If you are a CEO or a senior leader of a growing organization, you know how critical it is to have the right mix of skills, knowledge, and behaviors among your top team to drive growth and performance.
How do you adapt your team’s composition and dynamics to match the needs and demands at different stages of organization growth and change? How do you develop your collective leadership skills and capabilities as a team?
If you are looking for answers to these questions, the IntelliVen Strategic Executive Team Development Program is right for you. IntelliVen is the leading provider of leadership team development programs for organizations that want to achieve breakthrough performance and growth.
We work with executive teams not just stand-alone individual leaders using multi-rater data.
We assess your team’s strengths and gaps, and tailor your development plan, to match ideal team skill-mix bystage of maturity.
We look forward, not backward. We help you envision the skill mix you need next and create an action plan.
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for building a successful executive team. Rather, there is a success norm by stage that indicates what skills are most relevant and important.
For example, at early stages of maturity, an organization needs executives with strong technical skills, entrepreneurial mindsets, and creative problem-solving abilities. At later stages, executives with operational excellence and stakeholder management skills are critical.
Helps you assess where your team stands given success norms by stage.
Illuminates individual executive and team strengths and opportunities comparing them to success norms.
Targets hiring, development, and succession needs.
Provides an action plan to develop each executive for fast-track team performance improvement to fuel business growth.
About the Author
Dr. Brent Green is an organization psychology professional with a focus on individual executive and team performance, and system improvement. He has over 25 years experience in strategic leadership and organization assessment, training and development, evaluation, strategic wellness program design, and performance coaching.
Contact Dr. Brent Green, Principal for a no-obligation preliminary discussion about your team’s performance and growth.
Compusearch (now Unison) was a visionary company with visionary goals. But, as often happens with visionary companies, focus on a long-term strategy to revolutionize a market can mean that near-term execution and operationalization can suffer, creating barriers to growth.
From its founding in 1983, the company used state-of-the-art software design and development to provide solutions that streamlined and automated key steps in government procurement, purchasing, and contract management.
In 2005, the company arrived at a strategic decision point. The company’s team of owner-operators decided to sell the company and retire. The new owner, private equity firm The Carlyle Group (Carlyle), saw immense potential in the company and its pedigree of quality innovation.
But Carlyle also saw that the change in ownership was an ideal time to assess how the organization operated and to upgrade to more effective strategy execution and operations maturity. Maturing operations turned out to be essential to achieving the goal to double revenue and increasing margins to realize a 4X return on invested capital within five years.
Highly innovative companies often suffer from a lack of focus on operating fundamentals, which becomes an impediment to growing to the next stage of maturity. Carlyle saw evidence that Compusearch could benefit from a renewed and refreshed approach to turning its vision into action.
Carlyle and Compusearch engaged IntelliVen to assess the company’s operational maturity, develop a plan to implement strategy, and generate more effective performance to drive growth.
Like many visionary companies, Compusearch had become a decisive market leader with a strategy of continuous innovation and breaking new ground with its solution offerings.
By 2005, the company had reached $15 million per year in revenue. Its procurement and purchasing solutions were operating in nine cabinet-level departments and related agencies across the United States federal government.
It had achieved this leadership position by continually updating and innovating its solutions as software design and the underlying system capabilities evolved over two decades.
The company’s newest solution was web-based software to support government contract officers who procure, contract, and requisition the spending, granting, and moving of public funds in compliance with mandated government rules, transparency, efficiency, and control.
IntelliVen guided the company’s top team through its structured process to get aligned, on track, and then grow. Alignment came from the clarity reached by the team jointly making explicit what they each saw, and what they were each thinking, so they could then work together to come up with a consolidated view of where things were and what they needed to do.
Compusearch had reached a leadership position in its industry by pursuing a vision with continuous innovation. But oftentimes this approach can cause a company to become distracted. It ends up chasing the new technology and functionality without tuning its operations and processes to generate the most value from the innovations it has already brought to market. There were many more opportunities for the company to extend and expand the value it provided to current customers with its existing solutions at existing customers.
2. Lack of coordinated direction and team alignment
The executive team in Compusearch was made up of highly experienced managers who knew the market and their functional domains of responsibility. But there was no consistent melding of vision and strategy coordinated across functional teams, to ensure everyone was always rowing in the same direction. As a result, the company found itself often in reaction mode, not effectively promoting its current offerings to customers to generate more business. Key items fell between organizational units, resulting in unmet client needs, as well as confounded employees. In some cases, initiatives were confined to a particular unit, such as the development team, without the full benefit of coordination with other groups such as those providing customer services.
3. No clear process for strategy operationalization
Like many companies, the corporate vision for revolutionizing federal government contracting was well understood by top executives. But exactly how that vision translated into individual goals, commitments, and resource allocation was not all that clear. Each executive had to decide for themselves how best to support overall corporate goals.
4. Inconsistent and ineffective use of metrics for tracking and accountability
Compusearch executives collected and studied metrics that were relevant to their own functional domains. But they were not as effective at combining and assessing these metrics in terms of the story they told for overall corporate performance and strategy implementation. A sales leader would announce a customer win that generated widespread acclaim in the company. But it was rare for anyone to ask whether the price was aligned with the firm’s strategy or if the licensing terms would generate the most value over the long term.
Peter introduced the W-W-W model – the exercise in which senior managers gain great clarity on
WHAT they are selling.
WHO is buying it.
WHY they buy it.
