Manage to Lead (MtL) is a system of integrated tools, methods, and principles that executive teams use to pave and follow a reliable path to architect, build, govern, and change their organization for breakthrough improvements in performance and growth.
Users frequently comment on how helpful MtL Tools are when preparing:
A Business Plan
An Investor Pitch Deck / Management Presentation, Confidential Information Memorandum, Financial Model, and Teaser
Website and marketing collateral
New board and executive team member indoctrination
Access the Complete MtL System
To make MtL even more useable, you are invited to access the complete MtL System 24/7 for everything you need to apply MtL tools, methods, and principles on your own, including:
Ten Workstreams with step-by-step instructions that show how to deploy MtL tools and templates to prepare what your business needs.
In mountain climbing, reaching a mid-mountain plateau is not as fulfilling as ascending to the summit. Rarely will any climber start out to scale a mountain with the idea of stopping at a plateau below the summit.
But in planning the assault on the mountain, veteran climbers know that different skills and capabilities are needed at each step along the way. The skills that enabled you to reach Base Camp on Mt. Everest – such as the ability to navigate rocky terrain in a relatively oxygen-rich environment – won’t be enough to reach the summit, where climbing in snow and ice with little oxygen is the challenge.
Your organization faces a similar circumstance.
The executive leadership skills that got your organization to its current level of success may not be the skills needed to get it to the next stage.
Reaching a growth plateau
Organizations often hit a “growth pause” – a point at which their current executive leadership’s expertise goals have been realized, revenues and profits plateau, and growth slows or stalls altogether.
An executive team leading a pre-product startup requires a different set of skills than the knowhow needed to optimize operations for a credible, sustainable, or mature business. At this point, leadership abilities need to be reevaluated to determine what is needed for continued ascendance.
Organizations must ask themselves several questions:
What mix of skills do we need to succeed at our current stage and to get ready for the next?
Does our team have the mix of skills needed?
Will gaps in executive team skills hamper growth?
Can our team’s skill set be developed or enhanced for success now, such as through hiring or culling, and to get ready for the next stage?
In almost every case, the right mix of leadership team skills can address stalled growth and get you back on track. Earlier needed skills may no longer be helping, and necessary new skills may be missing. Or, the skill development strategy may need to be overhauled.
Assessing the pause cause
IntelliVen has constructed a one-of-a-kind, tailored, thorough and immersive program to provide answers and solutions to these questions and more.
The program approach is rooted in an extensive study of the best mix of skills in executive leadership for each stage of organization maturity, from pre-market concept to mature going concern.
IntelliVen Principal consultant Dr. Brent Green and the IntelliVen team offer a unique executive team skills assessment and gap analysis. This offering pinpoints the capabilities needed to spark new growth for your organization by assessing your team’s skills, then comparing them to your organization’s benchmark stage.
Assessments are conducted using data collected in one-on-one sessions with the CEO, and confidential interviews and electronic surveys with each team member. Insights and recommendations are shared with the CEO ahead of interactive, facilitated sessions that explore results and implications with the team.
The process reveals executive team members’ individual and collective proficiencies in a mix of nine competencies across three categories:
Knowledge of industry, technology and organizational capabilities
Ability to analyze and synthesize what they know
Planning and execution.
We refer to the three areas as KNOW, THINK, and ACT.
The results reveal deficiencies in skills that likely block growth and hinder the evolution of the organization to the next stage.
Most importantly, the program offers custom executive team development action plans, for each team member and for the team as a whole, that address gaps and opportunities for development specific to your venture and team, help them evolve, rekindle growth, and put them back on a “hockey stick” growth curve.
Based on the IntelliVen Manage to Lead System, the action plans align your team members and focus them on evolving the business to address performance and growth blockers.
The MtL tools, templates, and methods are taught in an Immersion Program that is unique in that it is team-based leadership development that captures proven best practices for driving change as applied to your organization’s case.
MtL distills the lessons of a team of highly successful leaders over decades into a clear and concise series of modules and accompanying tools. Elements of it have been taught at MIT, Stanford, University of Maryland, George Mason University, Golden Gate University, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
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 recently renamed Unison and, over the past ten years has successfully executed its business and financial plans, completed a handful of accretive acquisitions, and is on track to exceed $100 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.
The purpose of a business is to solve a problem for a customer…which begs this question:
WHAT solution does your organization provide to
WHY do they pay for it?
A way to think about it is that there are three dimensions to any business: WHAT, WHO, and WHY or in terms of Market (WHO), Problem (WHY), and Solution (WHAT).
Leaders tend to describe their organization in terms of one or two, but rarely all three, dimensions. The reason may be because thinking about any three things at the same time challenges the mind. If anyone does think three completely different things all at once, it is hard to do it for any length of time.
The 2:56′ video above uses the graphic below to present a way to visualize an organization in terms of the problem it solves (or WHY anyone needs what the organization provides), for WHO (market), and with Continue reading Get Clear→
If you’ve been in charge for a while and it feels like performance and growth are not where you want them to be, you probably know that you are likely headed in the wrong direction.
Every leader, team, and organization eventually hits an inflection point. There IS a solution.
The first step is to take stock of how things are going, why things need to change, and how they would be if things were going well.
A management offsite is an excellent way to engage the top team along these lines. However, to prepare for and facilitate a high-powered executive offsite takes careful planning, data collection, analysis, and design effort.
Most leaders find it difficult to adequately prepare—assuming they even know how—for their offsite. Further, it is nearly impossible for a leader to facilitate and participate in, let alone also lead, their own offsite. A better strategy is to hire experts who use proven approaches, tools, and methods to prepare and facilitate.