed you need for the ’20s.
You need to involve all your people in development and innovation. How you do that is described in the next layer of the flywheel, the process.
But first, our last function.
Function – The transition from instructing to empowering, starts, and ends here: leadership.
To quote Richard Branson: “If you take care of your people, they’ll take care of your business.” That’s pretty much the mindset you need to have around leadership in the People-Led Growth Methodology.
A lot of leaders are, in fact, managers. And bad ones – in this methodology anyway.
If you want to practice a bottom-up culture, you have to stop managing. Meaning running your people’s to-do lists, checking their work, controlling their access, and everything else you can fit under the word of managing.
I know the word manager is pretty big in the title game, but let’s focus on the job and not the business-card.
As a leader, your job is to turn the light on inside your people, empower them, and then get out of their way.
The late Steve Jobs once said: “We don’t hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire them so they can tell us what to do.”
And “do” is vital in operations. Because it’s here the strategy is being executed.
It’s here you take all the learnings from development and make them into actionable, measurable, crystal clear behavior.
And you do that by being an excellent translator.
Ever heard a football coach say: “I want high pressure today”?
That is open for anyone to translate into their own version of what that means. What a great leader, as current Manchester City coach, Pep Guardiola does, makes it crystal clear behavior:
“When we lose the ball, the 3 nearest players to the ball, pressure the opponent ball carrier for 5 seconds to win it back”.
Clear, precise, and without a doubt of who should do it and with what resources.
The best way to get people to adopt that behavior is to involve them in the development process. If they had their say and helped finish the concept, they would also take ownership of the execution.
How you do that, and the playing rules of making behavior is in the process layer.
But what you need to take away from this chapter is the leadership role is all about empowerment. Giving people space, time, ability, and above all, trust them to get the job done.
That’s the high level. Our 3 functions. All very mindsetty and not on a practical level. That’s the next part. The process. How we are going to make everything work like this.
The process is all about making everything work within our functions. Build to be practical and useful to build better companies and get happier, more involved employees.
Process –Must-Win-Battle is a great mindset. Something we have to conquer, to make our vision fly. We don’t know how, but we’ll learn. If you use another term, cool by me. It’s just a container, and regardless of its label, this is what it should do:
A Must-Win-Battle has to be a vague placeholder with wiggle-room. It’s intent, though, is everything but vague. As demonstrated in this Must-Win-Battle:
Being the market leader by having the best product and most customers.
That is very hard in the sense of the outcome. But how to get there is vague, and that is needed. Because, as we learn down the road, we have to able to switch out the items in it. Some will carry, though, others will be killed and replaced with better things to achieve the goal.
Think of Boeing in 1950. They only produced military plains. But they were ambitious and said: We want to become the leader in the commercial aircraft industry.
Their first Must-Win-Battle:
Commercial Jet Plane
The modern age plane which can carry more, further and faster.
Commercial planes were propel-powered at the time. But if Boeing could pull of jet-powered commercial flight, they would be able to carry more, further and faster. That’s a big step into fulfilling the vision.
But how does one build something no one ever had done?
You start to outline your plays in the Must-Win-Battle and learn as you go.
And so on.
Now, this is an ambitious Must-Win-Battle. But the principle applies no matter how a Must-Win-Battle looks.
That’s the beauty of the concept.
Challenge your Must-Win-Battles
As the next step, you want to involve your people in figuring this out. You can do this at any level from Must-Win-Battle to tactics that lives under it.
Let’s imagine our Must-Win-Battle is called “Market Domination,” and one of our plays is to have “Best-In-Class Buying Experiences.”
What we are looking for is maximum diversity in figuring the challenge out. The more diversity, the better the results.
So we are challenging a team with people from marketing, sales, service, leadership, and revenue. A minimum of 4 people. A maximum of 25.
By having diversity in people and skills, we are looking at “Best-In-Class Buying Experiences” from different angels, and that will allow us to build a better product.
The best way to involve them is to make it a challenge.
How can we create a Best-In-Class Buying Experience?
And then jump into the next step in the flywheel:
Process –The first step of learning often starts by adding something new. Not to provide you the answers, but to inspire you to figure out the right answers for your context.
Remember, in the state of rapid change, you probably have to invent the solution, rather than leaning on what others have done.
Knowledge is about giving perspective and nurture the creativity we are lighting up the next process step.
And we’ll get to that soon, but first: What is knowledge?
Knowledge – facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.
Notice how experience is listed before education. It may be a coincidence that the sentence is written like that, but I would like to emphasize this. Experience always trumps education in this stage.
What experience can we source in “Best-in-Class Buying Experiences?”
And that is who you should turn to.
There are a couple of ways to get that experience, helping your team get knowledge around the challenge.
