Looking through your pre-Exec team eyes to SEE wheel-spinning and not-fit-for-purpose risks.

The CEO and her Exec team were having a vigorous discussion on the pace of change and what it may mean for the organisation in the coming 5 years. There were already indicators of challenges and very different opportunities on the road ahead. Then a team member asked, “Would we even know if we were ‘spinning our wheels’ as a team versus the direction and pace required? What are our feedback mechanisms?” The CEO took a deep breath and said, “We may have to admit, at this moment, we do not really know.”

That meeting was etched in the storytelling of a successful organisation transformation as a critical turning point. The start of a journey by a leadership team, which focused on confronting industry challenges and made progress that was the envy of their peers.

Are you having these discussions now?

These discussions can be difficult to raise and get the space they deserve in the busy schedules of many Executive teams. Here are a couple of warm-up exercise teams have found useful.


Traction + Change-fitness Perception Exercise

Remember you before you were on the Exec team? If you have been on various Exec teams for a while, remember you before you were at Exec team level?

There you are bright and aware.  😊

Not yet in the big gig, yet taking an interest in the big picture of the world and the industry and seeing trends and probable patterns.

You are the future leadership of the organisation and industry.

Your CEO signals they are providing a leadership briefing on current conditions and some important steps that will need to be taken in the coming period. This sounds like it might be something significant. You feel you better tune in.

The CEO provides a high level overview, using a few new words, and sounding very earnest. You hear your cynical friends mumbling. You, however, decide to be optimistic and allow time to see what unfolds. This could be your big break and opportunity to really step up leadership and make a difference.

In the coming week you are in a meeting with the CFO, CHRO, CIO and the COO in attendance. As questions arise about how points raised in the CEO presentation will translate into work that is underway it becomes clear they do not even speak the same language around planning, let alone have the clarity you crave.

In a business review meeting, questions are raised about whether the measures and targets are still relevant to the new strategic period, and it becomes clear to all around the room that the finance team will continue to monitor and report existing measures. Listening to the CEO words, your direct leader’s direction, the aspirations espoused by the Quality program, and the presenters at the recent organisation funded Executive Education program you attended, you are unable to explain ‘what good looks like’ in terms of the organisation-wide benchmark.

Being the respectful person of the Executive team that you are, you move from your sense of anticipation to acknowledging the Exec are not yet ready to be moving as you had thought, indeed hoped.

You go about your immediate work, or perhaps quietly you commence your job search for a leadership team that inspire your development and aspirations to be a leader in the industry.

The picture that comes to my mind here is like in the old war movie where the troops are called to attention, race to be battle-ready, then get given the message “Stand At Ease!”  The troops sit back down waiting for leadership clarity.

This is what a Wheel spinning Exec team looks like.

The opposite of Traction + Change-fitness. It is the lack of drama in the moment that can leave it just to the side of our awareness as an Executive team.

Sure, there may be frustration expressed in various gatherings, however the Exec team may be distracted, wondering why people are not engaging with the message, why all those projects are not step-changing performance, why high potential future leaders are moving on.

Discuss what resonates from the current situation and the perspective of your pre-Exec team self.


Traction +Change-fitness Self-awareness Exercises

Following are some critical questions for Executive discussion and agreement at the principles level.  These discussions are deliberately at a level above the specifics of our day to day to provide space for reflection and debate.

Below are useful pre-reading articles to set context and act as discussion starters.

  1. Planning approaches will shift and be a dynamic combination through the program of work.  Do we all have a view on the Planning methods we are applying in the transformation that we communicate with consistency?
  2. Which Benchmark strength are we going for? Given the industry current and emerging state, comparing to past performance can be considered a high-risk strategy. Where does everyone sit?
  3. Is everyone ‘all in’ to maximising effectiveness of data and insights from all perspectives and on all projects?
  4. Do we all agree we are flying the plane and trying to work on it at the same time? Do we all agree the fundamental shift in our performance measurement required?


Pre-read articles:

  1. To deal actively with increasing uncertainty – level up the Planning approach.
  2. Now is not the time to default return to industry benchmarks (understanding benchmark strength.)
  3. The power of data is part of a shift in leadership teams.
  4. It feels like we are flying the plane and trying to work on it at the same time!

I am passionate about seeing more successful transitions this decade, and less people caught suffering disruption.