By working together to reach a common, crisp and simple understanding of the overarching purpose of the company in this way, the company core leadership team instantly become more closely aligned in terms of strategy and action. As Peter describes it, nailing down the W-W-W is the first step any organization needs to take to enable a team to, “Get clear, Align, and Grow!”
The Initiative-to-Action template helps ensure that strategic planning session outcomes are acted upon. It requires managers to connect the dots between corporate strategy, the case for change, individual goals, resource allocation, performance metrics, actions, timetable, accountability, and outcomes.
2. Core leadership team alignment: set direction, execution focus, incentives
The new model for the executive team featured cross-team communication and cross-organizational performance tracking. That way, each executive knew what was required of her/his group and, in turn, could clearly identify the needs they had for others. The resulting cross-team dependency tracking set the direction for the team and focused the executives on execution. The new accountability was enhanced by tying executive incentives to hitting cross-group targets in addition to individual performance goals to align resources.
Clarity on strategy and aligning the team in the same direction allowed the Compusearch team to then explore executing more effectively on the overall strategy.
For example, the team saw new opportunities for revenue expansion in existing customers with solution refinements, such as offering new billable services that previously had been a support expense.
Knowing who to count on for what made it possible to also introduce new responsibilities such as account and project management. Every employee could see clearly what s/he could do to step up to and help identify, develop, and deliver on every opportunity to provide more value to customers.
Lastly, the new approach to operationalization created a framework for accountability and governance. Now each executive and each member of the staff understood what was expected of them and performance against these requirements was easy to measure and track.
4. Metrics to drive and track effective operationalization
With the newfound accountability and alignment of goals and dependencies, the executive team had the ability to use key metrics to track and improve execution and operationalization.
The performance of every department – product engineering, customer support, professional services, marketing, sales – could be tracked and evaluated using metrics and benchmarks that guided team decisions and next actions.
When these metrics indicated a problem was arising in a given area, the team could readily see how each member could contribute to address the problem. The approach promoted accountability for execution and brought leadership together as a high-performance team that worked to make each other – and the company as a whole –successful.
The Outcomes: Compusearch’s organization evolution and growth
With the IntelliVen best practices guidance, Compusearch embarked on a transformation that resulted in much more effective execution and strategy operationalization.
The results were dramatic increases in top-line revenue, growing more than 200 percent in four years. Other impacts included:
Driving the EBITDA-margin plus growth-rate to over 50.
Increasing recurring revenue to more than half of total revenue.
Shifting from selling one product in a narrow market to selling multiple products into multiple markets while at the same time maximizing revenue from existing customers.
Compusearch had achieved a much more advanced stage of organization maturity. After four years of growth, the company sold for a ~4X multiple of invested capital. The company was eventually renamed Unison and, over the past ten years has successfully executed its business and financial plans, completed a handful of accretive acquisitions with more on the horizon, and is on track to exceed $150 million in annual revenue. All-and-all a great win-win-win-win-win: for the company, its customers, employees, investors, and the community in which it operates.
An organization that does not know how it will meet the demands of its current customers, or
An organization that has no idea where its next customer will come from, or
An organization that does not know how it will acquire resources needed to meet a surge in demand.
Such organizations exist and they are stuck. That is, their ability to perform and grow is severely constrained.
Organizations that experience sustained growth and high performance execute, create demand, and develop capacity in orderly, or systematic, ways. A system is a collection of resources working together to accomplish a common goal. The resources of an organization aggregate into three essential systems:
The Execution System, or what the organization does to Do what it does.
The Demand Creation System, or what the organization does to Sell what it does, including marketing, lead generation, sales, sales engineering, proposal writing, and sales support.
The Capacity Development System, or what the organization does to Grow, including training, recruiting, fund raising, performance assessment, goal setting, systems development, and process engineering.
Anything an organization does other than Do, Sell, or Grow, and that makes sense to continue doing, should be to facilitate, improve, or otherwise efficiently support its ability to Do, Sell, and Grow.
An organization that has execution problems essentially has no other problems because there is no point to growing or to landing new customers if the organization cannot even Do what it does to reliably deliver to customers it already has. Without a way to capture, organize, and distribute its collective knowledge from serving customers, an organization may have just a collection of unconnected experiences such that every new customer may be a “whole new adventure”. An organization that does not know for certain how it will meet delivery obligations runs serious risks and will find it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain control over the quality of its products and services.
Once there is a reliable way to execute, there is confidence to generate demand. However, without a way to generate demand that is predictable, repeatable, replicable, documented, maintained, taught, and ever-evolving, the organization’s ability to Do and Grow is likely to be constrained by its ability to Sell.
When new sales cause demand to exceed delivery capacity, it must Grow capacity to deliver. When capacity to deliver exceeds demand, it must Grow sales capacity. A growing organization needs to be clear about how it will add capacity to Doand how it will add capacity to Sell. For many organizations, this means identifying and cultivating sources of people, recruiting, and professional development.
At any time an organization’s ability to perform and grow tends to be constrained by one of the three core systems. Leadership’s job is to decide which system needs to evolve next and how.
For example, if a product provider generates more demand than can be handled by existing operations, then more production capacity is required. Once production capacity is in place, sales capacity may need to expand in order to put the increased production capacity to work. However, the amount of sales capacity should likely need to increase at a much slower rate than the rate of delivery capacity because a little more selling capacity should drive the need for a lot more delivery capacity.
In this sense, then, the evolution of Do, Sell, and Grow systems is iterative and staggered with execution capacity out in front of demand creation which is out in front of capacity to grow.