Four sound sources to become more knowledgeable from. And it comes in different shapes. Workshops, talks, video, podcasts, blog posts, and 1-on-1 training, and much more.
Here is a guideline of what you are searching for:
Short bursts of knowledge
You don’t want the full playbook in one take. You want perspective in bits and then start to use and understand it, before diving deeper. From minutes to 1-hour max.
If you want to make people absorb knowledge, let them do it when it fits them. Therefore, you should try to get as much digital access to materials as possible. Workshops are great, and specialist training is fantastic, but if you only do that, you are not going to do as much because of the psychical aspect sets barriers in the form of time, space and calendar workouts.
With that said, you should not abandon your workshops. Bringing people together creates some chemistry in us and makes collaboration easier.
And aquiring knowledge live is still one of our most influential mediums. You should just be very careful about how you use the time together.
This format works particularly well when we want to set a behavior trigger and motivate people.
More on how the mix should look, later on.
Process – When exposed to new knowledge, people put it onto their own context, and that’s the magic moment. Because different ideas sprout with different origins. The marketing-girl looks at a problem differently than the customer service-guy. And that produces our fuel: ideas.
You need to kick-start the ideation-process. Your people need a trigger to help them think creatively. So, after each learning session, stimulate them with small tasks and questions to answer.
Things that could look like this:
This serves two purposes:
People remember it better
When you start putting your new knowledge into action, you remember it better. The forgetting curve in corporate learning is grossly underestimated.
Partly because people don’t spend time learning its effects and because we haven’t measured what people have absorbed.
We only measure the time spend on the transfer of knowledge – not the stickiness of it or the effect it has on our business.
That why you need to know about the forgetting curve. From the point you learn a new skill or attain knowledge, you will have forgotten 20% just 24 hours later and 50% by midweek. And a full week is almost like you never spend time with it.
But if we take action and start using the knowledge right away, we can retain almost everything. So by every learning moment, your people are going through, should be followed with 7x the amount of training.
Kick-starts the process of ideation
By asking people questions where you force them to put it into their own context, they will automatically start to form ideas as their answers. And the nature of the questions in the context of new knowledge is also activating critical thinking.
Also, the process of mass inclusion in development lets you get to quantity in the ideation process.
So you’ll have a lot of reflections, direct solutions and hopefully wild ideas.
In Acadal, we see an average in the range of 60-70 ideas pr. Sprint.
When it comes to putting the outcome into play, you work with what you got.
Having quantity in ideas lets you cherry-pick the best to work on. If you, on the other hand, only have few ideas, you are forced to work with bad and good as visualized below.
But how do you cherry-pick with a blind-fold? How can you separate bad ideas from outstanding ones? Just because you have a lot of input, doesn’t mean you can make the right choices.
And the truth is you can’t know if you make the right choice.
But you are becoming cabable of experimenting on ideas, faster and efficient, to see if they move the needle.
The process has lowered the friction in change. It’s people’s own ideas, you give them room to move forward with what fits the frame the best.
And that we can influence – the right direction.
Process – Diversity plays a huge role in development and operations. First, all ideas are sprung from one mind but polished to greatness by the many. So, you need to discuss your ideas, rate them together from an effort/impact point of view, and learn from each other to spur new collaborative ideas.
By getting some or all of the team to rate the ideas by effort and impact you will form a grid that looks like this with all the ideas placed on it.
Because you are going to have a lot of similar ideas, hence the many contributors exposed to the same knowledge, you can bundle them together and let the size of the dot represent how well ideas are backed by the team.
Cherry-picking now becomes a matter of how you want to move forward on your challenge.
The diversity also helps you move it into operations. Because new processes, tasks, jobs, and solutions are collaboratively decided, people will either have high ownership of the idea and at least recognize the importance and move it along.
But most important, it’s not some bright idea from management, telling everyone what to do. The barriers of actual execution are lowered drastically by high inclusion in the process.
The sprint – These 3 steps, Knowledge, Ideation, and Collaboration is what we call a Sprint – a single loop learning cycle. A Sprint runs over a few weeks, instead of one massive learning. That way, we can leverage three learning styles:
1. Action Learning
People absorb new knowledge best in short bursts and by starting to use it immediately (action learning).
2. Experiential Learning
People reflect and get better thoughts if they are allowed time to process and try it out in a real-life environment. All the new seeds need time to sprout.
3. Social Learning
People will share and discuss if you give them time. Let them talk about it at the coffee station and over launch to create ownership and polish ideas together.
Designing a sprint
When you design a sprint, you put all three process steps into a single week and repeat that the following weeks. What changes is how you want people to learn from it.
