Hiroshi Mikitani, founder and CEO of the multibillion-dollar Japanese e-commerce conglomerate Rakuten, has a fundamental business rule: Anytime a company hits a “3 or 10” mark in terms of employee count (30, 100, 300, 1,000, etc.), all of the infrastructure that got it to that point needs to be replaced.
Recognising that things like meeting structure, team communication, and payroll determination need to be changed is one thing, but knowing how to lead through these changes is another.
Perry Keenan is a senior partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group, and from nearly three decades with BCG he’s noticed five things that all successful managers do when implementing significant changes.
These are five habits of the most agile and efficient managers, according to a recent release from BCG.
1. They set explicit goals and milestones according to the “80-20 Rule.”
The best managers, Keenan says, set clearly defined objectives and timelines for individual team members. They do so according to the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. In this case, that means that “typically less than 20% of a change program can account for 80% of its impact,” and that managers identify and track the metrics that best indicate progress.
2. They minimise bureaucracy.
Keenan believes that the metrics used to measure progress should limit rather than add to “onerous routines, needless meetings, and excessively long reports.”
If all team members know what is required of them, then managers can take more of a hands-off approach and let their employees act on their own.
3. They are accessible to their employees.
When companies are in the middle of a transformation, it’s important that CEOs remain visible and available to the entire company, even when they don’t have all the answers, Keenan says. They also work closely with their extended leadership team, who in turn act as voices for their employees.
BCG has found that most companies cite executive involvement as the top factor in the success of a change initiative, and Keenan says that a particularly impressive example involved a financial service’s CEO and his management team visiting every corporate office and holding town hall-style meetings to allay fears and build confidence during an uncertain time.
4. They set initiatives according to individual behaviours.
It’s the duty of effective managers to understand the personalities and responsibilities of their employees so that they can determine goals and work flows that will lead team members to reaching their individual goals.
“And, if correctly orchestrated with other initiatives, that individual change will lead to change throughout the organisation,” Keenan says.
5. They make change fluid.
The best leaders don’t shock their companies anytime they announce a new initiative, but rather make change “part of [the] organisation’s DNA.”
Keenan says that many large companies do this with the help of an “activist” program management office that helps managers with metric measurement and analysis. On a smaller level, this comes with making constant growth and adaptation ongoing habits rather than periodic challenges.
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