So you are ready to transform your organization? You want your organization to leapfrog the industry? You want to deliver above industry average growth? And do you know what are the most common mistakes that leaders and even very smart and experienced leaders make? The most common one is sticking with the usual way, the easy way and the proven way.

There is no usual, easy and safe way if the company has not been doing well or satisfactorily underperforming. It is not just about making a good product anymore. Leaders need to ask how does one make a meaningful contribution to society with a product.

Whenever I was tasked to help global enterprises move to the next level, the first thing I did was to stop them from doing things the same old way. It was never easy. You don’t go the next level without taking calculated risks, offending people and forcing people to do things differently. No one wants change despite whatever slogan or lip service about how people want change. And everyone wants breakthroughs. There is no free lunch. No pain no gain.

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I’ve been working with some of the best high-performance global leaders for decades to breakthrough and manage large scale transformation. These are the five most common mistakes CEOs and their executive teams make and all can be easily avoided.

Failing to build organization energy and momentum. Organizational energy is the invisible force which an organization uses to purposefully put things in motion and which drives positive behaviour to advance the company’s mission and business objectives. The strength of organizational energy manifests in the extent to which a company has mobilized its emotional, cognitive, and behavioural potential in pursuit of its goals and it makes company resilient. Energy traps often endanger productivity and innovation. You must understand how to release them from being trapped. This is not a one-off exercise and cannot be performed by consultants. It is the executive team’s job.

Failing to have a vision and to translate that into a compelling and relevant story. Company cannot develop a strategy without a vision. A vision is not just a statement that vaguely describes a company’s aspiration. It needs to be authentic and anchored in the industry’s competitive reality and illustrate how that future, if realized, will benefit the organization and allow it to prosper and thrive. The vision needs to show the shared common destiny and a path to get there. Vision without strategy is worst than not having a vision.

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Failing to understand how to create value and understand the core value drivers. This is very common for management and it is critical for the top 10 and all C-2 executives to understand which are the critical drivers of value for the organization. These ideas need to be deeply embedded in day-to-day managerial decisions. In mapping out company’s processes and decision structures, the CTV (Critical to Value) notion needs to be reflected in CTQ (Critical to Quality), QTR (Critical to Revenue) and CTC (Critical to Culture). Three of the most important metrics to organizational health. Getting the right decisions on a few of these key CTV points, the company cannot be too wrong even though it may make many execution mistakes, which sometimes is unavoidable.

Failing to assemble a super team fast. Any successful transformation needs to have the support of a small high-performance super-team. It takes time for an organizational to rebuild capability and even hiring new people from the outside takes time. It is crucial that a company needs to assemble a swat team for quick deployment to solve any problem. Any problems that are left alone will signify that new management’s inability to drive change. Problems need to be fixed fast. Otherwise there is no credibility. This super-team should always be looking out for the organization. They are people who take decisive action to solve problems. They are people who understand the vision of the company. And they are the people with high analytical ability (typically with management consultants training) and ready to look at any problems even without the experience and domain knowledge.

Failing to get rid of bad organizational habits and the incompetents. Any underperforming organization has bad habits and usually a lot of them. Be it leadership habits or organizational habits embedded in the mental model of leadership or organizational design. The first thing leaders must do is to get rid of these old habits and dogmas and people that are underperforming. The bottom 10% of managers must go. Don’t waste time on them. What do we mean by being strategic?

At the end of the day, smart leaders must ask the following five questions:

1.     Do you understand the critical drivers of value and what is critical to quality/competition/performance/culture? Are they part of your management team’s KPIs?

2.     Are you doing enough to focus or leverage investments in your core value proposition and brand story? Are you cutting back or divesting fast enough on unnecessary and non-strategic investments?

3.     Can you name the top 5-10 people in the organizations that could potentially become part of your super-team? If you can’t name at least 5, you have a problem.

4.     Where are you spending the time? Are you devoting enough attention to matters that are important to building strong energy and momentum?

5.     Are you applying data-driven perspectives on all aspects of decision makings and what areas you are not feeling comfortable that data might not be right or not properly interpreted?

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