A 4-week sprint could look like this:
As you see, the process of knowledge, ideation, and collaboration is tightly connected, and you move back and forward between them for maximum effect.
The effect of blending digital and psychical learning, mixed with real jobs and tasks, is what creates the value in the process. Here is the blend you are searching for.
Designing behavior for execution.
The outcome of a sprint is ideas and people ready to execute on them. But the ideas are still just fluffy actions. You need to make it into actionable, measurable behavior. Behavior design is all about being specific. So, you need to translate the ideas into solutions and actions everyone can understand.
Let’s play with this idea from our challenge:
How can we create a Best-In-Class Buying Experience?
How about we build blog posts that answer every question we get in the buying process?
When we want to process that idea, we need to figure out to make it into tangible behavior.
Step one is to build an action-list on the base of the idea, and it could look something like this:
The next step is to translate them into something even more useful and to do that, we’re using BJ Foggs Behavior Grid. You can do a deep dive here as we only are going to get our knees wet here:
First, you outline all the actions, and then you place them onto the grid.
How often are we doing it? And what’s our experience doing it?
So let’s say we are placing this action on the behavior grid: “Paying attention to questions in sales meetings.”
This action is familiar and should be our new permanent state.
What you will realize is that you start separate behavior and tasks.
Permanent and periodic behavior:
Once behavior (tasks):
The tasks are going forward into your project management to be solved, but behavior needs a bit more work.
You need to make it precise.
To use my favorite football analogy again:
You don’t say, “Keep high ball pressure.” You say, “When we lose the ball, the 3 nearest people, pressures the ball for 5 seconds.”
Distributing ownership, resources, and responsibility of the job.
It looks like this applied to one of the behaviors on the list:
“Paying attention of questions in sales meetings” becomes
Listen actively to the buyer and write down at least 3 questions in the meetings and post them to the slack channel #SalesQuestions at the end of each day.
When designing that new behavior, it’s essential to be aware of the mindset in both leader and employee. Here are the two ends of the spectrum:
This is the dilemma.
If the leader decides, it’s pushing change over the employee, which could end badly. If the employee decides, we aren’t moving forward enough.
The reality is hopefully, neither. In most cases, we would agree on what to do next together.
But here is the kicker. If you have the right mindset around what the relationship between the leader and employee is, then you can have a real talk about the behavior.
The leader should put it like this:
“I’m working for you. What do you need to make this happen? If we are going for three questions a day, how much time, space, ability, and support do you need to make that happen?”
Framing it like this takes the pressure off the employee and puts the responsibility of making it happen on the leader.
If the leader now empowers the employee to make it happen, its really hard not to come through. And if it fails, it’s easier to have the conversation of why we didn’t succeed.
Think of it like this:
If you just wandered into the sales team’s office and said, “Listen, guys, you need to do this at every meeting now” you would collectively be fed to swamp alligators in their heads.
But you aren’t (both instructing them and being eaten).
You let them figure out that this is a step in the process by including them in development. Then you empower them by taking other jobs away, so they have the time, give them the ability, and motivates them to do it.
Designing behavior should always be looked at as a trade-off. If we are doing this, we take mental capacity and other actions away to make it happen.
We can’t just keep putting new stuff on. So be aware of the trade-off and make sure it’s obtainable by knowing what it demands in resources.
Process – Having designed your behavior, you are now ready for the last step. Execution and refinement of the behavior.
Whenever we want to push behavior as an organization, the understanding of this graphic below is vital. It’s a visualization of the action line you need to cross to be able to perform any behavioral change.
It is pretty straight forward. If you need people to do hard stuff, they need to be highly motivated. If you want them to do the easy stuff, motivation is not as important.
You can see more examples in our blog post, The Behavior Grid: How to change business behavior (and make it stick).
So how does that affect our newly designed behavior?
Listen actively to the buyer and write down at least 3 questions in the meetings and post them to the slack channel #SalesQuestions at the end of each day.
If your sales reps have to listen, write questions down, and post them to Slack, you need to figure out where that behavior is placed on the chart.
Most of them hopefully know how to listen, and writing should also be covered. But do they know how to formulate questions, are they logged into Slack and have they browsed channels in Slack before? Make sure to cover all the basics.
It may require a bit of motivation in the beginning, but having them a part of the process should be enough here.
The motivation is naturally going to drop over time, so before it does, we need to move the ability from hard to easy. That way, we are still in our zone of us being motivated enough to get the behavior done.
That’s why we practice and put so much action learning into our processes – so small steps can be translated into ability as soon as possible.
Will the “post-meeting question return rate™” by every sales rep be 100%? No. But it will increase dramatically over the other way and get you closer to your vision, faster.
And that’s the point. It’s people-led.
