How to talk about leaders and organizations for success.

Those in charge of any organization for success — no matter how large or small — and those who aspire to hold leadership roles, are wise to use terms and phrases in precise ways in order to be clear about what they think, say, and do.  This post compiles a number of such terms in one place for easy reference by IntelliVen readers, clients, and students.

Core Leadership TeamNo one leader, and not even any two, has the breadth of competence and depth of capacity to do anything of much significance alone. Successful organizations often have a Core Leadership Team of three to seven top executives who are aligned to accomplish specific goals as a cohesive unit.The executives in a successful organization’s Core Leadership Team are very good at different important things; they enjoy working together; they all want to accomplish the same thing and give credit for any success to everyone else.
How initiative is performingLeaders should check on how well something important is going by regularly convening a forum of internal and external stakeholders for the important activity’s leader to present:

  • What they are trying to do,
  • What they have done so far towards that end, what has resulted from what they have done,
  • What they have learned so far, and
  • What they plan to do next.

The reviewers ask clarifying questions and then offer their best advice to push up performance, provide guidance and perspective, and to be sure the best efforts from across the organization are brought to bear so as to increase the odds of the best possible result the soonest.

LeaderA leader sets direction, aligns resources, and motivates action.Another way to say it is that a leader develops, holds, nurtures, communicates, and drives to achieve a vision.Towards that end a leader:

  • Monitors and communicates consolidated view of progress towards achieving the vision,
  • Manages the resources of the organization for optimum long term growth and performance,
  • Communicates what is to be done by whom; and
  • Provides resources and incentives needed to be successful.
OD PerspectiveOD can be viewed and applied from any of three principle perspectives:

  • that of the leader, that of
  • the inside consultant to the leader, or that of
  • the outside consultant to the leader.
OrganizationOrganization Development


An organization is a social group which distributes tasks into systems that work together to achieve a collective goal or purpose. The word is derived from the Greek word organon, which is derived from the word ergon (as we know `organ) which means a compartment for a particular job.Organization Development (or OD) is the systematic application of applied behavioral psychology tools, principles, and methods to intentionally evolve an organization from its current state to a specific next target state.
Organization performanceWe know how well an organization is doing by selecting performance measures and setting performance goals for those measures based on industry benchmarks for similar organizations at a similar stage of evolution, and doing similar things; performing; and then measuring results that are compared with:

  • Targets,
  • Past performance, and the
  • Performance of other organizations that are similar.
Performance Improvement of SystemsLeaders systematically improve performance by projecting how the organization will perform on its key measures, then they perform, then they measure actual performance and compare actual results to projected results and then determine why actual results varied from projected results, determine what is learned from the difference, and then make adjustments to the way things work and/or the way projections are made before repeating the entire process. The comparison of actual to projected results is called:What-Why-So What-Now What.
Purpose of an organizationThe purpose of an organization is to solve a problem for a customer
Strategic InitiativeA Strategic initiative is what leaders have decided what is most important to be done next to change what is going on in order to increase the odds of winning.
Strategic Initiative componentsFor any strategic initiative it is important to know:

  • Where things are now (current state),
  • Why things need to change (case for change),
  • Where things will be once the intended change is completed (target state),
  • What must be done to get from the current state to the target state (the strategic initiative), and
  • What will be hard about going from the current state to the target state (barriers).
Strategic ManagementStrategic management is what is done to deliberately operate and develop the organization in a manner that is entirely consistent with its strategy.
Strategic PlanningStrategic planning is the structured process management uses to periodically engage leaders in reviewing and advancing their vision, assessing performance relative to goals, and advancing their strategy, including coming up with Strategic Initiatives for the coming performance period.
Strategic ThinkingStrategic thinking is how decisions and actions are made in the immediate-term in a manner that is mindful of long-term implications; that is, so as to be consistent with a strategy.
StrategyStrategy is what people plan to do in order to win whatever game they are playing.
SystemA system is a collection of resources working together to achieve a common goal.
Systems of an organizationEvery successful, growing organization has three core systems:

  • Delivery system (Do),
  • Demand Creation system (Sell), and
  • Capacity Development system (Grow).
TeamWhy initiatives   failA small number of people (~2 to 25) with complimentary skills who are committed to a common purpose, goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. Katzenbach & Smith, 1993: The Wisdom of TeamsThe number one reason initiatives fail is due to lack of management attention.