Both in the development of the ideas and the execution of the strategy.
Now, the behavior we chose was pretty easy to do, but what if we up the ante?
What if you want them to start writing the blog posts – you need substantial motivation in the beginning as most sales reps don’t have any experience doing this and it’s not as quick to learn as using a slack channel.
That’s why we put every new behavior into our behavior grid. So you know how much work you need to put into motivating your people before they adopt the new behavior.
You need to figure out how to motivate people, and that could be another sprint, a workshop, 1-on-1s, or other tools in the leadership bag. What’s important is that you are aware of the balance, so the behavior is being executed.
The leadership role is now what it should be: All about empowering your employees. Smashing down barriers, motivating them and giving them space to perform. All so they can flourish in the frictionless growth vacuum of your company.
Growth lives in the center of the flywheel and reflects our ability to drive the processes inside the functions.
Growth – For us, there is one word that describes the outcome better than anything else: Distributed ownership. But it also includes better ability to change, higher revenue, and happy people.
By running this highly inclusive, bottom-up approach, you are giving people a chance to opt-in on owning a part of your mission. You are opening your doors as those who want to add value have every opportunity.
Placing ownership on the many, rather than the few, creates more momentum and makes you less vulnerable to both internal and external change.
For us, it’s the ultimate aim. To have an organization where everyone feels ownership of the mission, strategy, and jobs to be done.
That effect can be measured in these 3 desirable growth parameters.
1. Ability to change
A lot of strategies fail because people don’t get it. They don’t understand or even know why this is important, and the direction they are told to move is unclear – as is the job itself.
Having an explorative approach to strategy and involving people early in development lets you overcome the most. Building actionable behavior lets you supercharge the rest – and your organization, by adding high agility and speed to rise in the era of rapid change.
The methodology is built to help you close the gap between strategy and behavior. From giving transparency in vision to outlining the actually needed behavior.
A lot of people will think of change management as the go-to-tool here but think of it like this instead: Change shouldn’t be managed. It should be driven by the majority of people in your company, and you should facilitate the process and provide the structure for it to happen.
Change ownership is the right mindset.
2. Higher Revenue Growth
Ultimately we need to make money as businesses. Inclusive or not. In a big survey of 792 where the engagement/inclusiveness of people was measured against revenue growth, there was a clear pattern. The more inclusive a company is, the better it grows.
This is so mind-numbing, I’ll repeat it in text for you:
Keeping people engaged is one of your biggest revenue-streams – including them in development is a considerable step to activate that stream, and as it turns out, it’s also the solution for executing your strategy.
By applying People-Led Growth, engagement is inevitable. It’s the very core of the methodology. Getting people involved by having an inclusive approach to building the business.
3. Happy People
Ask people what makes them happy at work, and they will answer with their top 3: Career, community, and cause.
Career is about having a job that allows you to use your strengths, which provides autonomy and allows personal growth.
Community is about your peers. That they care for you, you feel respected, and you get recognized for your job. The sense of belongingness.
Cause is the feeling of meaningful work and impact. That you can identify with the company vision and believe that you are making the world a better place.
People-Led Growth will allow you to build a structure that impacts all 3. And one of the main drivers is because we are actively looking to use the full capacity of our people.
In other words:
People-Led Growth is activating your human capital.
Often a misunderstood term, so here is what we mean: Human Capital is the economic value which is bound in intangible assets and quality of your people. It’s the combined skills, knowledge, experience you have access to.
And by skills, I mean both hard and soft skills. In fact, soft skills are precious when running a people-led organization. Skills like creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, work ethic, adaptability, and intelligence.
Most methods to run companies always focuses on hard skills, but in People-Led Growth, soft skills are essential skills. It’s the driver of building, experimentation, learning, and execution.
And by applying PLG methodology, you can start using your human capital just like you use money.
To invest in your growth – and happy people.
5.000 words and still so much to say. We are writing the book of People-Led Growth as we speak, and it’s going to be published later in 2020. Join our community to get notified at launch and follow the journey of People-Led Growth.
Who made this?
The People-Led Growth Methodology is built by the founding team of Acadal, Morten Dalum, Søren Vasø, and Niels Svendsen. We have created a software tool that lets you distribute ownership of must-win-battles with ease and begin to run a people and data-driven company (build on this Methodology as you probably guessed).
We spend the last 3 years researching how companies are combatting the era of rapid change and build our product on the sideline. We talked, listened, watched, studied, and ultimately learned from the pioneers of bottom-up run organizations around the world. But we discovered there wasn’t a language around the challenge and by no means a clear method to follow.
That’s why we combined all those studies, learnings, and own ideas into this. A methodology for happy people and business growth in the era of rapid change.
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